Australia Creation Media

Letter from Australia 59 – Fed up with Facebook and a Dream Homeo

Brothers and Sisters,

Fed up with Facebook

I’m fed up with Facebook.  Don’t get me wrong – it’s a wonderful tool.  But like all tools it can be used for good or evil – but sometimes it lends itself to the latter more easily than the former.  I appreciate enormously the opportunity to be in touch with friends and family – and even to make contact with complete strangers!  I also appreciated the opportunity for discussion – and far more than was wise I used it as a debating forum.  How can I forget the days of Secular Scotland (who were so easily wound up by my referring to them as the SS)?!   In the midst of all the noise, aggression and clamour, sometimes there were gems of clarity, compassion and change.  But I’ve changed my mind – I don’t think that FB is a good medium for discussion or debate  – why?

I posted this on my FB earlier this week.

I am adopting a new policy on my personal FB. I do not have the time or the inclination to respond to people who post essays on my page. Nor will I waste time on people who use name calling as an argument. Please keep the replies short (if you want to write an essay then use your own page). Keep them on topic. And avoid abuse.

For example, a post which attacks me as a Murdoch reading conservative – will be removed. I cannot be bothered with such silly identitarian politics. I am happy for people to post corrections or different points of view but to be honest I’ve discovered that FB is not really the place to have nuanced or balanced arguments. Most of what I post on here is on my blog – and it’s usually better to respond there. Feel free to post longer posts there. I will not be responding on FB other than to answer real questions or wish you well!

 What finally tipped me over the edge was the article I wrote on the danger of fascism in Australia.  I was saddened  at some of the reaction – especially from some who profess to be Christians.  It was a popular post which was reposted several places with my being tagged in them.  What people don’t seem to realise, or care about, is that when you are tagged you can see the comments that people make.   Again, I don’t have a problem with people disagreeing with what I said but some of these responses, and indeed a couple I removed from my own page, indicate what is wrong with FB debate.

  • It often strays off topic – a specific point is made and people either miss that point or use it to launch a thousand red herrings!  Or – changing the metaphor – to set a thousand little foxes running through and spoiling the vineyard.
  • It is time-consuming – As a result, trying to respond to people – which is my default position – becomes time-consuming. Life is too short to respond to everyone on the Internet!
  • It is far too often disproportionate and petty – things quickly escalate. For example, I posted this photo with the caption “it was great to be at a proper wedding”. To which someone responded to the effect ‘is that not insulting to those Christians who got married during the pandemic?” That’s a bit like saying when someone complements you on your cooking – “that’s the best meal I’ve had in ages” with “why, what was wrong with the other ones?!”.    I say words to that effect – because the person concerned then banned me from reading their tweets.  This is a classic example of what goes wrong with social media.  Someone reads into a comment an insult that was not there, publicly responds and then takes the huff when their challenge is challenged. I just don’t have time for this pettiness. (Someone once told me that if I posted it was a sunny day it would start a fight!)
  • It quickly gets personal – whilst at the same time being dehumanising. The problem is that when you don’t reply – or reply in a way which does not agree with or recognise the brilliance of your opponent’s arguments – then far too many people take it personally.  And so they up the ante.  Labelling, dismissing, mocking, abusing and threatening.  When I removed the last post, the person concerned sneered “that’s what I would have expected of you, I took a copy” and then just reposted.    I gave up.
  • It is divisive – in that, it encourages tribalism – often along political lines.  In ye old days when I had an argument in person with people – we would argue passionately and then usually go off for a pint or kick each other to nonsense on the football pitch! But on FB people take everything so personally – and they do keep a record of wrongs. ‘Ten years ago, you said something not nice to me on FB…I can’t even remember what the argument was about, or what you said, but it hurt me’.  And so, the memory and the dislike are embedded.
  • It does more harm than good. There has been good done through FB argument. I have learned some things, changed my mind and been rebuked.  Others I know have had the same experience.  But the bad usually outweighs the good.

So, for the above reasons I have decided not to discuss or argue on FB.   Why did I do it in the first place?  Perhaps because I liked to argue?  Or because it was both a way to learn and to instruct?  Even when I quickly became aware of the limitations, I had the arrogance to think I could fix Facebook.  But that of course was impossible – because the problems with FB were also problems with me.  Far too often I have fallen into the same devilish trap.  Doctor – heal yourself!

This does not mean a retreat from discussion – people are still free to comment and engage on this blog and they can still post on Facebook – but I just won’t engage even with the most provocative or unfair of posts.  Life is too short.  And too precious.

A Dream Home?

Social media is a very noisy place and sometimes we just need some peace and quiet.  That goes for where we live as well.  For this boy from the Highlands it’s not easy adjusting to the noise of city life (Dundee was really just a big town!).  We have been struggling with sleep here because of the noise – trains, dustbin men at 4:30 am, work on the new Metro and above all, the birds!  It sounds trivial but lack of sleep isn’t!   So, we were looking at the possibility of moving.  We are so grateful for our flat – it is lovely – and, unusually for Sydney, it is spacious.  But we thought we would at least have a look.

This was the view from near our ‘dream’ home!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sydney is just an extraordinarily beautiful place – but there are special areas for me.  One of these is Cremorne Point.  It’s hard to describe – it’s so beautiful.  And quiet.  Yet just across the water from the harbour and the CBD.  It’s the kind of area where to get somewhere within our budget and criteria is somewhat difficult.  Last week such a place came up.  We went to visit on Saturday – but the estate agents forget to tell their potential clients that they had already leased the place.  I was disappointed.   But as the saying goes – this world is not our home – we’re just a passing through. In the grand scheme of things not getting a flat you want is as petty and trivial as some of the antics on Facebook.  We are about much more serious business and must not allow ourselves to be obsessed by the relative trivialities of this world,

I leave you with this beautiful old song:

See you next week,

David

Letter from Australia 58 – Why we need Incarnational Preaching and the Parable of a Dead Parrot

 

10 comments

  1. Yes – I hear you David. I remember too the “debates” with “SS”. I was attracted to the organisation initially because of the claims made of being inclusive to religion. And it went well there – for a while. That was until I think it was something to do with wanting to eradicate religious observance in schools rather than it be an opt in / opt out issue for debate. Then it got personal we me having to realise (apparently) that politics change and that I was “a bit confused”about what was going on. Oh what joyful times they were – I remember them with fondness :).

