2012-07-19 / Views

From the Braver Institute

I like Facebook.

I have said that before, and I am sure that I will say it again. I like it because it allows me to easily keep in touch with my friends and family, most of whom live far away. We can keep tabs on one another via status posts. It is easy for me to let everyone know what I am up to, and it is easy for them to let me and the rest of their friends know what they are up to, all in one convenient place.

Facebook is also a place where people post innocuous statements about what they are having for lunch, how much unbearable drama is in their life, or how their precious little brat finished eighth place in the delinquent home talent show. That is the kind of thing I expect to see there, and while it may be silly, it doesn’t bother me.

A long time ago, about ten years or so, we used to get something called mail. It was delivered to a box outside of your home or at the end of your driveway. The mail was used for delivery of a few pieces of desired correspondence, and a whole lot of undesired stuff, or what we called junk mail. Junk mail was the analog version of what is now called “spam” in the digital world.

Occasionally in this junk mail you might receive what was known as a chain letter. The chain letter would have been sent to you by one of your well-meaning friends who was worried about breaking the chain because the chain letter itself claimed that bad things would happen to anyone who did not help perpetuate the chain.

Everything, it seems, has been affected by the internet and chain letters are no exception. They continue to exist nicely in the world of email. The transition to a digital format for chain letters was an easy one. All a person needed to do was forward the letter instead of going through the hassle of addressing envelopes and buying stamps. Of course chain letters have also made the jump into the world of social media and they pop up from time to time on Facebook as chain posts.

Chain posts are annoying but I can ignore them, I guess.

People also repost things to make them feel better about themselves. For some reason they feel compelled to make their status a statement that they copied from someone else’s status because the closing sentence challenged them to do so, i.e. “make this your status if you love puppies.”

Other versions of this very thing are along the line of “repost if you hate bubonic plague,” “repost if you support our troops,” “repost if you are religious,” “repost if you are a good (insert political affiliation here).”

I get the impression that these people feel that if they read the post and don’t repost it, everyone will think that they hate puppies, our soldiers, God, pizza, apple pie, America, and that they are anarchists who wish disease of all sorts on mankind.

Reposted status updates are irritating, and they frequently make me insane, but I can almost see why people do it.

The stuff that really gets to me though is when people repost or “share” things that they have found elsewhere on Facebook, without checking the validity of what they are posting.

The other day I was talking with my friend, Jay Ubertech, who made the observation that people, while sitting in front of a machine that allows them access to the most powerful source of information the world has ever known, will repost something that one of their other friends posted about some kind of wonderful event or phenomenon, or a quote that is attributed favorably or unfavorably to some political icon, and just assume it is true by virtue of the fact that someone else posted it on Facebook, without even thinking to use the machine they are sitting in front of with access to the most powerful source of information the world has ever known to check if what they are posting is in fact true.

I could not tell you how many times I have seen posts claiming that this month (whatever month it happens to be) will have 5 Fridays, 5 Thursdays, and 5 Mondays (or whatever combination), and that this only happens once every twenty-five billion years. Or that certain planets will be so close to Earth that it will look like we have two suns, or moons, or whatever.

There are never-ending posts about all of the political pundits and candidates doing terrible things like wanting to send children to prison, and sending the elderly to work camps, and if this person is elected or re-elected we will be a nation of gun-toting socialists who will be taxed to death and have a privatized educational system.

It really gets me that it would take only a few seconds longer to fact-check one of these statements than it would to repost it in the first place.

Maybe that is the very reason that they don’t fact-check. If they took a few extra seconds to factcheck what they are reposting, that would take a few seconds away from their precious chain posts and “I’m a good person” status updates.

I guess Facebook really shows me just how stupid and gullible people can be, and it is unfortunate that some of these people are my friends and relatives. It is embarrassing at times to think I know or am related to these people.

Thinking about what I have just said makes me a little concerned that some of my friends might read this and take great offense. Then again, thinking a little harder about it, I am not really concerned that the people who would be offended would actually read something outside of a Facebook status update.

I hate Facebook.

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Waye Braver can be contacted on Facebook or by e-mail at waye@braverinstitute.com. Visit the Braver Institute at www.braverinsitute.com

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