Misinformifiedification*

Lately, I’ve been flirting with the idea of breaking up with Facebook. The conversation might go something like this: Hi, Facebook. I think it’s time we parted ways. Yes, for good. It’s not me, it’s you. Why? You’re making us all stupid.

I joined Facebook while living in Kuwait as a means of staying connected to friends, family and a motley assortment of people from my past. In its infancy, it was purely a place for all of us to post news updates, share the occasional photo or video and dialogue about what was happening in the world. For a Christian living in a conservative Muslim country, the last one was key: it helped me track what my friends – people like me – were saying and thinking. Thoughtful comments were the norm. Good dialogue happened, even about sticky topics.

Not that every interaction was profound, of course – people bragged about and discussed the consistency of their babies’BMs back then, too – but it was at least personal, if not honest. However, over the past few years, due to the creep of ridiculous content, advertiser influence and the Look at Me! orgy that social media has become, anything approaching meaningful interaction is difficult to find.

So much nothing
This isn’t unique to Facebook. I broke up with private radio and television for the same reason. Private radio has more talking heads and commercial breaks than real content. Broadcast television is merely a tidal wave of “reality” programming increasingly populated by oddly orange-tanned people trying to talk all the time about nothing. And yet doing so with such earnestness, you might be fooled into believing they had a clue.

They don’t, of course. Which to me is the root of Facebook’s current state. People sharing, posting, linking, tweeting, hashtagging about topics they either know nothing about or that turn out to be, like so much of what is found online, dumb or just plain wrong. It’s too easy to share things now – we can click a familiar-looking button on almost any website so easily and quickly, we’ve forgotten how to take in the material and discern a response before we crash it onto each others’ news feeds. And the algorithms Facebook uses to display sellable content loops our own ignorance back to us so we can share it again and again. Even – especially – when it’s wrong and/or misleading. And it seems to me that Christians, unfortunately, are leading the charge.

We are N
A couple of weeks ago, I posted about how the conflict in Gaza once again pushed the Palestinian humanitarian crisis into the background. To me it seems inconceivable that anyone who really learns about the marginalization and ghettoization of the Palestinian people can remain convinced about the justness of Israeli actions. That the conditions in Gaza are appalling can’t reasonably be debated – numerous reputable organizations have verified how bad things are – and yet the oft-shared/liked Christian response has little to do with the data or the reality on the ground. God is behind Israel – it says so in scripture. We hope the Muslims discover Christ. We wait for Christ’s return so it all will be made right. None of which even remotely approach the abuses that are being suffered in Palestine.

This week, a website reported and provided photographic “proof” that ISIS is beheading Christian children. Horrible things are happening to Christians in Iraq, no question, but the photo evidence for the beheadings turned out to be unreliably sourced and gleaned from completely different conflicts. Yet Christians completely ignored the evidence even when it was presented to them, sharing the original hoax web-page wholesale. Even the website that exposed the original claim was shared in order to increase awareness of the fabricated beheadings – evidence, really, that Facebook can’t get past a sensational headline even when the article is refuting the claim.

Is it any wonder I’m thinking about dumping Facebook, when up and down our news feeds we dedicate the same amount of discernment and reflection towards our memed cat-selfies as we do towards oppression, persecution and the unimaginable things people do to each other?

Click. Click. Like. Hashtag. Why learn when we can share?
 

Author

  • Brent spent six years in the Middle East and Asia teaching, writing, and trying to make sense of the borders people create. A graduate of Redeemer University College and the Humber School of Writers, he is now working towards an MFA in Creative Writing through the University of British Columbia. He works and lives in the Westdale neighbourhood of Hamilton with his wife Rosalee and baby daughter Nora. For more information, follow him on Twitter@brentvans or visit www.brentvanstaalduinen.com.

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