Facebook is Making Me Afraid

I am considering leaving Facebook. It would be very hard for me not to check in on friends or keep up with the latest news, particularly what is happening in my beautiful town. I love knowing which streets are being paved, or why so many sirens are blaring or why the air smells like smoke today.

I love Facebook.

But I am growing more and more anxious. More agitated. And more afraid.

There were two incidents in my town lately that became news. The first involved a young woman who, as a police officer attempted to put her in a patrol car after her arrest at a bar in a neighboring town, bit the ear off the officer. Bath salts, right? This young woman, who my daughter knows from high school, has a history of violent behavior, and in fact was institutionalized for more than a year after a previous incident that involved police. No more details are available, so it could have been a suicide attempt for all any of us knows.

When a post on Facebook called the perpetrator “an animal” and “subhuman,” many people pointed out her history of mental illness, and suggested sympathy or at least toning down the language. That engendered comments like “Always some lib who treats the criminal like the victim.” And “Let’s get clear here, this girl is from Marblehead and “during a previous encounter with Mhead police she was admitted for treatment of depression,ocd and anxiety” Nothing else needs to be said. Mommy and Daddy agreed to the mental health option to avoid a criminal chg. for their little precious.”

A video posted by the Marblehead Police called attention to the second incident, a woman stealing a Trump lawn sign then jumping in the back seat of a car which sped off. I understand why the police are taking this seriously. A similar situation in a nearby town, where a woman continually defaced her neighbor’s Trump lawn sign, escalated to the point where the woman nearly ran over the neighbor with her car.

Comments on the police department’s post, asking for help identifying the lawn sign stealer, included “What’s the law say about how to handle a trespasser? In the south you can shoot ’em….” and “You see what Obama did to this country .. He’s racially divided this country .. Killing law and order .. I’ve been on this earth 77 years and not seen as bad as this.. You know I pack a 9mm !” and “Probably an entitled, trust fund leaching douch bag!” and “It’s a shame the home owner didn’t catch them. A good spanking would do the trick. Muffy and Biff take a beating. Film at 11.”

I resent the classism, the disdain for the beautiful town where we live. I resent the assumption that my children are spoiled, entitled brats based on nothing more than their address. I resent the sexism and the racism that I believe underlies so many of the comments. And I abhor the implied as well as the overtly threatened violence.

the-stand-stephen-king-sliceHave you read The Stand by Stephen King? It’s a whopper of a book, thousands of pages, essentially about the final showdown between good and evil. All the people left in a post-apocalyptic world choose their sides and join up with others like them. Why does today feel so much like this?

Facebook makes ugly so easy. When I am out in the world I do not feel the same hatred. I am able to appreciate where I am, and who I know, and how I am treated. It’s not at all the same in the virtual world.

7 Replies to “Facebook is Making Me Afraid”

  1. We have become a society of ”headline readers’. Making judgments based on a 5 to 8 second review. People are basically good. Social media rarely explores that anymore. Users are the only ones that can change that.

    1. I agree that people are basically good. I wonder though what would happen if the good people left, and social media became just an echo chamber. Would the threats and the hatred become meaningless if there was no one to react to them anymore? Is that part of the thrill?

      1. Capt Al, It’s still here, and maybe that’s the lesson I need to learn. That I cannot allow the negative to out-yell, out-trash, out-insult, out-debase and out-demean the positive. Let’s get together and feel alright.

  2. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the comments to that post about the Trump sign stealer since I read them yesterday. I’ve read a lot of hateful stuff online but somehow this brought it home to me (literally.) The black and white, the cold anger, the assumptions and stereotyping leaves me feeling afraid and depressed about people and about our futures.

    Not too long ago, I read a woman’s response to something she’d said on Twitter about the election. What she said wasn’t inflammatory but it was one-sided. Somebody she didn’t know responded with a horrifying insult and suggestion of violence against her and her family because of what she said (and therefore, what kind of person she must be.) She responded uncharacteristically, telling the person that she wished him a happy life and that she wasn’t going to take what he said literally because she knows it could not have been what he really felt about her as another human being. He wrote her back (publicly) and apologized and then explained his fear about her candidate winning the election and his fear for his own family’s future if her candidate became president. Then he went on to say he never should have made it personal and of course he didn’t mean the horrible things he said and he was embarrassed at how he lashed out.

    This incident did give me a little bit of hope, which was damaged yesterday when I read the Mhead police post comments, but it reminded me that Lin Manuel’s message remains true. Love is the answer. Respond to cruelty with kindness. You won’t win over all your detractors but some will recognize the ugliness of their rhetoric and may just change the way they interact over social media.

    Stepping off my soapbox. 😉

    1. So beautifully put. I do believe in love, and I do believe that just like in The Stand, love will win. I just think my love might be stronger if I did not make it withstand these constant barrages of hatred. Maybe that’s the challenge. If so, I have to accept it.

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