Inspection- Grandma Ritz and Facebook

by Ken Carman

 As my page rolls on I have noticed Facebook has indeed become a reflection of America. In some ways that’s marvelous. In another sense? Well, I wonder… is this really the way we should “roll?”   One of my friends posts a sign that says to stop Social Security “entitlements.” “Call them what they are!” the sign lectures:” “government hand outs.”  Wait: agree with SS, or not, we pay into Social Security. That by definition is not a “hand out.”
 But I handle it in my usual way: I just don’t engage. I “don’t engage” because…
A/I like listening, or reading in this case, and thinking about such claims.
B/Facebook is almost bad as Twitter. It works well in short sentences and friendly back and forth, but it bogs down in debates. Indeed, being a debate fan and a frequent visitor at debating site Volconvo.com, in my opinion Facebook royally stinks as a debate forum. It winds up, at best, bogging down via lengthy sentences that make no sense, a lot of visual screaming, not much that’s all that readable. Certainly not a lot of respect, paying attention or thoughtfulness.
 Another poster tells me Monsanto is experimenting on my body. Huh? Wha? Am I living in the Matrix with Monsanto-bots pumping Soylent Green through my tubes?
 Then of course we have those who post what Jesus, or God, thinks I should believe or think… or those who sneer out how stupid I must be if I didn’t vote the way they wanted me too… and Gene Wilder’s image supporting every cause known to humankind with the same barbed “witticism” aimed at those who might dare to disagree.
 Really. You think Gene’s character supports all these disparate causes? Tell me about it.
 Facebook is populated by a lot of strawmen. Quotes and claims forced onto faces and digital posters that treat those who disagree as one-dimensional thinkers: the new digital form of the bumper sticker. If I went snark hunting on Facebook I’d get my quota in mere seconds.
 There’s a good chance if you can condense your point down to some sign or bumper sticker-ism, your point is probably wrong. The issues we battle with are more complicated, and have been argued over in one form or another for centuries… argued by people far smarter than any of us.
 Every issue is now like abortion: entrenched sides who will never win, never give up. It’s all a bit like the Lazarus characters from an old Star Trek episode who are doomed be be locked in some philosophically tiny room, doing mortal combat that lasts for an eternity, as mournful James T. Kirk ends the episode with, “But what of Lazarus? But what of Lazarus?”
 I look at the different posters posting on my Facebook page, with all their back and forth, and tons of overly tolerant silence and ask again…

“But what of Lazarus? But what of Lazarus?”

 And so we wind up shouting on each other: hearing, or observing, little.
 I think I first noticed this when a FB friend who is very religious posted something religious and I made some comment about a lady I worked with when I was a quality control engineer at a record company in the early 80s.
 She was single, Christian and born again: having a heck of a time finding a decent date. I used to tease her when she went out with Brown Bannister, “Oh, did you go out with Green Railing last night again?” I thought it amusing. She thought it amusing. End of story.
 However my poster leaped into, “I’m sorry you had such a bad experience…”
 Huh?
 Then I realized she had jumped ahead of me, and like many of my posters had assumed something I had no intent in posting, or saying. Ironically, yes, I have had “bad” experiences with the overly faithful. But I’m guessing some of the “overly” faithful also have had problems with the overly faithful. In a way, wasn’t that a pretty good definition for 9/11, and some of the reaction to 9/11?
 And while my path religiously: faith-wise, has been different, I respect her beliefs. In fact, I think since, by my age, we all come to wherever we are by such a convoluted path, judging another person’s journey as “shallow” is probably a shallow act in itself.
 But when I look at my Facebook postings I also think back to Grandma Ritz. When my mother died my family moved back to where we had been since the 1800s: the Central Adirondacks. I went first and stayed in Old Forge, NY with Grandma Ritz: probably one of the wisest women I have ever known.
 Grandma Ritz listened, and spoke in short, meaningful sentences. I would stop and talk to her many nights and often she would simply just make a single comment on my musings, my worries, my fears. Her words wouldn’t contradict me, accuse, or call me names. Her words were more like a gentle probe of, “Have you thought of…” …and whatever she said often would stick with me through the night, for many days.
 Grandma Ritz left us long before we all had computers, before there was Facebook: Mark Zuckerberg was a negative ten years old. But when I look at my Facebook postings, my friend’s comments, even my own occasional attempts to engage, I think of Grandma Ritz. I, you, me, we spend too much time trying to lecture, insult and demand others view things our way, the “right” way.
 And when I look at many Facebook postings sometimes I wish…
 …all of us could be just a little more like Grandma Ritz.

                                                     -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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