So, you want to send a friend request?

argument-1299108_640Facebook has this little “intro” segment you can fill in on your profile. If you’re even remotely garrulous you’ll feel just how small it is. You basically have room for a conservative sentence or maybe two.

If you wanted to use the opportunity to set boundaries, you’d be hard pressed to do more than just ask people not to be jerks. Sometimes you’ll have more to say than that. Owing to weirdos on social media, too often I find myself feeling precisely this way. Maybe it’s the same for you too.

So this is possibly how you’ve wound up reading this post. I’ll be sending others this way in future, too.

Like most people I don’t use Facebook automation. And I’ve been shy of accepting new friend requests for some time now. In fact I’ve blocked most of the people who’ve sent me requests in the past four years.

I’ve been thinking of opening things back up again, only this time without setting myself up to have to repeat myself each time nonsense flairs up. Hence this post.

***

For some reason I don’t get shouted at much anymore. I’m not sure why. Deep down among the minutiae of any number of topics, I hold what could be construed as controversial views – the kinds of things I’ve seen numerous other people scolded for. I’m good friends with more than one of the scolded. None of this has been secret.

A number of us conform to a particular pattern within the category of “politically homeless”; left-wing values; a disinterest in left-wing tribalism; an unwillingness to seek a new tribe in either the right or the reactionary center; a respect for critical inquiry and a willingness to commit to what and wherever that inquiry leads.

But oh. The kinds of friend requests this can encourage. If only I could stave some of them off with a few more words of warning, or at least lay down some ground rules in advance.

The moment you become politically homeless, suddenly you’re the potential ally… of weirdos.

Criticize the Clinton dynasty; get Bernie Bros and Jill Stein cultists crawling up your ass. Shine a light on the worst naivetes of little-l liberalism; wind up with a New Best Friend who thinks conspiracy theories about Monsanto are the apex of radicalism. Condemn Likud; get a friend request from the asshole with Rothschild memes running down their timeline. Criticize some technical or civic aspect of anti-racism politics; wind up with the racially-paranoid white guy who thinks you’re “just like” him in an imaginary shared oppression. Point out the mere existence of misogyny or homophobia in Islam; wind up with an acolyte of the Q-Society spruiking their crap at you.

Do anything remotely resembling courting controversy in good faith, and you’ll attract contrarians with delusions of Galileohood.

“I SOLVED ALL OF POLITICS WHILE HUFFING LEAD FUMES IN MY SHED!!1! MALCOLM ROBERTS WAS RIGHT ABOUT SOCIALISM!”

Of course it’s not just the weirdos drawn in by controversy or subculture membership or whatever else. Your friends can always argue among themselves and sometimes poorly; misunderstand each other; jump to conclusions about each other’s motives and so on. And of course, with each salvo you’ll get the pleasure of yet another social media notification.

Friends arguing with friends is fine. Friends using your space to burn each other down is not. Finding yourself politically homeless can leave you wide open in this respect, and it’s a good deal harder to manage when it goes off; you can’t always dismiss this kind of thing as easily as you can the anti-fluoride trolls.

***

Here’s the deal, then.

The odds are that a good number of the people on my friends list are people that I trust more than you. This won’t change just because on some specific points I may agree with you more than I agree with them.

As of writing, most of the people on my friends list have had the opportunity to demonstrate that while not perfect, they have, on balance, preferred to act in good faith. In the instances where they’ve opted to be pissy, they’ve opted to be pissy somewhere other than on my timeline and I respect that.

By accepting your friend request I’m not obligating myself to be your pal, much less your ideological underling. I’ve been accused of being “tuned in” or “with it” before, but I’m not making any promises. And it’s only my small neck of the woods anyway. It’s not like my antics are derailing discussion on the page of some important cause.

Just because I’m political doesn’t alter the fact that my personal space is not an organ of your political campaign. I’m not ceding you that much. I wouldn’t cede that much to my best friend.

While you’re commenting on my timeline, be as critical as you want of a given school of thought, only, try not to be condescending, or to presume authority if you haven’t even bothered to do your homework. (In fact, presuming authority even if you have done the readings isn’t particularly endearing – nobody likes that douche).

A lot of my closest friends are people who read and who’ve been reading for a long time. Spurious quotations of political authors you clearly haven’t read yourself probably won’t end well, and I’ll not rescue you from your embarrassment. (Yes “intersectionalists”, I’m looking at a lot of you).

Sass is fine. Sarcasm and satire are welcome. Abuse is not. Vex is not.

You can call a fascist a fascist, but don’t cry wolf about it on my wall. Radical feminists are not Nazis, “Nazi adjacent” or any kind of fascist.

