Face2Facebook: A Proposed App for Decreasing Contentious Conversations on Facebook

I enjoy spending time with many of the people on Facebook. I’ve also had to endure more than a few rude exchanges with other Facebook users. On several occasions over the past two years, I’ve reached out to a FB user from my city who seemed rude. I sent a private FB message and I wrote something like this: “Hey, I’d bet that we have a lot in common. Would you be interested in having a face to face conversation, perhaps over coffee?” Several people accepted my invitations and every one of these conversations was cordial and productive. Several of these relationships are ongoing. We don’t agree on everything, but these in-person conversations are well worth it. I get the gift of learning how to see the world through the eyes of another person and that’s always a good thing. Also, we inevitably find out that we have many things in common, just as Donald Brown established in his classic 1991 work: “Human Universals.”

Over the past couple of years, it seems that FB has become an even more contentious place. It is increasingly expected that people will preach at each without a willingness to be changed by new information. When I offer information or ask a question on FB, I often receive huffy pushbacks, accusations, ridicule and name-calling instead of open-minded fact-finding and a willingness to start the conversation by finding each other where we are. The bad behavior we see is clearly not how adults should be interacting, but I don’t place all of the blame on the FB users. The format of social media dehumanizes us to each other, making it easy to lash out at mere words on a page, distracting us from the reality that real human beings seeking connections are writing those words. This is more than a frustration. This non-stop boorish behavior is convincing us that it is impossible to have conversations with those who see the world differently than we see it.

With this in mind, I’d like to offer FB this free idea: Face2Facebook. Here’s how it would work. If you believe that someone is being rude to you on FB, click the Face2Facebook button and it will bring up a scheduling app for both you and “the rude person.” The app asks both of you to designate various times when you would be available to have a ten-minute video conversation through FB. When that date and time arrives, the app will encourage you to start by getting to know each other as people by discussing a bit about each other’s family, community and interests. Only then should you ask each other about the topic that gave rise to the contentiousness. If you are both brave, you’ll listen to each other with open minds, putting each other’s best foot forward. A timer will ding after ten minutes, at which point you can (but need not) say farewell to each other. The best outcome is that each of you will be reminded that you were communicating with another human being. You will be reminded that there was a person behind those words. Perhaps the app will ask you to rate each other on whether you were good listeners. After you complete the ten-minute video conversation, Face2Facebook will publish a public acknowledgement that the two of you reached out to each other and had a conversation.

Not that every conversation will be easy or fun, but isn’t this worth a try? Maybe that conversation will change how you think about a topic. Then again, that video might only reveal that that “53-year old engineer” was a 14-year old boy whose highest aspiration is piss others off. If the other person refuses to talk to you on a video, perhaps this could be indicated on their profile so that the FB community would see statistics regarding who requests conversations and who cowardly refuses to meet on Face-to-Facebook.

This is only a rough draft idea, not a polished app. I don’t know if this is really workable. I do hope that FB might consider something like this because we desperately need something to get us out of our social media downward spiral.

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The Withering of Civil Discourse

I'm receiving ever-more angry barking and name-calling instead of explanations from those advocating political positions across the entire spectrum. Also,it seems that we should give the phrase "I don't know" a formal official burial this year. The phrase has disappeared from social media, along with its siblings, humility and self-critical thought.

This post was inspired by this Tweet by Geoffrey Miller:

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Pew Study: Religion Still on the Decline

Interesting stats on Religiosity from Pew, published in October, 2019.

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In my view, there are also many other forms of groupishness that I see as religious or quasi religious that are not considered by these surveys. I also suspect that as traditional religions melt away, other groups that don't look like traditional religions at first glance, but which have similar functions, take their place.

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A Utopian World Without Police?

This unhinged and dangerous hyperbole would drive out ALL investment and leave us with smoldering carcasses where there used to be imperfect but livable cities. Without police, who would you call when you are carjacked? Carjackings happen in my city neighborhood every couple months. Who is your female friend going to call when someone rapes her? Who will protect the firefighters when your house is on fire? Next time someone puts a gun to your head (which happens periodically in my neighborhood), is the solution to talk nicely with that hoodlum and reason with him? Why aren't we hearing uniform battle cries to reform police departments and demilitarize police departments rather than these disturbingly common demands to kill cops and abolish police departments? I thought that only Trump was capable of such nonsensical blather.

