Part Two - Twitter
Yet others will seek humor in new places. Enter social media. Twitter is funny. BSKing had sent me research that this was what kept people hooked, but I can't find it. The test-it-yourself evidence of this is how much anger and crap people will wade through in order to finally get a laugh to share, like one of those pigeons pecking at the bar 75 times until it gets a pellet. Half the funny stuff I have seen in the last year is a tweet someone has passed on. The medium forces people to be brief. Those who want to tell extended stories with successive tweets quickly learn the art of keeping the readers involved, because they are otherwise going away. (Which is still not as bad as having lit cigarettes flicked at your sport coat.) I only follow two of my sons on twitter, largely because they are funny themselves and have found an array of funny others that they scour and retweet. I get it that there is this entire unhealthy world out there ready to denounce you if you try to tweet anything serious, but I don’t live in that part of the city. If I did, I would quickly take the bait and become involved in stupid arguments with the neighbors. And the shopkeepers, customers, and people walking their dogs, too.
Part Three - Facebook
Facebook has much more of all of this this than people credit. Lots of funny stuff. Not as much as Twitter, but there’s plenty of little videos of kids saying cute things or puppies spilling milk on sleeping owners. People post wry comments, or relate frustrations in at least semi-good humor about traffic or minor illnesses. This is one of the big reasons why we come back. Pigeon. Bar. Pellet.
Nearly everyone claims that they don’t put up political stuff, or not very much – they just like to keep in touch with family at a distance or friends far away. Facebook has been amazingly good at reconnecting people you would have had to stalk and cold contact if you wanted to find out about otherwise. On FB, a friend from long ago comments on a third friend’s post and you are off and running. I enjoyed and used this aspect when I was on Facebook. It also gives you an advance warning system of whether you want to be connected. You can click over and read the clues about who they have become over the years.
So, they don’t think they are being political, but they have to tell everyone after a shooting how terrible it is that the NRA has bought off congress, preventing common sense gun control; or they tell you how proud they are to be an American, and it’s not Fourth of July or Memorial Day and it seems to have a truculent, not joyful tone to it, so that you wonder Am I are overreading, oversensitive, or is there some issue here?; or they keep putting up posts about being a conscience vegan – bright, shiny, friendly posts with flowers and cartoon animals; or they have Jesus posts that might be just light and joyful and grateful for a cancer-free diagnosis for a relative, but maybe some what-is-it edge of preening or accusation. That’s not even counting the people who have to pull an example from the news about the ignorant thing some state legislator from Missouri just said, with the clear intention of suggestion that most people of the opposing party are like that at least secretly – or bemoaning/congratulating their state for having done the obviously correct/horribly stupid thing about a controversial issue - or blaming/crediting Obama/Trump for the economy or price of gas; or posting some very poor journalism about new research that says women are pretty obviously oppressed or Danes are much happier* or how no one can name even three of the Ten Commandments anymore. We are forcing each other to read the Letters To The Editor page by surprising people we theoretically don't want to hurt. Except the evidence says we don't really care if we insult them. If challenged, we'll just say "Oh I didn't mean you, Jim! You're one of the good niggers." Or something. We're just announcing what we care about. Before they have a chance to turn the page.
No, you don’t post much about politics or religion or controversial culture at all Jimmy (it’s hard to pick a generic name there without looking like I am thinking of a specific person). Just enough to piss off half your friends once a week so they have to sigh and make an effort to just put it aside. You picked a declarative medium that makes even mild pushback look like a personal attack, so you can get away with saying very insulting things about others who have little recourse. And if even a measured response takes more than three sentences to do it justice, Facebook is nearly useless. When you hit the third sentence of even a polite reply you already look like a fanatic on Facebook. I found it was infuriating to people if I even wrote Don’t jump to conclusions. None of us has the whole story yet. Wait for more to come out, never mind any actual disagreement. Absolutely do not point out that one side of the argument did the identical thing or worse three months ago, so please don’t engage in such blanket condemnation everyone.
There are lots and lots of people who actually are nonpolitical, noncontroversial on Facebook, because their goal really is to see pictures of dance recitals and engagements and graduations. But Facebook is the perfect cover for deluding yourself that you aren’t really being difficult about these things, just because 90% of your posts are about having lunch with your niece or thanking the electrical crews for their hard work getting the power back on - so that when you offend people it has taken them completely by surprise. Yeah, great.
I don't think people actually read what they write and think about who is reading.
I never unfriended anyone on FB, but I unfollowed more and more people – some within hours of accepting them as friends. Eventually, not enough was funny, and too few people were reliable. I had wavered long. When all the privacy scandals and dishonesty about political bias came out, confirming what I had claimed two years earlier and been sneered at for – that was a good final push out the door. Facebook is a medium that allows people to shamelessly cheat on social rules that we have developed over thousands of years, and congratulate themselves what fine folks they are.
My wife is still on. She A) cares more about updates on graduations, illness, and family travel photos and B) is better able to just ignore people writing inflammatory things. For me the cost is now too high for the reward.
*I have had it up to here with happiness research. The research itself is usually flawed, and the reporting on it is worse. If you want to learn how to see through misleading research in the news, happiness studies would be a great way to start. First hint: Scandinavians consider it a point of honor to make their country look as good as possible, and they see through the questions right away, being smart people. So despite their high suicide rates, they score well on happiness measures. It doesn’t mean they are actually happy. They might be, but we don’t have much way of knowing.