Be as critical as you want of the idea of gender, but save insults like “tranny” for somewhere else. No matter how just the specifics of a given dispute you’re fighting may be, it’ll never make my timeline a space for vindictiveness.

And yeah, some things are always going to be out-of-bounds.

If you’re an anti-vaxxer, anti-Semite or flat-Earther; please just go away. Believers in Satanic conspiracy theories can catch the same bus.

Angry at women? Bye.

I may be vegan, technically, but that doesn’t mean members of any of the various vegan cults out there are people I respect.

“Gary Yourofsky has just been misunder…”

“Actually, PETA are…”

Bye.

Paleo-cultists can keep their pseudo-science and cod-anthropology to themselves as well.

If you’ve got five thousand friends, or you’re desperately aiming for that target, I’m probably very much not interested in your stuff either. I’m probably going to ignore you after I accept your friend request. No offense meant, but really…

Would-be public figures and artists who present as activists: by default I trust you less than the average person. Accept it. Or don’t. Just don’t complain to me about it.

And if you don’t like any of it, you don’t have to send me a friend request in the first place.

***

Fortunately a good number of people get this. It’s not always so glum, even on social media. It’s just there are narcissists out there in this world who view social media as their own stalking grounds, who will spoil things for others if given half the chance.

I don’t intend on giving them that much.

~ Bruce

Waves of humanity

The blogosphere and social media have both been around for some time now, and if you’re like me, you’ve seen waves of readers, interlocutors, content creators, friends, acquaintances and so on, come and go via these technologies. A small few friends you’ve made will remain close – not that you hold them there against their will – but there’s a level of social transience that you need to become accustomed to.

On Facebook, I’ve become a big fan of unfriending people I haven’t had meaningful associations with. Not the big, grandiose “I’m unfriending” announcement, with a ticker tape parade complete with brass section. Just the quiet, unceremonious variety. Whatever it is that social butterflies get out of “likes” and “friendings” subjectively – the giddies or a certain kind of buzz – eludes me. And I don’t think I’ve so much as sent a friend request in years. Certainly not an unsolicited one.

There is an exception. Beyond the more meaningful associations, I try not to unfriend genuinely kind people, even if we haven’t had that much to do with each other. Maybe we’ll hit it off eventually. But beyond that I like to keep things minimal.

I’ve recently had a short chinwag over Facebook messenger with a pre-Facebook Internet friend, talking about old times on the blogosphere and the like. Oddly enough, we became Facebook friends on the same day as another mutual and he became friends – only humorously, that mutual friend is one of the very people I’ve since blocked. So it goes.

So yeah, then there’s blocking: Unfriending’s more decisive cousin.

There’s a risk in wondering too much about what the blocked may make of you, and their being blocked. If not leaving you emotionally vulnerable to them via other modes of communication (like the 20+ text messages you wake up to the next morning), it can make leave you open to be played by mutual acquaintances. Not that anyone’s actually tried this with me, it’s a pathetic sight to see people often unwittingly recruited into pestering someone on behalf of another who’s been blocked.

As is often the case these days, I manage to dodge this stuff, and comment on it only after after it’s struck friends. I don’t give the benefit of the doubt nearly as much I used to, and I don’t doubt my character assessments as much for there to be as much benefit either. (It’d be nice to say my suspicions over the years have been proven wrong even a third of the time, but alas.)

Still, you do meet less people this way – unfriending the not-really-friends, blocking the nastier sorts, and overall being a bit wary about accepting friend requests in the first place when you feel no need to have a large number of friends (again, outside marketing cynicism, why would you need this?)

Over the past week or so, though, I’ve been given pause. A smart, sincere lefty woman who socialized among mutual friends died recently. A woman I’d only had the occasional light interaction with – liking the same cat photo, that kind of thing. By all accounts she was loved and is sorely missed. Also, it seems as if we probably would have hit it off well – others have remarked as much.

I literally have very little idea of what exactly I missed out on, in terms of social exchanges, but my policy of withdrawal clearly has a drawbacks.

Reflecting on some of the blockings draws me back to my original position, though. For the most part, while nobody’s been horrid to me, even when I’ve invited them to be, the kinds of people who do get nasty or show all the warning signs, do generate a lot of mental din.

Keep certain types of behaviours at a distance and the fog in the mind clears. You realize it wasn’t all in your head, that you weren’t out of order. Maybe over time you even learn a little more about what was really going on behind the off behaviour, and wish you’d cut ties sooner.

