Well, which is it? Should we stay or leave? Should we be a part of the whole mess and try to sort it out from within, or leave and plough our own furrow? I am referring, of course, to that community beyond our borders that is Facebook. I’ve been back and forth on this: I’ve been in and out and back in again, and slowly I’m evolving a way to be in Facebook but not of it.
For example, say a debate starts on a particular subject. Very soon people line up on one side or the other and then the mud-slinging starts. ‘Boo’ words and ‘hurrah’ words are brought into play and woe betide anyone who tries to enter the debate in a reasoned and calm manner: for some reason this is the trigger for people on both sides to stop attacking each other and start attacking you. No matter how mild your comments, no matter how accommodating your language or how sensible your points, you will become Public Enemy No. 1. Time to bow out.
So I’ve developed a strategy. The moment an argument becomes polarised; the moment somebody starts slinging mud or hurling insults, I uncouple. In Facebook parlance, I ‘turn off notifications for this thread.’
Similarly, when a person I’ve friended starts being abusive or rude (not necessarily towards me) I turn off their notifications. You can do this, I’ve found: it’s called ‘unfollowing’ and means you can stay friends but you don’t get notified when they post things.
So all that is useful and it’s a step short of unfriending and blocking, which I’ve done with one or two people but it’s an extreme step. In one case it was because the person persistently posted comments which were either negative or irrelevant. This I do not need.
Of course, this does not prevent an awful lot of junk appearing in my news feed, so a certain amount of ongoing editing is required. My pet peeves at the moment are adverts which look like posts (the price you pay for Facebook being free, I guess) and pictures of dying children begging me to post an ‘Amen’ so they can be healed. In some ways I find the latter more offensive than the former: it’s not only emotionally manipulative (‘if you don’t comment then you don’t care’) it’s also wrong-headed, as if God’s going to sit there and tot up the number of ‘Amens’ before deciding whether to heal the child.
So there you are. In Facebook but not of it. As for the EU, that’s another matter…