I was born in the middle of the last century. Yes. I am proudly curmudgeon. Complete, and self-contained. But there is one new item I would like to add to my short list of demands:
- Stay off my lawn
- Stop lying on facebook
When I was a kid (curmudgeons generally start most sentences with that introductory phrase), it was common to see someone, like as not my old German Granma, take both index fingers and rub one across the top of the other at an angle. This gesture was generally directed at another person, probably me. At that time, the message was universally understood: “SHAME! Shame, shame, shame on you!”
If I have to tell you who this is, shame on you
Now, not only has that gesture disappeared along with the thumb to the nose, biting thumb, and other colorful insults, it is likely the word “shame” will be removed from the next edition of the dictionary for lack of usage.
It is shameful (we start the other sentences with that phrase), how my facebook friends repeatedly break the commandment against bearing false witness. This commandment doesn’t just apply to perjury in a trial or to gossip. And it doesn’t just apply to my Jewish or Christian friends. It is an easily understood moral truth for anyone, even those DC Republicans and Democrats with remaining reasoning capacity. It is an appeal to basic honesty which, apparently nowadays, can be safely abandoned if the other person committed an obviously nefarious action (like hunting) or, and this is the main offense, differs politically or religiously from you.
Back in the last century, it was common knowledge that a person could do something shameful quite unintentionally. A careless remark could hurt another’s reputation or shoddy inquiry could damage a relationship. Apologies required, but the damage was still done. Hurt feelings and sadness created caution for next time. Now, easily over half the content of facebook is a nasty overblown charge. Apparently, hyperbole in the service of a good cause is a virtue when the ends justifies the means.
Very much like the personality change some undergo behind the wheel of a car, facebook is the place to believe anything you see and pass it along as if it were true. Why not? Hit “like”. Throw your comment in the pile of 300 other comments and get it off your chest. It’s not like it’s a real conversation where moral rules apply. Your transmission is set only on broadcast, not receive. The effect of this, however, is to give the lie an extended life and an extended reach.
All this is happening in a time where basic research has never been easier.
I have heard that it is physically possible to see an incorrect statement on facebook, ignore it, and must move on with your life. But I don’t believe it. I have called out my friends (left, right, religious, or agnostic) publically on facebook by posting a snopes.com rebuttal or quoting a New York Times or Wall Street Journal article or quoting verifiable statistics and polls. It is sweet, so sweet, to be the morally superior victor. Frankly, I don’t understand why my friends aren’t happy for me after I correct them. They wind up saying the most outrageous things in reply.
Hey! I won’t unfriend you if you don’t do the following. But I may publically shame you on facebook by quoting actual, real events instead of spin. So, please, next time you see a facebook post or meme which so very obviously rings true in the depth of your soul, consider your confirmation bias. And before you pass it along, try the following:
- If it quotes an actual event, something like…”Republicans vote down bill to feed starving children!” Just google the event and look for a newspaper article from a major rag that might be on the other side of the debate. You will be surprised to learn the facts not given in the original post. It may still be nefarious, but it won’t be as nefarious as they say.
- If it quotes statistics like “Gun Deaths Skyrocket!”, google the activity and look for a graphic trend chart or poll by using the “image” search. These are often attached to informative articles or blogs. Consider the differences between percentages, percentage changes, and total numbers. A clever writer can make either side of a debate look true based on how the numbers are presented.
- If the claim is only repeated endlessly on either far right or far left sites while the other side makes no comment, look it up in the local newspaper closest to the event. Most of those are on-line nowadays. I guarantee you’ll be surprised at what actually happened.
- Having done this, don’t post it as a comment in the original post. No one will read it there amongst the hundreds of blowhards (YOU, of course, are NOT a blowhard at this point). And it only makes that lying post or meme more popular and more likely to be seen. If you can’t bear to be silent, post your researched article with your own summary of what you have found to be confirmable truth.
- Or, having found the truth, simply sit there smug in the glow of knowing you got it right. But do take note of the sources most likely to spread untruths and block them using the caret menu in the upper right of the post. Also, take note of which of your friends have repeated the original lie, and don’t believe them the next time either, just think quietly to yourself:
Shame, shame, shame on you!