This is the dilemma, though. Sure, when you let the tide of humanity recede you get a bit of space to think, you feel like yourself again, your values re-assert themselves more strongly and you gain a bit of perspective. But the outgoing tide takes with it waves of opportunities to get to know people – people you may have really worked well with – leaving you with whoever’s left in your little rockpool of a social circle.

A valuable little rockpool for sure, but small all the same, and one more or less isolated from oceans of human beings you’ll never know.

Finding a balance isn’t the easiest thing to do. It’s hard to be certain about such things. Apparently I’m supposed to be good at it, but I have no measure to judge by and neither do the people who tell me, so I couldn’t say – and therefore am of limited use to you in this respect.

Your space is your space and you can manage it how you see fit, or at least, you should be allowed to. We are in a sense, alone in working our way through this.

~ Bruce

Creeps

So. Apparently the “Refuse to date men who use porn” Facebook group has been reported and banned on the grounds that it’s a hate group.

You get the feeling that if only they’d named themselves “Refuse to date men who wear green felt hats” they’d have gotten away with it, not that that would actually be any less innocuous.

Human beings are allowed to not date other human beings for whatever reasons they fucking well like. I certainly reserve the right to refuse to date anyone on the basis of anything and I don’t see why women can’t have that right either.

It’s not a hate crime to say “no”. It’s not a hate crime to criticize clients of the porn industry either, any more than it’s a hate crime to not be that into green felt hats.

Surprisingly – I guess – this seems to be one of those scenarios where there aren’t red herring cries of “you hate women in “sex work”” levelled against women who just happen to be criticizing men, and male-centered culture. Nope.

If you search on Facebook right now for “Refuse to date men who use porn”, you’ll wind up with the “Refuse to date women who refuse to date men who use porn” page instead. A page dedicated to whiny incel-like dweebs, which aside from being childish on the face of it, is entirely redundant; they’ve already refused to date you, bro.

You can’t refuse what’s already been denied you. You’re not being offered the chance. Move along Nigel.

From what’s visible in the form of screencaps and whatnot, these clowns became aware of the original “refuse to date” page about a month ago, committed to trolling it, and now the page has been taken down for hate. Yes, post hoc ergo propter hoc; it’s possible it’s a different bunch who’ve made the bogus complaint, but I couldn’t tell you who else they were. There’s no other visible candidate right now.*

***

No, this isn’t a commentary on porn per se, or the sex industry in general; as is often the case around here, this is meta-commentary, and committing my thoughts on the primary subject to writing would result in something a bit long-winded.

You do have to wonder though, why it is that an industry that clearly caters to the urges of pretty nasty customers can be viewed as magically unproblematic by supposed progressives.

~ Bruce

* Correction/update: While there was talk of the page being a hate group (boo-hoo, wha), the page was ultimately shut down due to being spammed by spurious requests from trolls. Otherwise, points made above still stand.

Dear Facebook Friend…

Last month, in writing the post ‘If you’re not trolling, and you’re not a bigot, you’ve no reason to ‘like’ “The Mind Unleashed”’, I mentioned that in response to the mentioned woo, conspiracy theory, and anti-Semitism laced Facebook page, people could…

‘Encourage your friends who subscribe to the page to do a little digging for themselves, instead of passively being spoon-fed. Crap like that spread by “The Mind Unleashed” only does as well as it does because the practice of being spoon-fed advice is so well accepted.’

…and that possibly (as a last measure on Facebook)…

‘you explain to “The Mind Unleashed” subscribing friends, why you take anti-Semitism and bigotry seriously, and that this is why you are ‘unfriending’ them. Then proceed to ‘unfriend’ them.’

These will still be options for some folks, should they wish to do so. However what I want to do now is provide people with an alternative; a short, prepared letter they can use to copy, paste and send to their Facebook friends. Not everyone is up for fully confronting people about these kinds of things, and for some, having a proxy do the arguing may ease some of the pressure.

All you have to do, if you want to use this letter, is copy the bit after the separator below, and paste it into a message to the friends you want to reach.

You don’t have to link back to this post. You don’t have to mention any kind of intellectual property rights (I cede all copyright) or mention my name. You can use my name as it appears at the end of the letter if you want, or you can replace my name with your own and alter the content accordingly. Whatever makes it easiest for people to get the message across is best.

(I do insist though, if you substantially alter the letter, that you sign off with your own name).

The letter follows.

***

Continue reading “Dear Facebook Friend…”

If you’re not trolling, and you’re not a bigot, you’ve no reason to ‘like’ “The Mind Unleashed”…

It’s gone off like a pig in a cake shop; the amount of ‘likes’ the viral Facebook page, “The Mind Unleashed”, has attained (currently around two and a half million, with oodles of shares and likes – marketing manna from heaven!) Like many other viral Facebook pages, it lures people in with affirmations, platitudes of dubious worth, plagiarised conspiracy theorist memes, and dangerous medical misinformation served up as wisdom.

