Widening the Gap: A Facebook Phenomenon
Years ago I swore I would never let this happen, but I have betrayed my own convictions and succumbed to what hundreds of thousands teenagers suffer through every day. But the problem is not just limited to them, but to latté-sippin’ millennials, Generation X-ers with their receding hairlines, and surprisingly even some grandparents too. Across the board, there are people who simply aren’t getting enough of what they need:
“Likes” on Facebook.
As a Communication major who puts interpersonal comm, that good ol’ face-to-face interaction, above all, I cursed Facebook and Twitter and other social media’s effects on our lives. Not only do lack of Likes seem to have a direct connection to people’s perception of social standing, but it has caused many other problems as well. Among these, but not limited to, are rapid spreading of disreputable and blatantly false new sources, inability to interpret tone and inflection, technical difficulties having a huge bearing on communication efficacy, anxiousness brought on by lack of social media activity and more.
But for me, the granddaddy of all problems in social media, is one you wouldn’t expect, one you’d think social media would alleviate, and for me, one that has run rampant on my social profile: It has not bridged the gap between myself and others, but in fact widened it.
Let’s get back to those oh-so-precious Likes. After reviewing my Facebook profile’s activity for the last year, I’ve noticed some trends.
Any photo with my beautiful and beloved fianceé Carmen will fetch a minimum of 30 likes, on average 50-60, and some where she’s particularly ravishing, and therefore distracting people from this ugly mug, have surpassed the century mark. An update with progress in my Peace Corps service, where I so admirably help underprivileged children at a comfortable distance from home, can rake in 20-40 likes, depending on how cute the kids in the picture are. Funny anecdotes or cultural musings average anywhere between 10 and 20 thumbs up and finally, the lowest of the low, are my posts that touch anything on the political spectrum. For example, my support of a Youtube video called Todos Somos Mexicanos (We Are All Mexicans), which was made in light of Donald Trump’s remarks, has gotten a solid total of two (one from my ever-supportive fianceé and the other from a friend of Mexican descent). And, I have to say, that really hurts.
For three solid years I have felt like a darling due to my adventures abroad. A year of traveling and partying in Spain followed by two altruistic ones with the Peace Corps in Colombia resulted in a mildly successful blog, family and friends mentioning how I was in an exotic land, and hundreds of answers to the broadest of questions: “What’s Colombia/Spain like?” As a shy guy by nature, I will not deny I loved the attention at first, but thankfully it’s not why I travel. I do it to build a deeper understanding of cultures I do not know, but as we know march on past the three year mark, my Facebook notifications show that I’m not so novel anymore. My posts have morphed from silly shenanigans and a shameless list of “Look where I am”s to what I feel are critical and pertinent issues. Let me tell you, it seems that few prefer the latter.
I’m not upset by the fact that my opinion isn’t being validated by dozens of Likes, but instead by the fact that it is creating almost no kind of reaction, not even a negative one! My support for immigrants, my reflections on the crisis in Syria, my insistence on racial and religious acceptance, and all-else political end up with an abysmal amount of clicks. Just two weeks ago a picture of my dinner earned 23 Likes while two days later my sharing of James Blake being shamelessly and unjustifiably slammed to the concrete got a mere 2(not the same two as before, I promise).
What does this mean? It could be that the stork read Ohio instead of Oregon and mistakenly dropped off this leftist, wanderlustin’ hippie in a largely conservative small town. Or maybe my novelty has simply worn off after 3+ years of living abroad, evidenced by my dad’s recent question of “Is it out of your system yet?” referring to me returning home after Peace Corps. But the most immediate and easiest answer is that social media is no different than face-to-face communication in that nobody wants to talk about religion or politics. While this is probably the case, I can’t let it rest at that. Now that Likes allow us to statistically see how popular a topic is, it seems crucial to me to reflect on it.
Perhaps it was inevitable the moment I joined the Peace Corps, but I’ve become political. There are things that I see here that I never did in my sheltered American life, things that force you to empathize with those that are different from you. Therefore any time I see an injustice towards a human or animal, it conjures up a response that many prefer to ignore. I see it not only as my right, but as my duty, to verbally, virtually, and visually show my support for the people who I believe are being wronged, and for some reason that just doesn’t sit well with people. It doesn’t matter what side of fence you fall on, but for God’s sake don’t cling to the top of that fence with the fear of falling.
Just as I don’t say stuff to just say it, nor do I post it on Facebook. I hate how dependent the world has become on social media, but I don’t deny it’s power. So instead of taking a bullhorn to the town plaza and blabbering while people throw rocks at me, I take to Facebook to voice my opinion. Neither the goal nor the expectation is to have everyone like(in the traditional sense) what I say, but I would like people to at least see it, reflect upon it, and in the best case scenario respond to it, positively or not.
Call me ignorant, say I’m wrong, denounce me as a leftist idiot who offends simply to be a dick, and I’ll take it. But please do not read what I say with a taste of indifference, and I beg you above all to not block me. The world is different from you and it always will be. Whether this is mitigated by your insistence on forever living where you were born or to eliminate anyone who posts something you dislike(still missing that option), this will not change. Ignoring that fact won’t either. The only way to truly get by in this world of dangerously different opinions is to confront them, refute them, argue them or support them, and take a step closer to not necessarily agreeing with how someone thinks a certain way, but why.
When my little sister was a little less responsible with the content she put in her posts, she alienated herself from her family and some of her friends. But due to some immaturity, she was offensive and it hurt people, myself included, to see her posting these things. To keep the peace, some blocked her or she even blocked them, sweeping it all under the rug. And now ironically I feel as though I’ve suffered a similar fate, but for different reasons. In order to keep the peace in this situation, my once avid followers have shied away, perhaps afraid that it will lead to an irreparable disagreement. I promise you, it won’t. Share with me your disagreement and let’s figure out where we’re different, but please don’t forget that we’re not the same.
In no instance have I gone to the town plaza with my bullhorn and gotten rocks thrown at me, but if I were hit by one for each like less I get for a political post than a picture of a tropical Colombian beach, I’d have been stoned to death long ago.