Letter to the Editor
Remember when Facebook was just you and your old pals keeping abreast of each other’s lives? Wedding photos, status updates like, “Just tried my first oyster, nearly choked, lol,” and cute cat videos?
Browsing your feed, full of those kinds of statuses, was a waste of time, and that was the point: checking into Facebook was a nice, mindless escape from the work day. It was calming and kept us “social” and connected in this busy world.
Now Facebook has turned into a den of people (good people too!) shouting, screaming, complaining, ragging on things, and raging against things. Including good community things like The Overcast (why so much shouting about who wasn’t on the music prize longlist, or how the paper favours uppity restaurants, because, honestly, what have YOU done for community this month? As much as this paper?).
Every time I log into Facebook, it’s all accusations and anger. The news is the news, it is not something meant to anger you, or invite you to weigh in on as if you’re an expert. You’re likely not. It’s egomaniacal to tell some woman at The Telegram what she did wrong in her article.
You don’t know enough about what her work day looks like; maybe she’s being forced by a trimmed-down staff to favour quantity over quality of articles and could only spend an hour on the piece. Maybe the piece is exactly what her or her editor intended. You don’t know. Often, you don’t know as much about the topic as you should before weighing in. But you weigh in anyway.
The anger does no good for society. Consider the demonization of Ed Martin this year: he was just doing his job the best he could. Yeah, he was overpaid and got wild bonuses, but the blame for that wasn’t on him, it’s on the people who hired him at those rates. Hate the system, not a man who took a job that sounded sweet.
According to those close to him, Ed is a super kind fellow, and a proud Newfoundlander who was earnestly trying to improve our financial situation via building energy powerhouses. And his replacement is doing nothing differently or any better, so he was clearly scapegoated. Yet we villainized Ed so much he couldn’t even buy groceries without being hissed at! What was that all about? Why are we so filled with hatred now? And towards those we don’t even know on a personal level? Have you met Ed? If not, do you really know his character well enough to defame it?
Every week, The Facebook social media mob deems someone we don’t personally know to be an idiot, and we have the audacity and cruelty to call them that publically. In this world of online group-minded bullying, we’re breeding needlessly harsh contempt for each other. Our decency is crumbling. The result is a failure of the kind of communication that could truly solve conflicts. We’re all yelling at each other instead of “The Man,” and that is just filling the world with negativity, instead of fixing the world’s problems.
These angry online mobs are actually verbally violent and abusive, and flat out slanderous and contemptuous towards those they wish to incite change in. That doesn’t work. Reasoning with people does. They should model their actions after people like Martin Luther King or Ghandi – they’re in history books because they knew what they were doing (and were decent people): If you want to change someone’s actions, you enlighten them, privately, you don’t berate them, publically. You appeal to their conscious, enlighten it. Get them to care. Education changes people’s behaviour; a tongue lashing doesn’t.
The news is just that: the news. Not your daily dose of something to angrily counter. Journalists and politicians are just doing their job. But we have turned these people into whipping posts for outrageously opinionated people to attack, in a far too extreme manner. You are a person, not a dictator. Stop trying to tell them what they can say and how they can say it. Or, if you’re going to, then at least be a decent human being about it.
Be kinder. Be reasonable. Stop with all the negativity. Please: Can we all get back to trying to communicate with each other, instead of the kneejerk shouting? Can we maintain some decency in our discourse? All the shouting is exhausting and extreme.
This editorial says what more and more people will come to believe about Facebook’s “popularity”. It is a tool few of us are using wisely. Ditto for a lot of other new communication tools, and quite possibly me too by this post.
Sigh. Nice try Ed. You mismanaged a boondoggle which will leave NL in the hole for generations. People have to have a right to be pissed.