Facebook is an unexpected, and often unwanted, display of the current state of rudeness and ignorance that dominates our popular American culture. In fact, there is no better medium to judge the current state of American callousness than the popular free Internet service used by just about anyone with a Personal Computer or a Smart Phone. If you have ever posted any political viewpoints or supported a political candidate on your Facebook page, you know what I'm writing about. It's rapidly becoming Face-Off book.
The company I retired from spent a considerable amount of time and money sending every employee to a PEP, or Personal Effectiveness Program so they would learn not to call their customers stupid. After all, customers have a nasty habit of throwing products out in the street after a frustrated employee ignominiously calls an untrained or incompetent customer an idiot. Company revenues usually suffer from that response, no matter how accurate or true it may have been.
That's how I ended up in the Admiral Bimbo hotel in Atlanta for three days back in the seventies with a roommate who drank a 1.75 liter bottle of vodka in just two days. We were sent from all over our region to the mandatory class to learn not to tell anyone to go stick it in their ear. I'm not sure how much my roomie absorbed, other than the 90 proof Smirnoff, - yes, in those days it was 90 proof - but I did my best to benefit from the course. I learned to listen carefully when confronted with people who were their own worst enemies, at least technically. The training helped me through the years with more than just irate customers who had inadvertently unplugged their own machines or created situations that were potentially hazardous. I learned to suffer the sting of uninformed Khans who dared not lose face in front of their collective hordes. But I never expected the training to be as important as it is today, thanks mainly to Facebook.
How innocent we were just a few short years ago when we cautiously signed up for Facebook, and how thrilled we were to see our very own images and comments on the Internet. Photographs of our families and friends were welcomed and enjoyed, so much so that we actually looked forward to logging on every chance we had to see if something new had been posted, or if someone had commented on one of our priceless posts. How proud we were to first endorse our political candidates, naively and blissfully thinking our Facebook friends felt the same way.
But just like the old CB radios, the lowest common denominators quickly rose to the top with personal insults and soon made it impossible to post a political or social view without someone wanting to piss on your pant leg. The first time it happens you can't help but be shocked. “Why am I being insulted, if not actually verbally assaulted by someone I thought was a friend?” The answer is easy: They never had Personal Effectiveness Training.
After someone belligerently or insultingly contradicts something I post on Facebook, I go to that person's homepage to see where they stand politically or socially. Not surprisingly, many dumpers don't post their viewpoints on their own pages, but they don't hesitate a second to pollute your page to show you the errors of your ways. I call these types “snipers.” They shoot at you from unseen positions and you have no idea how they picked you as a target. After all, they're on your friends list, aren't they?
If on the other hand, the comment they post on my page is an intelligent, factual comment or viewpoint, I'll leave it up, and comment on their post. All too often though, the comment is at best inaccurate, at times irrelevant, and at worst, slanderous.
So, what's up? You didn't intend your personal beliefs or opinions to be posted in a sports bar full of rowdy customers upset their team just got the devil beat out of them, but face it, these are new times and, unfortunately that's what has happened. Your beliefs and opinions are no longer for just your friends. In reality, Facebook, and just about anything else on the Internet is as impersonal as texting. People who wouldn't insult you to your face have no reservations about discussing the error of your thinking in front of a room full of people they don't know. That “room” is rather big as it encompasses everyone who can see your Facebook account.
Responding to a contradictory post is balanced on the question of how much you value your friend. If they really can't refrain from attacking you or others who comment on your positions, simply delete them as friends. It's all self explanatory, isn't it? If they don't care about your feelings, why should you bother about theirs? Their statements show who they are, not who they think they are. Or, you can indignantly defend yourself and argue your point. If you paid close attention to the PEP training, you can adeptly tell them to stick it in their ear and make them look forward to the experience.
Arguing, however, is really a waste of time. You aren't going to change anyone's mind with a simple Facebook post. As William McAdoo said, "It is impossible to defeat an ignorant man in argument." Here's where I think back to my PEP and wonder if it's even worth a response.
When someone posts offensive or incorrect responses on my page, I can't help but think they never heard President Abraham Lincoln's quote, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”
Sometimes I have to remember that myself.