Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Today's Pet Peeve...

I know I already blogged this morning, but there's an issue that's come up this evening that has me agitated enough to post again.  It concerns Facebook.  Given the amount of angst Facebook seems to cause for me, perhaps this is a sign that I should just delete my account.  But Facebook allows me to keep in touch with my friends and when you're an overeducated housewife living in a rural town, that can be a pretty important thing.  So here goes...

I've about had it up to here with people who feel the need to post pictures of people or animals who are sick, disfigured, or injured and demand that I "like" the photo.  I'm less annoyed by posts that are about legitimate issues like domestic violence or cruelty to animals, though some of those photos can be pretty tasteless.  The pictures that irritate me the most are the endless photos of children who have some kind of rare genetic affliction or injury that somehow makes them look freakish.

These are the kids that, were you a small child with no social restraints, you might point and laugh at or even gape at in horror.  Invariably, someone posts a picture of this person with a demand that I "like" it or comment about how beautiful the photo is.  I will admit, at times these photos are indeed beautiful.  But I think it's in poor taste for people to post random photos of people with diseases or catastrophic injuries and insist that other people "like" it.  I doubt the subject of that photo knows or even cares that thousands of people on Facebook "like" their unusual appearance.  In fact, it's been my experience that people in that situation would prefer that other people simply treat them like they would anyone else.

It's getting to the point at which I feel like some of my Facebook friends are trying to shame others into political correctness and social sensitivity...

If you don't "like" these pictures of people who are different because they have some catastrophic disease, you are somehow intolerant of them.  But in my opinion, these photos have less to do with promoting acceptance of people who are different and more to do with people making themselves feel better by patronizing others.  It's like, "See?  I'm a kind and evolved human being.  I accept the horribly disfigured people in these pictures not only as normal, but beautiful.  I am capable of seeing inner beauty.  I don't judge based on appearances."

Not so fast.  Everyone judges to some extent.  And I don't have to think that a person with a disability or an illness is physically beautiful to have compassion for them or even to love them.  I don't have to see photo after photo of a maimed child or bloodied animal to maintain my humanity.  Moreover, the practice of posting these photos for all on Facebook to see smacks of socially acceptable gawking.  It's as if these posters can't point and laugh at the photo without looking like jerks, so they pose as morally superior boosters instead.

One or two of these photos making the rounds in a day, okay... I can take it.  But tonight, within just minutes, a friend posted at least three different photos of different people with abnormalities that made them look... well... freakish.  And they were sure to like the photos and comment on how incredible these people were, simply owing to the fact that they had the misfortune to be born with a genetic disease and posed for a picture. While I am aware that some people are insightful enough to see the inherent gifts that can come from being born "imperfect" (like anyone is perfect), I can pretty much guarantee that no sane person wishes to be born with or have a child born with a disfiguring disease, no matter what challenging life lessons the victims themselves or those around them might end up gleaning just by knowing them.

Let's face it.  People can pay plenty of lip service about being open-minded and accepting of people who look different, but in practice, a lot of them are really hypocrites.  It's been my observation that many of the people who "like" photos of small children with disfiguring disguises are often the same folks who think nothing of posting cruel comments about photos of people who happen to be noticeably fat or don't quite fit society's definition of attractive, but aren't quite at the point at which they could be called "freakish".  And God help the people in the photos who are both fat AND ugly, but not afflicted with the disease du jour.   Because apparently, those people have no "excuse" for being different, right?

These kinds of photographs are less about edifying the special person posing for the pictures and more about making the person who posts them feel superior.  And that, in my opinion, is tasteless, pointless, and ultimately rather hurtful.  It's one thing if it's a photo of someone who has done something newsworthy, has given permission for their photo to be posted, and will be able to share in the kinder comments some people might post.  It's another when it's a picture of someone you don't even know who would probably prefer not to have the attention directed at them or wouldn't know or care if other people thought they were "beautiful" for having a disease that made them look strange.

And don't even get me started on the horrifying photos of animals who have been abused...  Talk about exploitation.  It's vulgar, tacky, and probably calls for defriending...


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