Chuqui: It isn’t Facebook; It’s Life

by Karoli on July 31, 2007 · 257 comments

Shelley wrote an interesting post about the elder bashing on Facebook where she correctly points out that for all of this weekend’s hype about Facebook, there was very little mention of the hatred spewing around. Chuqui then pushes back with this:

All Facebook is doing here — to be blunt about it — is making it harder for us to pretend to not see what we know is out there, the ageism, the racism, the misogyny, the gay bashing. Five minutes of trivially easy searching showed it all out there on Facebook, both in it’s seriously seamy and painfully ugly side, and in the folks who think they’re being smart and funny (which in its way is even more sad to me).

Would that it were so. I just tried a search for gay haters, racists, and other typical groups you’d expect to see in ‘real life’. I did find one anti-gay group with 6 members, but the majority of the 300+ groups named with that phrase were the anti-antis.

On the other hand, it was stupidly easy to find the advocacy group (yes, that’s how they’re listed) calling to “Ban Old People from Going back to School!!!!” and the one listed under Common Beliefs and Causes to “Old People, Save a life, GET OFF THE ROAD!”, and the one listed under Business-General called “Children and old people should probably go to hell.” and the philanthropic organization entitled “Drivers Against Old People”. I intentionally did not list groups which were listed as fun or joke groups, choosing to take them at face value. The ones mentioned here are highlighted because of the number of members they have and their self-classification in areas that would typically not tolerate hate speech, such as causes, philanthropic organizations and business.

These results were on the first five group result pages for the search “old people”.

Yes, hating and misogyny and elder abuse and child abuse and all of that goes on in real life. But they are not equally represented on Facebook. There is a skew toward elder hating and that is what Ronni Bennett and others are pointing out.

Shelley writes:

However, what I’m seeing with some of the social networking sites (just some, not all), is that rather than expose people to different viewpoints, they can reinforce barriers against the the natural processes that abrade self-absorbed behavior. When challenged in one’s day to day life to give o’er our preconceptions or biases, rather than learn to adapt and grow socially, we can rush home and twitter, blog, and Facebook with others who have exactly our same point of view. We can safely ensconce ourselves behind a buffer of like-minded folks, postponing, perhaps indefinitely, the need to challenge our “world is me me me” view.

Nowhere is her point illustrated more completely than Facebook and amplified by the constant Techmeme twittering about Facebook being not just a social network, but a business card, a resume, and sliced bread all rolled up in a neatly wrapped package resplendent with apps and groups and food fights, even. (I do give credit to Robert Scoble for not discriminating about who he adds as a friend — rather than insulating himself with like points of view, he just adds everyone, tosses it all against his Wall and waits for the outcome. At least he’s willing to be open to that, but I’m sure a substantial amount flies by him, too.)

One thing Facebook is not, is real life.

But Chuqui, whether or not it’s real life is beside the point. It’s the hypocrisy that I object to, and without speaking for Ronni but recalling a rather heated exchange with her on the Blogher site over the Kathy Sierra issues, I’d guess that she’s not calling for Facebook to suddenly decide to enforce their T&C fairly across the board by removing hate speech as much as she is opting out of supporting any site or social network that engages in the hypocritical act of enforcing T&C for some, but not all, hate speech on the site.

If one were to insist on the Robert Scoble Facebook meme that insists that Facebook is really the Web2.0 business card, then let me ask this: Would you rent office space in the same building as the KKK, or the “anti-elders of america”, or any other hate group?

I wouldn’t, as a matter of principle. I wouldn’t want my clients coming to an office in a building that housed those groups. On the other hand, I don’t really agree with the Facebook-as-business-presence idea anyway, so it’s moot in my case, but I do wonder why all of those who are so high on Facebook haven’t made as much noise about this aspect of it as they have the pretty, shiny things. Perhaps a better way to phrase that hypothetical would be to ask whether they’d rent office space in a building owned by the KKK, or where the owners were sympathizers.

Again, I wouldn’t as a matter of principle. But when making the leap from the real world to the Facebook world, those distinctions tend to blur and fade, don’t they? Which is why, Chuqui, Facebook isn’t anything close to life.

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