“WHAT came first: the music or the misery?” morose record store owner Rob (John Cusack) asks in the 2000 movie High Fidelity. “Did I listen to pop music [with its songs about heartbreak, rejection and loss] because I was miserable or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?”
In the spirit of Rob’s inquiry, the Western Advocate would ask a similar question. What came first: Facebook or the fury? Are people on Facebook because they’re furious or are they furious because they are on Facebook?
In the course of a normal week, posting dozens of stories on our Facebook page, the Advocate will be privileged enough to see the best of our community in the comments that follow: support, sympathy, good humour, understanding.
(If Margaret Gaal and Vicki Wilson had one dollar for every congratulations they received from our Facebook readers for being named Hidden Treasures recently, they would have rocketed straight into the nation’s rich list.)
But at depressingly regular intervals, our Facebook page also plays host to the worst of anti-social behaviour: pettiness, belittling, casual cruelty, self-satisfied snark.
MAKING NEWS IN BATHURST:
It’s as if, on certain stories or when our Facebook readers are in a certain mood, the expectations of a civilised society somehow cease to be. As if some think the rules change once you cross the social media sideline and enter the field of play.
Under this thinking, calling someone in authority “corrupt” – the most serious of slurs, but one which now seems tossed about with joyous abandon – is without consequence. The laws of defamation don’t exist.
Under this thinking, making the most outrageous accusation about someone you have never met is okay, as is indulging in a knock-’em-down, drag-’em-out fight with someone who disagrees with you that hundreds of our readers are welcome to watch unfold.
Insulting, threatening, traducing. Dismissing, denigrating, humiliating. All of that’s all right as well. Because it’s Facebook and because someone is feeling furious.
It doesn’t happen on every story. It doesn’t even happen every week. But it happens enough.
It shouldn’t need to be said, but no-one ever had their mind changed or their opinion shifted by being insulted. Angry public abuse is not the stuff of a great debate.
Facebook gives everyone a voice. And we should all be mindful of how we use it.