Last week I wrote about using social media for positive change. On the same day, I had to hold back from commenting on a hateful Facebook rant against the New Zealand gay marriage bill. So I unfriended that friend instead. And their religion is supposed to be compassionate. They’re a colleague. I am disappointed knowing their beliefs.
I feel that you never know who your friends really are until they post a nasty Facebook rant. And often friends surprise you with their social media activity. Just because they may be passionate (and compassionate) in one area of human or animal rights, doesn’t mean they’ll be tolerant across the board.
A friend who has congratulated me on my diversity work shared a photo of a Muslim woman on a train holding a bag with a store logo “bang”. Someone else I know who champions positive body image posted a mocking picture of an overweight woman in a fast food queue (picture below). A religious, compassionate friend shared someone else’s racist rant about our soldiers fighting for Australians – stating that anyone who doesn’t agree with the display of the Australian flag should go back to their country. And most disappointingly, two friends who are all about acceptance and inclusion of disability commented on one of those disgraceful ‘tag someone you know’ photos – of a vulnerable, visibly different looking person – and I can bet that in most cases, their pictures are used in those memes without their permission (see an example of this below). Again – tolerance and passion in one area doesn’t mean tolerance and acceptance across the board. Or people just do not think.
(Apologies if these pictures offend you – I am using them to exemplify the pictures and rants I have seen on my social media feed.)
I have recently gone on an unfollowing spree on Twitter. When the tweeters often did well to peddle their own causes and agendas, they were also ranting about something else. While disagreement and differing opinions doesn’t equal bullying, their values and online behaviour were qualities that I don’t want in a friend. Boring. Next! I feel lighter without the constant anger and passive aggressiveness of some of these people. As my Twitter friend Kirsty tweeted last night:
I have also private messaged a couple of people about their Facebook activity, questioning the homophobic and disablist pictures they’re sharing. And after my messages, they told me they just didn’t realise they were promoting homophobia and disabilism, and removed their posts. Perhaps education rather than unfriending is the key, though in the case of the anti NZ gay marriage rant, there would be no reasoning.
I am not sure if people are aware of their actions on social media. And I also think people forget that their social media activity reflects on them as an employee, despite using it in their private time. Reactions to issues and social media posts are so immediate, and it’s a quick, effective way to voice an opinion after an event that may have pissed you off. People think their friends don’t see when they ‘like’ a pornographic image. There is no self censorship, and often the ranty narrowminded statuses are seen as heroic, receiving a following and trail of echoing comments from equally as bigoted friends. Anyone who dares to disagree is called out, and encouraged to unfriend. Despite how ‘private’ a Facebook or Twitter profile is, someone is always looking, and judging. And while free speech is allowed, hate speech seems to spread so quickly. It’s easy to forget that your angry/sexist/homophobic/racist/disablist rant can define your personal values. And this can make ‘real life’ interactions very difficult. The ‘hide from newsfeed‘ option on Facebook comes in handy.
Chloe Angyal writes on Daily Life:
“As we spend more and more of our time online, and reveal more and more of ourselves through the sharing nature of social media, perhaps the unwritten but closely observed rules of Facebook interaction will evolve: In addition to starting fights, we should be able to resolve them, too. Digital pecan pie, so to speak, at this weird online Christmas lunch table. For now – until Facebook offers some new mediation tool – we’re still stuck negotiating the awkward, uncharted middle ground between the digital and the real. We’re stuck inviting people who “liked” Sexism to our IRL (in real life) events.”
While I am opinionated on social media, I am always mindful of who may be reading, and how my opinions may be perceived. And I am always conscious that I interact with so many of my social media friends in person, and would hate them to be surprised about some of my beliefs they’d read on Facebook. What I write online is what I believe offline. And I’d like to think I’m quite open minded and inclusive of diversity.
I am so so proud of New Zealand’s progressiveness and I hope Australia follows suit soon. Equal love for all.
How do you deal with questionable, misinformed discriminatory rants on social media?