The Pee-Filled Kiddie Pool; Or, Why I Deactivated Facebook
Several people in my social circle reposted a meme on Facebook in which "white dudes" wonder whether Clinton or Trump is worse. LGBTQ people, black people, undocumented immigrants, Muslims, and women reply in turn, "Trump." The "white dudes" then shove their collective head deeper up their collective ass and wonder again which is worse. The End.
The Trump campaign is odious. It no doubt attracts a lot of white dudes with their heads up their asses. But to understand the success of the Trump campaign, you have to consider the possibility that patterns of disenfranchisement from the economy, electoral politics, and the media - patterns that any good liberal, sensitive to the plight of minorities and women, would recognize - cross racial and gender lines in ways that they don't want to acknowledge. The joke buffers them from that consideration.
I have IRL social contact with two Trump supporters. One of them is a millennial woman whose parents were born in India.
But there's another problem. I wouldn't stand silent while someone posted a joke that concluded with a "black dude" shoving his head up his ass, as if this typified a wider phenomenon. Or a woman. Or a Muslim. Obviously, the power dynamic is different. White men need no remedial defense. I'm not going to leap to one. Yet the part of me that finds those hypothetical examples repulsive finds the actual example repulsive, for the same reason. The smug satisfaction you get from indulging in prejudices is a vice. Consequentialist ethics justify staying silent about that when it's aimed at white men, but deontological ethics don't.
At which point I have arrived at a conversation that I can have with, maybe, three people I know on Facebook out of a thousand "friends" and "followers."
On Twitter, limited to 140 characters at a time, you know you're going to have a stupid argument if you engage in one. Facebook doesn't prevent a good argument, but it creates incentives against it that are subtle. Notes like this one appear as a wall of text, while links to articles with clickbaitey headlines - as long as the site manager knows how to exploit the Open Graph Protocol - look rich and enticing. (If you don't know about the Open Graph Protocol, you're missing important technical information behind Facebook's mindshare, and its ambitions not merely to be on the internet, but to be the internet.)
Over time, behavior coalesces around incentives. Repeated behavior becomes a habit. Habits become automatic. Eventually Facebookers are thinking in terms of clickbaitey headlines without even recognizing it. Since the energy behind such thinking is visceral, any counterargument you might bring against it is going to hit your interlocutor in the gut before it ever reaches his head. People who think of themselves as informed and reasonable get on Facebook and succumb to lizard-brain reactions. The same process of confabulation that gives dreams an appearance of continuity supplies them with justifications about why they're right and you're just an asshole.
As Zen master RuPaul put it recently,
Life is not to be taken seriously. Most people are dumb as fuck. If you look at their voting habits and their eating habits, you realize people are stupid. So we could talk about stupid people or we could just stay with smart people who know how to have fun and not even focus on what dumb people do. It's not worth it. I tell you this as someone who's a smart motherfucker: Don't waste your time fooling with dumb people or trying to figure them out or trying to educate them. It doesn't work. It's a lose-lose situation.
That goes double for smart people devolving into stupid people on Facebook.
Eventually I'll be obliged to reactivate my account for professional reasons - I have a gig handling social media for a nonprofit, and my art has gotten a certain amount of attention by being posted there. But while it might be a kind of minimal public service to pour some fresh water into that pee-filled kiddie pool, I'll be damned if I'm going to lie around in it. There are life-filled, infinitely wide oceans out there.