Monday, June 29, 2015

Facebook fatigue... and slavery

Yesterday was fairly pleasant.  Bill and I did some Sunday shopping at the PX and commissary and we stopped by our favorite local Irish pub for lunch.  Then we came home and I put my feet up because one of my ankles has been persistently swelling with pitting edema.  I watched old Family Ties episodes for a few hours.  Then Bill shared an article on Facebook about Irish slaves.  I had not seen it before and thought it was interesting, though I wasn't absolutely sure how factual it was.  So I shared it with the comment "interesting read".  This is pretty much the article I shared, though it came from a different Web site.

Within minutes of sharing it, I got a comment from a guy I barely know who said it was an interesting read, but had largely been debunked.  My response was "Thanks for your input".

I'm sure he realized that he had annoyed me, because he quickly added that someone else had shared it and he was curious.  He did some research and decided that the article got things wrong.  I wrote back, "I don't disagree with you.  I just thought it was an interesting read."  And that was the truth.  I didn't call anyone to action for the way Irish people had been mistreated-- and it is a verifiable fact that Irish people were mistreated and enslaved by the British.  I just said I thought the article was interesting, a comment that one could take in a number of ways, though most people would probably assume I wholly agreed with it.

I don't know if I totally agree with the content of the article or not.  I would need to do more reading and research.  I am a big believer in reading Snopes before spreading bullshit to the masses.  I checked Snopes for articles about Irish slaves or Irish slavery and found nothing posted.  I did find this and this.    

I finally told the guy that perhaps it wasn't a bad thing to share an article that makes you want to do more research about a subject.  I was going to leave the article up for more comments.  But then, about ten minutes later, I decided to delete the post because I didn't want a mass of people arguing with me over the veracity of the claims, especially since racism is such a hot topic right now.  The last thing I wanted to wake up to this morning was a bunch of comments on Facebook asking me how I dare to share an article about Irish slavery when everyone knows African slaves had it so much worse.    

Whether or not the Irish slave story is, in fact, a myth, this incident brought to mind a secondary effect of living in a Facebook world.  It used to be home was a place where one could mostly escape being challenged by other people.  In the days before Facebook, you'd go out into the world to work or school, interact with people, and then come home where you might have peace and quiet if everyone in your household got along.  You'd have your dinner, get into your pajamas, and go to sleep.  Hopefully, the next morning you'd awake refreshed and ready to deal with more annoyances from the outside world.  

Nowadays, people are plugged into Facebook 24/7.  Sometimes that's a good thing.  You can keep in touch with family and friends and get to know people you otherwise would never know.  I have made a number of friends that way myself.  But there's also an adverse effect of using Facebook in that there is a higher probability that people are going to conflict with and irritate you and you may end up "fatigued" sooner.  Since I am highly susceptible to being irritated by others, it's probably not a good thing that I stay on Facebook.   

The guy who responded to my post is someone I rarely interact with.  I met him on Epinions.  He's a music buff and, rumor has it, he's a talented singer.  I know he's very liberal and gay and probably very sensitive to race issues.  I have nothing against that, although I do think that sometimes Americans forget that black people are not the only people who have been mistreated, exploited, and enslaved.  Sometimes they also forget that slavery that existed in the 19th century is not the only slavery that has existed in America.  

The fact is, slavery as a government endorsed practice ended in the United States during the 19th century, but slavery still goes on today.  According to the Global Slavery Index, there are more slaves today than there have ever been...  although I don't know how they could ascertain that given that data collection methods have evolved a lot in recent years.  If you don't have accurate data from earlier generations, how can you know how many slaves were really out there?

I guess I could be grateful that I'm even thinking about this stuff instead of the other stupid crap that gets posted on Facebook.  After all, most people waste their time oohing and ahhing over kitten videos.

This is about YouTube, but I think it applies to Facebook, too.

I think another reason why this situation irked me is because in my pre-Facebook life, it would be much less likely that some guy I barely know would publicly call me out in that way.  Being behind a computer screen emboldens people.  Sometimes that's not a bad thing, but other times, it sort of leads to a loss of civility.  Of course, in my pre-Facebook life, I probably never would have stood in the town square, held up an article about Irish slaves, and opened myself up to commentary.  If I had done that, maybe a practical stranger would have dressed me down publicly.  Somehow I doubt it, though, because confronting someone in person is more intimidating than confronting them online.     

Maybe I'd be less exasperated if the guy who called me out was someone I interacted with regularly.  I probably would have been annoyed regardless, but if it was someone I talked to often, we could discuss it on a more even field.  I suppose I could have engaged further with the guy, but having someone say right off the bat that the article has been "debunked" kind of shuts down the discussion.  And then I further shut it down when I told him I didn't necessarily disagree with his comments.  Because if someone doesn't disagree with you, that doesn't exactly promote debate.

I wasn't exactly looking for debate anyway.  I just thought it was an interesting article and shared it.  But that's another aspect of Facebook that is annoying, because every time you post something, you invite someone to interpret it or argue with you about it.  Things can get ugly even on the most innocuous postings because you can't control how other people will react to things.  That's yet another reason why Facebook fatigue exists.  You can post something that you know is pretty safe and be bored... and boring.  Or you can post something more controversial and risk heated debates with other people.        

Maybe I would have liked to have discussed the topic of Irish slaves with some of my friends, but I think it's a topic best left alone right now, at least on Facebook.  Or, at least it's a topic that is best left alone by ME right now, because I am not interested in heated debates with people I barely know on Facebook.  Which reminds me... maybe it's time to prune my friends list again.


  1. it's intersting and I might want to read more about it.

    I love Don McLean

    The most infuriating 9although i try not to be infuriated by anything on FB, as there is enough infuriation in real life that i don't need to manufacture it by looking for it on Facebook) is the stupid "order of operations" arithmetic problems over which people argue. (I don;t have a FB account, but I sometimes us my aunt's.)

    people argue vitriolically over these fourth-grade arithmetic problems. There's nothing to argue about. Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally. Then left to right. It doesn't bother me that somene mkight miss a problem, but then they argue with such venom and call others stupid or blame it on common core or something similar. It's OK that they've forgotten what they learned in fourth grade. not everyone uses arithmetic every day. just don't go on the Internet and argue about it.

    1. That is a perfect example of stupid bullshit that leads to Facebook fatigue.


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