Over the past few days Facebook has caused a lot of problems in my life. As a prior reader may recall I started this blog to be able to openly discuss my political opinions and opinions on current events out of the spotlight and constant bickering between friends of opposite political and social beliefs. Thus as a rule I tend to shy away from political comment there, and on rare occasion point people here if they want to know my opinion on something. This week however I was taught the hard way that the all powerful social beast that is Facebook can still bite you in the ass even when you aren’t tempting fate if it were.

While the specific details aren’t particularly important the situation spiraled out of control when a random comment was taken to be a political endorsement against gay rights. When a different friend pointed out that my post had not been about the political aspect that was assumed by the first commenter, they were accused of being a “bigot”.  Within a few minutes an innocent comment had turned into an all out attack. I clarified the original intent of both myself and the accused bigot, and asserted that calling someone a bigot is not called for in that situation. (I even pointed them back to my previous post about the “hate chicken” issue a few weeks back)

What frustrated and flabbergasted me most was that despite everyone else who commented on the status making it clear the original intent,  the original commenter remained steadfast that everyone involved was being hateful because of the perceived correlation between the comment and support of an organization that discriminates against gays.  In the end I lost a friend of 18 years over a status about popcorn and I find that simply astonishing.

That same day a friend of mine posted this to his status and I found it oddly appropriate:

“I love that I have so many friends who are politically engaged and aware. However, when it comes to Facebook, I appreciate much more hearing about their personal lives rather than their political beliefs… I feel that in-person people are much more inclined to be rational, civil and reasonable. There is something about this internet that prompts us to be more divisive … I do wish there was a political filter I could turn on.”

In person I know that the conversation that happened on Facebook would not have ended in the way it did because people ARE more rational in person. I have to believe that it would be harder to forget the times that both I and the accused bigot had stood by this particular friend, supported his life choices and loved him for who he was if he had to look us in the eyes. However that is not the nature of Facebook or other social media. All of the hate and prejudice that does get spewed across the internet all blends together and combined with the somewhat ironic faceless-ness of Facebook allows all of us at times to forget that real people sit behind those keyboards and smart phones.

Next time you see someone post something on Facebook that rubs you the wrong way I suggest you take a step back and evaluate the situation. At times we all need to remember that we don’t need to take our own personal axes to grind, or our own soap box pulpits into other people’s lives unless they are actively wanting and seeking that from us. People will have different thoughts and opinions and even if they choose to inappropriately share them (a personal pet peeve of mine) the world would probably be a lot more peaceful place if we just filtered the comment out and moved on with our lives.