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Fighting on Facebook? Sign me up

By KATE SNYDER

Life With a Smile

Here’s a fun fact you might not know about me: I like to fight.

Not physical fights, mind you. Let’s be clear about that. I’ve never thrown a punch in my life and you absolutely do not want me on your team when the zombie apocalypse comes because I will definitely be among the first to die. 

Verbal fights, on the other hand? Sign me up. I like to think of myself as feisty and well-informed. My ex-husband was known to use the words “cantankerous” and “argumentative.” You say potayto, I say potahto. 

A friend of mine recently posted an earnest meme that essentially said — “do you really want to spend the precious moments of your life arguing on Facebook?” — and my immediate gut reaction was in the affirmative. 

Heck yeah, I want to spend my life arguing on Facebook.

Maybe not my whole life. But a certain portion of it. I find it somewhat exhilarating, I admit, even while it also makes me deranged with frustration. I have a few parameters. For example, I don’t argue with strangers. Ain’t nobody got time for the roiling vat of sludge that is the comments section of any major (or even local) newspaper page. I cannot be bothered trying to talk sense into crazy people who may or may not be Russian bots. 

My own social media, however, is a different story. I’m not connected online to anyone I don’t also know in the real world and I am very much willing to try to talk sense into crazy people with whom I share actual, human relationships. 

It doesn’t really work. Rationally, I know that. Well-entrenched thoughts and opinions – particularly misguided ones – are not likely to be altered just because someone you know makes a thoughtful (okay, snarky) comment on your Facebook post. I get that. 

But I do it anyways. 

I can’t help it. Particularly when it comes to really bad right-wing propaganda. I have a couple friends and several family members that consistently share ridiculous memes and articles. Things that require less than ten seconds on Google to be disproven. Things that are blatantly illogical and indefensibly racist or sexist or just plain dumb. Things that make my blood pressure rise and my eye to twitch when they float across my newsfeed.

How do you not respond to that? I’m nowhere near Zen enough to let it slide.

A lot of my friends find it puzzling that I would remain connected to people espousing those viewpoints. Don’t waste your time! Unfollow! Unfriend! I can understand that urge, but I’m not convinced that living in an ideological bubble is healthy. Plus, even the most out-there people post cute cat videos sometimes. You don’t want to miss out.

In all seriousness, I think it’s important to engage with the lies, even though it’s incredibly difficult to do. There seems to be so little common ground anymore, even (particularly?) on the topic of reliable information sources. The internet is a never-ending black hole of information and a lot of it is published by total wackos. You can find an article to “prove” every side of every argument that has ever been waged. The accusations of media bias are never-ending, but I’m just not sure how to start a conversation if we can’t all agree that public radio is a good thing.

I may not change your mind, but I truly believe that to be silent is to be complicit. Even on social media. So I’ll be that annoying friend who posts links to Snopes articles on your page, points out that the picture you shared was photoshopped, and counters most attempted presidential accolades with facts.

But don’t worry. I will also post videos of my dog climbing trees. So don’t unfriend me just yet.