The days of the year are dripping to a close and news outlets are trying to milk the slow news cycle for every available eyeball with year-end summary posts. Mostly, they’re recaps of who died or summaries of the news (like Google’s Zeitgeist, which seems to get more left-leaning politically every year.)
Sometimes, however, they’re personal observations that turn into a naive 1,000 word writ-large assumption. Enter Vogue and a writer named Michelle Ruiz.
It is her contention that 2015 is the year “Facebook got Political.”
Granted, I run in some different circles. I realize it is not political for everyone else, and some people I am sure defriend me or mute me because I share links (perhaps too many) to political pieces, including my own.
“It used to be” Ruiz writes, “that only whacked-out distant relatives got political on Facebook.” I’m sorry, in what Facebook world do you live? I’m fairly certain everybody has a friend (like me!) who pollutes their feed with opinions they may not share.
“Lest anyone forget, this was a social networking site that trafficked in college party pics.” Yes. In 2004, but even then it was still sort of political!
“The unspoken rule was that it was a place for rustic wedding shoots, babies holding blocks bearing their age in months, and delectable dim sum brunches shot from above.” THIS WAS NEVER A RULE. In fact, it was quite the opposite: these are/were as annoying as political posts and an entire (now defunct) browser plug-in — which was amazing — was created to filter out such things. (Which is why my dog has his own Instagram.)
Ruiz further observes, almost comically:
This was the year I found out on Facebook that a guy I had a crush on in high school was, frankly, pretty racist (“Really? Black Lives Matter? All life matters!” he expounded in one status). Or that one of my favorite people to party with in college doesn’t share my passionate beliefs about gun control.
Ah yes, proof positive this guy is a grade-A racist. Just like Martin O’Malley.
It gets better. Ruiz was living in a Pinterest-board-like curated Facebook world, until just this horrible year:
Before this year, I can hardly remember posting anything political on Facebook. But as the discourse erupted every day on my feed, I felt more compelled to answer—and couldn’t resist in the cases of #BlackLivesMatter and gun control. For other subjects, I drafted impassioned statuses, questioned whether or not to hit “post,” and ultimately didn’t. Like journaling, just writing those statuses made me feel a little less fiery. As a commenter said on the aforementioned friend’s post musing about the new, über-political nature of Facebook: “There is a lot of frustration and anger about what is happening in our country on both sides . . . people feel they need a place to vent.”
And she couldn’t help it. COULDN’T. HELP. IT. She just had to respond! (Except when she didn’t.)
To her credit, Ruiz hasn’t gone full permaban on people who express (poorly or well) opinions with which she doesn’t agree:
As tempted as I’ve been to unfriend or unfollow those people with whom I don’t agree, I haven’t actually followed through.
But there’s no blame in that, no unwritten rule that it’s not cool. Facebook is already a big cognitive dissonance machine for many.
The contention that this is the year Facebook got political, to me at least, rings hollow. Not 2008, not during Obamacare, not during 2010, 2012, or 2014. This year.
Perhaps it’s the year that Michelle Ruiz’s strangely non-political Facebook world got political. I doubt that’s been the case for many other people.