by Zachary Heekin
“There are many things of which a wise man may wish to be ignorant.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
According to Miss Google an event horizon is the region, usually described as spherical, marking the outer boundary of a black hole, inside which the gravitational force is strong enough to prevent all matter and radiation from escaping. Once inside the event horizon, not even light can escape.
I am not a fan of social media. I have better things to do- I thought. I did not have a Facebook account until about six months ago. I signed up because my church has a page that posts information and I wanted to stay informed. Unfortunately for me I did not recognize the event horizon, which I inadvertently crossed.
I got sucked in to the black hole, much like Alice did into the rabbit hole. The weirdness I found on Facebook was far and away beyond anything Lewis Carroll could have imagined. I joined a couple of discussion groups. Newbie that I was, I thought, naively, that issues could be discussed, so I tried. The results were immediate and amazing.
It was a steep learning curve, I’ll tell ya. I learned a lot and I learned it quickly. I did not know that opinion is fact and that fact is irrelevant, or that one news source’s opinions are the truth and the other’s facts are lies. (Which is which depends on who is posting.) I found that half-truths are true. I found that arrested means guilty and that acquitted by a jury of your peers means the Justice System is flawed. I found that if you do or don’t believe this or that, the state of the world is the fault of you and your ilk. Yes, I said “ilk.”
Most of all though, I learned that most everybody is either unable or unwilling to debate. I honestly don’t think some understand the concept. A differing perspective illuminates all sides of an issue. Constructive debate gets things done. Nothing is getting done in this Wonderland.
In Wonderland there is no debate. There is no logic, there is no attempt to present an argument. There is simply the (sometimes vulgar, often childish) refusal to acknowledge disagreement. Well that’s not entirely true; disagreement is acknowledged- as a personal attack. Retaliation is swift and is also often vulgar and childish. Some intrepid souls continue to try, pressing on with an ordered, coherent attempt to support their position. This is more often than not met with some variation of “I know you are, but what am I?” or “Stinky poo-poo face.” Not me. I have given up all hope of finding constructive discourse.
My function in Wonderland (from the start, apparently) was to throw rocks at hornet nests. I started out, not knowing I was throwing rocks, bright-eyed and eager, throwing them in the innocent, sincere belief that the community, working together, could be made stronger. Now I just throw rocks.
I am still trapped in Wonderland, but only for its entertainment value. It certainly has no value as a forum of ideas. I enjoy the reaction when I ask someone if the Extreme Right or Extreme Left source they quoted is really a credible source. I enjoy the reaction when I expose half-truths by revealing the context. I enjoy the reaction when I ask people if they think God really wants His believers to be such jerks about their faith. I enjoy the reaction when I ask people why they can’t get over Trump. I really enjoy the reaction when I post articles from a well-known satire website that are more accurate than what is loosely referred to as The News.
It’s not really for fun, though I do find the reactions amusing. Something in me just will not allow fallacy to slide and that is the black hole whose gravity will not allow me to escape. If I see falsehood, if I see extremism (regardless of its source), or if I see just whack stuff that people believe and shout, I am unable to keep my silence. That the reaction entertains me is secondary.
It’s a shame, really. Social media has the potential to be a mighty tool, a place where differing positions can be discussed, conferred upon, and maybe even resolved with agreement or compromise. It’s a place where people could maybe work together for the common good of the community.
“No, you Nazi pedophile, it’s place to dismiss differing opinion as stupid and post hyperbolic hatred.”
Granted, everything I wrote above is based on one or two small Facebook groups and may not be a reflection of the true picture. I sure hope not. It’s a maelstrom of hostility. It’s also a true reflection of what is actually going on in the minds of the participants. Safe behind the screen, without the threat of direct confrontation, people tell their truth. It frightens me that one day it may come out from behind the screen.