    Well, Facebook and social media in general is not too different to driving a car in one sense. We are surrounded by comfort and if someone cuts us off or my pet hate does 60 mph in the outside lane of a motorway when there is a vacant adjacent lane we will be thinking, wont we, if not articulating the kind of things that would make your grannies toes curl.

    Of course there is that eternal truth to consider of not sharing pearls before swine or giving what is sacred to dogs. Pigs trample on pearls and you may be devoured just as wild dogs in a pack devour a prey by doing so!

    It would be lovely if all conversation online was truly equal, diverse, inclusive and conducted with truth, mutual respect and compassion. But of course it would be unrealistic to expect such heavenly experience every time we get to work on our keyboard.

    So yes quiet spaces – the picture looks great David. Not unlike some parts of Scotland. Jesus did go to the lonely places, probably to get some respite away form demands of people. He also retreated to Galilee when his life was under threat. So there are times for retreat. But being in public ministry mean for him being in the city of Jerusalem and it is is there that he was glorified with making a spectacle of sin in his crucifixion and showing the power of his resurrection.

    We have to take the rough with the smooth.

    I hope you continue to enjoy the beauty that Sydney has to offer David and things for well for you with the house hunting :).

  2. Good morning David. I closed down FB around a year ago for many of the reasons cited above. It was beginning to take up a large proportion of my time responding to people and also seeing what others were doing on their FB. It could very quickly have become addictive. Where did I go? Yes Twitter which is becoming the same as what FB was. I’m coming to the point where I will have to shut it down as well. I follow Christian posters and organizations there and have become involved in conversations with militant atheists who have no interest in reasoned debate and certainly do not want answers. One safe-ish haven left that so far has been reasonably quiet is Instagram. But you are correct. Social media has become a battle ground for everyone who doesn’t agree with you. Pity because I had many conversations with both atheists and muslims who I thought (mistakenly) I could convince them of the error of their beliefs. I leave them and FB and in the near future Twitter, to God. Thanks for your blog.

  3. The problem with Facebook is that it is not face to face at all but rather faceless. If it was face to face the majority of vitriolic responses would not happen at all. Being faceless eliminates most of ones true identity and responsibility in engaging in rational discussion. Unfortunately, in our modern technological age, and with the added problem of viruses, the downward spiral of real relationships and interaction with fellow human beings will continue to diminish more and more. However, social media is not going to go away and learning to deal with it is going to be a real issue in the years to come, especially for Christians and their salt and light input, in this we need to be as wise as serpents and harmless as doves. Gracious replies and soft answers will help in eliminating much of the venom perpetrated by the faceless vitriolic messengers hiding behind their computers.

  4. May I suggest this short story by E.M. Forster, published in 1909. In it he predicts, by inference, the internet and Skype calls. (He also incidentally predicts intercontinental air travel with cabin crew at a time when air flight was in its infancy). It is a dystopian tale and highlights the dangers of living life virtually and vicariously through the means of technology, with little or no direct human contact.

    https://www.ele.uri.edu/faculty/vetter/Other-stuff/The-Machine-Stops.pdf

    “I want you to come and see me.”
    Vashti watched his face in the blue plate.
    “But I can see you!” she exclaimed. “What more do you want?”
    “I want to see you not through the Machine,” said Kuno. “I want to speak to you not
    through the wearisome Machine.”
    “Oh, hush!” said his mother, vaguely shocked. “You mustn’t say anything against the
    Machine.”
    “Why not?”
    “One mustn’t.”

    In these lockdown days this story is remarkably relevant.

  5. Just read your Tweet about people South of the border buying homes in the Highlands. I totally disagree. We live in a small village, and there are many villages like ours – Thank goodness for these people buying houses and living here, or it would be like the Highland Clearances all over again. Young people don’t hang around as there is no work. Crofting?? Aye right – no income there. They survive by grants. The Highlands now, under the snp , is not a land of ‘milk and honey’ My husband and I are leaving our village, not through choice but through necessity because of snp policies. If one lives north of Glasgow or Dundee forget it. You don’t exist according to the snp. To conclude, I say “Welcome to all these people from south of the border who want to live here – Thank God for you all.

    1. I did not refer to people South of the border. I referred to the cash rich buying up second homes in the Highlands and thus depriving local people of a home. I was brought up in the Highlands – I ministered in the Highlands. It has always been the case that young people leave for education and work – but some don’t and some return. The trouble is when there is nowhere for them to return to. I have witnessed this many times. I don’t think that the SNP have made the Highlands uninhabitable!

  6. When I play a round of golf at Arisaig’s Traigh Club or sail over to Eigg on a vintage wooden sailing boat, I wonder why any other life is desirable , other than for money . I quickly sober up, though , and return to my work. Alas, the inescapable Protestant Ethic.

    1. And , lest we forget , the Pipe Band culture was heavily enabled by the founder of the Boys Brigade , Sir William Smith .

  7. My son warned me off FB years ago.

    Sydney Diocese Media ran a terrific open blog in the noughties. Anyone could start a new thread. People had to post with their actual name which helped keep things civil. Unfortunately they couldn’t keep it going. I still miss it!

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