I’ve mostly backed off “serious” discussions on Facebook, with the exception of an occasional comment here and there.
It’s not just because Noeul keeps me busy:
It’s because while I like being able to say hi to friends occasionally, and get a whiff of news in the SFF world, share pictures and tidbits of news, and that kind of thing—and because some of my friends seem to prefer to use Facebook Messenger to email—I find that almost anything else is just a black hole sucking away my energy and time.
Not that I exactly blame Facebook: sure, some of this is by design, but I’m also frustrated with how I use Facebook. I remember someone, maybe Bruce Sterling, commenting about how in the early days of the Internet, back on Usenet, people didn’t think of online as a place unto itself: they would respond to rudeness as if their interlocutor had come into their house and insulted them: “Are you calling me an idiot in my own living room?” Today, we know full well that any idiot who insults us in our living room, got there because we welcomed him into our homes in the first place.
What’s more distressing is when one finds oneself, in mid-sentence, battered keys beneath one’s fingertips, eyes wid with outrage, midway through a metamorphosis into a Internet Idiot. When you read the conversation below, consider that there would be no serious difficulty finding cases where I’ve been Person A, or Person B, or some amalgamation of the two. 1
[Window opens on a Facebook Group Page.]
Person A: Well, anyway, the glass is half-full…
Person B: How can you think the glass is full? The glass is half-empty!
Person A: No, it isn’t. Here’s a dubious link that restates my conclusion without addressing your objection.
Person B: Yes it is. Here’s some comments that show I didn’t read your link. I’m pretty sure you’re asserting the glass is half-full because you think it used to be less full. It didn’t. It used to me more empty. Also, I object to your use of the word glass. Don’t other beverage vessels matter? How about cups? Here’s a link restating my conclusion without addressing your position at all. In conclusion, the cup is obviously half-empty.
Person A: I’m not talking about cups. I’m talking about the glass, and look, how stupid can you be to say the glass is totally empty! How ridiculous! See the line? It’s halfway from the top! What the fuck?!?!? That’s half-full! Never before has the glass been this half-full!
Person C: Now, now, both you guys are wrong. Here’s why: listen to my long, arrogant, rude sermon on concision, humility, and politeness. Get with the program, guys.
Person B: You fucking moron! I never said totally empty! I said half-empty, and by the way you still insist on making this discussion all about glasses, while neglecting cups, grails, mugs, tuns, and other beverage vessels. How can we decisively determine the exact nature of reality on Facebook if you keep insisting on make it all about glasses? Cups matter too! That’s the problem with you, this single-minded obsession with glasses, glasses, glasses. You’re the one who thinks it’s totally full! Look at my links and lengthy expostulation on how the cup is half-empty!
Person D: “Glasses, glasses, glasses”… well, chicks in glasses are hawt.
Person A: Fuck you! (Person B, I mean.) Whether we look at glasses, cups, grails—grails?—tuns, mugs, calabashes… the same conclusion is inescapable: the vessel is half full, which I will now overstate as much as to say half-full, which is to say it’s at maximal current capacity. You, on the other hand, seem to want to insist the glass is dry as a bone, as if it were made out of melted, solidified silicon. Do you really think they make glasses out of silicon? Are you that stupid? Listen while I launch into a lengthy explanation of one tiny aspect of your argument. Show me one place in the world where you can buy a silicon glass… on the market anywhere, at any point in history! Q.E.D.: The glass is half full.
Person A: P.S. Fuck you.
Person A: And yeah, chicks in glasses are hawt.
Person D: Silicon glasses. For looking at silicon boobs! Ha!
Person B: How can you possibly say “Fuck you?” to me, your rude bag of cat shit? I shall now neglect everything your argument included, and assert that the glass is completely broken, which explains why it isn’t half full and explains why you can’t see it: you are so dumb you can’t tell a broken glass from a whole one, and so when you look at the broken glass you think it’s full while in fact we’re all being cut by the pieces all over the floor! Can’t you feel them? The broken pieces, diggin into your feet… into your very soul, man?
Person B: P.S. fuck you back.
Person B: And chicks in tankards are even hawter.
Person D: There is no glass…
Person C: Please read my lengthy explanation of why we don’t use the word “boobs” in this group.
Person E: Well, is there really is no glass, I am selling glasses for $8 each if you want some. They were $9 each new at Homeplus. I’m leaving the country soon and need to get rid of them.
[Private Message from Person B to his wife:] Oh good grief, someone’s trying to sell Homeplus glasses for $8 on Facebook. I bet they cost $5 on Naver. [Screenshot of offered glasses.]
Person E: I also have six unopened bottles of shampoo, and a single Tetley tea bag for sale.
[Private Message from Person B’s wife:] Uh… those glasses are $3 each if you order online. Bad deal. [Screenshot of Naver Shopping site offering same glasses.]
Person A: Well, anyway, as I was saying the glass is half full. This is incontrovertibly true, and I will mock minor aspects of your argument if you persist in disagreeing or perversely, ahistorically insisting the glass is half empty. I will also imply you have no knowledge of glasses, beverages, or drinking, because that will make me look right and you look wrong, or at least will give me a sense of satisfaction.
Person B: Argh! Look, I’m not going to discuss this with you if you aren’t willing to talk about tankards, and that’s that. The glass is half empty and we’re just going to have to agree to disagree! But before we do, this is the last word. THE LAST WORD. Because I need it.
Person A: No, I need it.
Person B: Too bad. It’s mine mine mine.
[Person B Quickly Quits Group]
Person B: Man, goddamn Facebook. It’s all Facebook’s fault.
[Person B Checks his Facebook Feed.]
Person B: What’s this? Someone somewhere thinks a totally different glass is half-empty? THIS WILL NOT STAND, MAN.
[Flurry of typing.]
This is the very picture of futility. No discussion on Facebook ever changed the world… or changed a kid’s diapers… or resulted in a book getting drafted…
Chit-chat, occasionally? Sure: we’re a bit socially isolated out here in the countryside. But intellectual debate on Facebook? That’s a little like trying to sell poetry manuscripts at a strip club. Even if the right people are around, the venue makes success impossible, and the attempt misguided at best… but honestly better described as stupid.
I guess Justin Howe put it more succinctly—and better—here, but what the hell, if you can’t point out your own foolishness once in a while at length, then what’s the Internet for?
I do manage to avoid being Persons C and D, at least, and I take some solace in that.↩