Inspection- The Facebook-ization of America

by Ken Carman


Before we get to the main course, let’s clarify a few things. I don’t deal with the Facebook like a lot of folks do. There are many people I deeply disagree with who post on my page. I won’t block a single one, unless they get nasty with me. I have never erased a single message, and any posting that bothers me… well 99% of the time I just don’t respond. Please remember: not responding doesn’t necessarily mean your post bothers me.
 Some day in the future, once humanity is gone, strange aliens will check the digital spectrum. When they find my FB page, and compare everything that’s been posted to all my columns and postings on debate sites, they’ll ask, “Hey Mack, why did you let all this stuff stay on your page?” Then, like the Martians in Fredric Brown’s delightful classic Sci Fi-Comedy,
Martians Go Home they’ll go mock some other race of semi-sentient beings, on another, more interesting, planet.

 She warned me.
 Attending a Beaver River Property Owner’s Association meeting this summer I mentioned that I had started a Beaver River Station Facebook page. The day before my wife Millie brought up the page for me at the Beaver River Fish and Game Club meeting because I had to leave early. She warned me the response hadn’t been all that positive the day before. But I went ahead and mentioned Beaver River Station on Facebook anyway, even though many of the same folks were at this meeting.
 Silly me.
 I completely understand why some have issues with Facebook. I avoided Facebook for years because I’m a tad uncomfortable with how FB shares information. Maybe more “than a tad.” One example: I refused to give a password to my E-mail account when I signed up, but somehow they found contacts for me I swear had to have been culled from my E-mail. That was right after I joined only because I needed pictures for an article I was writing and the owner of the page, she’s a friend too, directed me there. I felt like I had immediately been punished for taking a chance.
 But that wasn’t the major complaint a few of the members had. Their major problem with FB was the possibility that debates that often get heated in the River could get quite nasty, out of control and all too public on Facebook.
 I tried to explain there were ways to limit that, but let’s just say I suspect I didn’t do a lot of “convincing.”
 Beaver River, where my wife and I will eventually live out at least part of the rest of our lives, if not all, is not accessible by road. I have loved Beaver River since my father, my mother, my brother and I walked in from the landing in 1966. We had been out fishing on “The Flow,” as locals called Stillwater Reservoir back then. Love it so much that, once we retire, if I could, I’d only leave for an occasional visit to the “big city:” Old Forge… or until what’s left of me is dragged out by sled. Better yet, if it’s summer, boogie board my body down the reservoir on a ski rope. Extra points for back flips and bouncing me off rocks, like a pinball ball bounces off a bumper. More points if you manage to get the big flippers they’ll soon install at the Stillwater landing to start the game over.
 An old railroad goes right through Beaver River. Active? Well, we do see an occasional railcar, trains almost never. But there are plans afoot to have more regular train traffic roll down these rails, hopefully not literally over any “foot.” If it happens. And if it’s not a mere, “Look, here comes the train! Look, there goes the train!” kind of “train traffic.”
 We shall see.
 Or not.
 Others, however, would rather pull out the rails and put in a bike trail. Rails to Trails, as it’s called, could bring a slightly different flavor traffic through Beaver River: especially for the bugs during bug season. Might be kind of like hunting season, only for itsy bitsy flying vampires. One wonders if what’s left of some bikers will hang like deer head trophies from the wall in some hunting club for mosquitoes, managed by Count Suckula.
 How popular either would actually be remains to be seen. You never know for sure unless you do something.
 I have discussed my own views on this controversy in two previous columns, but for the sake of clarity, if you just read this column, this controversy, and others, have led to a certain amount of vitriol and outright “nasty” bouncing back and forth. Vitriol that has spilled over into various forms of media, and digital forums. Seems neither Facebook, or these various outlets, are the source of our problems. Maybe it’s how we handle our disagreements?
 So unfortunate if we can’t have a FB page, like neighboring Twitchell Lake does, simply because of the possibility that, instead of posting nice pictures, memories and such, some may splatter each other with snark.
 Once again, there are ways to avoid this, and I told them that. And, once again, I doubt I did much “convincing.”
 ”Silly me,” again. Some folks rappel cliffs, pull the rip chord at the last moment or wait until they manage to last breath of air in the tank their way out of scuba diving some cave for a “fun” hobby. My hobby seems to be finding the hardest wall, bend over, and charge towards that wall head first.
 Not the best way to “cement” a relationship with others, eh?