The target audience is the superficially-leftish end of the spectrum; the well-meaning but politically naive, and those who just don’t like to see the underdog kicked; from people who haven’t had the opportunity to acquire genuine critical thinking and/or research skills, to the histrionic-sanctimonious; the aspiring George Galloways; the would-be-cult-leaders.

I have a special loathing for the piece of disinformation, beloved of “The Mind Unleashed”, and oft repeated without reference to anything other than anecdote, that cannabis can cure cancer. Aside from anecdote never being a good basis for medical advice, this rubbish is just plain wrong, and could encourage people with cancer to disregard sound medical advice from oncologists. People have already been killed by this kind of thing.

This may be sinister, but it’s not this sinister aspect of “The Mind Unleashed” that I want to draw attention to.

The sinister aspect of “The Mind Unleashed” I want to address belongs to the general category of being-overtly-shit-to-members-of-social-groups. “The Mind Unleashed” is anti-Semitic. To be on board with “The Mind Unleashed”, is to enable the hatred of Jews.

I trust that at least some new-age-type-folk may object to such hatred.

***

Continue reading “If you’re not trolling, and you’re not a bigot, you’ve no reason to ‘like’ “The Mind Unleashed”…”

Plucked From The Nether: ‘”A” is for “Apathy”?’

In November of 2010, on my previous blog, I wrote a post with the title ‘”A” is for “Apathy”?’, ostensibly spurred on by a comment  by Sean of Bookonaut (née Blogonaut) fame. However, I didn’t disclose at the time that I’d already been mulling over commentary on much the same topic, made on Facebook, by a much-loved atheist who went by the name of Candy Hogan. This is what she posted, earlier in November 2010;

“when i go to read my newsfeed often want to scream. I understand the proud atheist thing, but WHY does EVERYTHING have to be about RELIGION? dammit, its boring! u might as well be practicing these religions u claim u hate cuz theyre ALL U TALK ABOUT!! in depth studies of inconsistancies… why isnt it enough to just not believe? new subject PLEASE???”

(Candy Hogan, November 18th, 2010)

I originally considered dedicating my post to her, however, given that I opened by quoting Sean (and that a dedication seemed potentially too familiar), I opted not to. A few weeks later, in early January 2011, after a bout of viral pneumonia, Candy Hogan’s life came to an end.

I’m periodically reminded of Candy every now and then (as I have been again, now) – she was witty, occasionally a little caustic (while still being witty), and thoroughly irreverent. Nobody, including atheists, could be guaranteed immunity from her sense of humour. Discussion, with Candy as a participant, was never allowed to stagnate for long, if at all, and even while for the most part I sat on the sidelines, I considered Candy’s thoughts worthy of attention.

So with the exception of a little spit-and-polish here and there, the following is ‘”A” is for “Apathy”?’ as it appeared in November of 2010, now re-dedicated to Candy. Vale Candy Hogan.

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Continue reading “Plucked From The Nether: ‘”A” is for “Apathy”?’”

A decade and more of people coming and going in orbit…

StartrailsI first felt the tidal forces wrought by being flung out of social orbit two or three years ago, when silently, both other persons and myself, went our own ways. Their trajectory sent them in professional directions I can’t say I’d endorse 100%, while I may or may not have been relegated to the status of ‘crazy guy they knew on the Internet’.

For my own part in this, I was getting tired. Tired of passive-aggression, of in-jokes (some poorly veiled), and tired of a few people being too egocentric to realise that no, they weren’t dealing with someone who was gullible, they were dealing with someone who was being charitable; someone who was humouring them, not the other way around.

If I regret anything from this particular period, it’s my lame participation in what passed for some of the humour – which often involved my riffing off of someone else’s bad joke.

All the same, while we were friends, I did get something out of some of them, during what was a difficult time for me, mentally. I don’t know if this admission would injure their egos, or comfort them, and I can’t say I’m particularly worried either way.

If there’s anything I’d be concerned about with them, if I hadn’t put them behind me, it’d be the prejudicial assumptions and leading questions; annoying for me, worse for them if it insinuates its way into their journalism.

The greatest imposture in all of this though, comes from my own faculties – particularly my relative inability to forget things, even small things I don’t much care about. Inevitably something comes along to remind me… like goings on over the past few weeks.

At the very least I wouldn’t be recalling all of these details if I hadn’t been reminded.

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Continue reading “A decade and more of people coming and going in orbit…”