Sunday, October 6, 2013

The entity known as Facebook

Wow, has it really been more than a month since I've posted here?  I am sure my numerous fans have been refreshing my blog page continually in anticipation of my next brilliant post.  To all of you, I apologize.  I know you are all looking forward to the next volley of insults between myself and Background Dominated.

I won't make excuses.  Well, except that during the month of September, I had to deal with major floods in Boulder (which did have a very minor affect on me), some travel, and switching over to my new job (still a scientist - just at a different institution).

OK, so I guess I did make excuses.  But no more!  On to the topic of this post: Facebook.  Or perhaps more generally, big social networking sites.  I choose Facebook because it is the one on which I am most vocal, as I am sure many of you know.   And it is also the site where I notice some of the longest, blood-boiling rants, flame wars, and debates.  I am guilty of engaging and starting many of these debates myself.

Sure, there are other components to Facebook: George Takei posts hilarious pictures.  There are cats.  There are people posting obscure comments that leave their friends guessing what they mean.  e.g., "It's time" or "I can't believe she said that"... and then no elaboration (I hate this by the way...).

But what I both love and sometimes hate about Facebook are the battles, the arguments, and the debates.  Facebook is an interesting platform for these sorts of debates, and I would argue that this platform makes the debates more likely to be heated and prolonged.  I think the reason for this is that it is much easier to insult someone or to state your strong opinion on something when you don't have to look your "opponent" in the face.  You just type "no, you're wrong and need an education!"  Much easier to type onto a website from the safety of your couch or bedroom than face-to-face, at least in my opinion.  Also, the arguments can go on for days since people return to them every so often.

In an earlier post, I questioned whether debating is actually a useful endeavor.  Like I said there, I think it can be - personally, I learn a lot by debating other people.  Often times, I become so engrossed in my own world of thought that I forget how others think or feel.  Even if after a debate I disagree with them, at least I have gained an appreciation for how passionately they may feel about their particular position.

Now, before this post turns into a short novel, I want to make my single point of the post.  While Facebook debates and flame wars may seem ugly and unattractive at times, I would argue that they are a much better way to learn about the world than by watching the mainstream media.  Sure, in any particular debate, no one will have all of the facts.  But do reporters in the media have all of the facts?  Probably not!  And these days, any given media source is likely to contain some bias, which will either skew the facts or produce all out lies.  My views tend towards liberal, but I'll definitely admit that MSNBC, for example, has a liberal bias.

We may not be reporters in the wacky world of Facebook, but we are a bunch of people from different walks of life all talking about issues together, sharing articles, and presenting our opinions.

My dad always says "don't trust what you read on the internet".  This is true in some cases, but I think Facebook (and yes other social media sites) can be more a more balanced source of information than what's on TV.  And this is due entirely to its interactivity.  When Bill O'Reilly is on, you can't really call him up and argue against him on a particular point, can you?

So, in conclusion, Facebook can be a great place for funny pictures, quotes, etc..  It can be a place of frustration where "idiots just don't get your point of view".  But at the end of the day, it's a great source of information.

But of course, as I ALWAYS emphasize, be skeptical of whatever you read!  Fact check, think rationally, and be mindful!

Well crap, I didn't get a chance to slip in an insult to Background Dominated.  So uh... Background Dominated - you run funny.  That's the best I got... but if you doubt me, just ask him.  He even admits it!

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