 Is any of this a “surprise,” considering how we handle disagreements and differences on our talk shows, or via our often mean spirited talking heads? It may get ratings, but just how destructive is it? Very.
 I actually enjoy all the differences that pop up on my page. Maybe I’m just weird. OK, I admit it: I’m definitely “weird…” and loving it.
 On the very positive side, the Facebook-ization of America has meant I have reconnected with old friends I never thought I’d hear from again. Not every post appeals to me, but that’s OK.
Yet despite them: and sometimes even because of them, I find my always running Facebook page fascinating. Doesn’t matter if I disagree.
 Though my take on faith is a bit different I read every post by one minister I knew when he wasn’t a minister, years ago. We were both teens on Twitchell Lake. There’s another Twitchell-ite whose very fundamental faith is obviously deep and occupies a lot of her thoughts. No, I’m not being “patronizing.” I find it grand they have something that means that so much to them. My path is, well let’s just say “different.” And my “path” means just as much to me.
 I have folks who love guns, folks who want to regulate them, one who is passionate about “curvy” women, at least one strong feminist who would find that offensive, and a few who I am sure find feminism offensive: basically people from all sides of the political, or the social, or the theistic, spectrum.
  I rarely comment on any of these, some I probably never will comment on.
 But I do find gratification in observing, and considering, all the different perspectives, all of what has meaning for various people. For those who know of the faith, would it surprise you I’m a Unitarian-Universalist? Probably not.
 When I was real young, and lived near New York City, my family agreed to let Jehovah Witnesses come to the house every Wednesday. After almost a year, in frustration, one of them said, “We’re not going to convince anyone here, are we? You guys just like to argue.” We had to agree, and unlike my brother and father I did more listening than arguing during those nights. But like my brother and father, they did no converting. Guess I’m still following my own version of a family tradition, huh?
 One old high school friend is really into golf. Except the easy, peasy, college class I took because I was never all that sports oriented, but had to take some sports course each semester, let’s just say I’m not really into golf. But I do find pleasure in reading about the joy she finds in the sport. Tis a splendid thing. I hope she finds my posts as enlightening and entertaining.
 And I them read all. I wouldn’t throw away a single praise Jesus, one curvy woman, any more feminist driven commentary, or Michael Moore saying, or Wayne LaPierre comment, or negative post about fundamentalism…
 Look, I have friends on all sides of all these issues. I like it that way.
 Besides, if I really want to debate, there are debating sites I visit, like Volconvo.com. And I do post as myself. Beware: if you ever care to try join the fray, posting under an anonymous screen name, don’t be offended if I argue too strongly for my own position. Frankly, if that’s likely to happen, let’s just stay friends and stick with FB, OK?
 I look at life this way: there probably isn’t a thing in life I couldn’t be wrong about. Nothing. And whether you accept that premise for yourself, or not, in my opinion that’s true for you too: for everyone and anyone.
 I prefer to use my FB page to share things I find funny, or interesting, or sad. The Facebook page I see every day is creative, multifaceted and messy. Just like my life. I have no need, or desire, to convert, or preach, 99% of the time.
 I also look upon my Facebook page as a reflection of America, not just my preferred part of America. And I learn as I read, even if what I “learn” is we disagree even more than I thought we did. When that happens I wish America could be more like my Facebook page where every person gets to have their say, uninterrupted.
 Compare that to our talking head shows, and on air political gab fests. Say something that isn’t politically correct and you get hung up on, shouted down, interrupted, talked over. Much discussion these days is no “discussion” at all, and akin to a biblical story: Babel. When it’s not, you can usually bet you’re listening to propaganda.
 Maybe someday there will come a time when debate is civil enough we can all discuss important topics of the day, like those we have trouble discussing now. But we don’t live in that time, and I doubt it will come in my lifetime.
 So, for now at least, I will enjoy reading the thoughts of Christians, Atheists, science and “reason”-oriented and more faith oriented folks: all the political persuasions and, hopefully, people in Beaver River Station. By sharing your deepest thoughts, beliefs, mirth you find in life, traditions, personal moments and topics that concern you, you all make me feel at home.
 You know, maybe joining Facebook wasn’t all that bad a decision after all.

                           -30-

   Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
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Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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