These messages seem to be the far left version of the Libertarian wet dream where all we need to do is abolish government and everything will automatically be great.

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A Moment of Unity Slipped Through Our Fingers

I feel like we let a moment of unity slip through our fingers. It seems that when we collectively watched the killing of Gee Floyd, we were all horrified. I have friends across the political spectrum, and even those I most disagree with – the die hard Trump supporters – were as outraged by that murder as anyone. And then came the first peaceful protest, and it seemed that everyone was absolutely behind it. For a moment.

Protesters gather in downtown Minneapolis. Unrest in Minneapolis over the May 25th death of Gee Floyd.

Then on the fringes of the peaceful, heartfelt protests came the fringe elements – the violence, vandalism, looting. Even then, for a moment, it seemed that the facts and the narrative were that this was a few bad actors and a few bad cops causing a disturbance at an otherwise peaceful demonstration.

And then very quickly our politicians and the media, jumped in to divide us again. Inadvertently perhaps, but now we're not just divided, we're fractured. Now there are multiple "camps" within the left and right, all disagreeing with each other.

I believe this is because we have gotten so accustomed to having quick, easy answers to what's going on. We need to determine, before we have any facts, who is responsible for the rioting and looting. We demand to know and the media is compelled to fill the airwaves with something, anything, to fill our need to know. And politicians are eager to point blame at whatever entity will help to score points with their base. We collectively want to blame one group of people for this, and assign a single motive. That makes it easy.

  • Angry black people fed up with the way they're treated
  • White people who want to instigate and turn the protest violent to make black people seem out of control
  • Undercover police who want to further the narrative that these protesters should be handled with violence
  • Opportunistic people of any race who want to take advantage of the situation for whatever reason<
  • Radical left wingers who want to destroy our country
  • Radical right wingers who want to destroy our country

Maybe it's all of the above. Maybe there are far more reasons for it than we've heard. But it's still a small number of people amongst the masses of peaceful protesters. But now, because our focus is on the violence, that's the narrative. Now when we say "protester" we think burning buildings and looting. That's so not fair.

It is not fair to anyone, and detrimental to our unity, when we see some photos of white looters, and conclude that all the looters are white. It's not fair to anyone, to see images of black people looting and decide that all the looters are black. It's not fair to see images of cops being brutal to peaceful protesters and conclude that all cops are out of control. It's not fair to see images of some police kneeling with protesters and conclude that all cops are good and want to connect with their diverse communities.

All of that is happening, all at once. We have to open our minds to the idea that this is not something that we can wrap up in a neat package, put a label on it, and feel good that we have the answer. We don't. None of us do. This is complicated. We need to unify to resolve it.

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Donald Trump’s Vision of Peace on the Streets Through Strength

Donald Trump in 1990:

When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it. Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength. Our country is right now perceived as weak … as being spit on by the rest of the world.

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Post-Riot Damage to a Small Business

Anyone failing to see problems (or at least moral nuance) with the rioting is intentionally blind. I've noticed several of these videos showing the post-riot consequences for small business owners and it is, indeed, heartbreaking.

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To Protest, or Not to Protest, in the Age of COVID-19. A Question of Hypocrisy

I don't agree with everything mentioned in this article or with the way these things are phrased, That said, we do have a big consistency problem with how we treat those who venture out in big groups in the age of COVID.

I'm not speaking as a member of any "team" out there. I'm writing this observation as a deputized member of a group of Martian anthropologists who are visiting Earth.

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How the Lack of Money and Power Corrupt the Message of People Trying to Protest the Murder of Gee Floyd

Here’s how I would explain the violent Gee Floyd protests to a Martian anthropologist.

The U.S. Constitution gives a theoretical “right” to free speech but not a real-life ability to speak powerfully or widely. Whereas money and power give rich people many ways to blast out their messages, ordinary Americans wanting to get out their messages often get eaten in the public square by street vultures. Consider these two examples.

When Donald Trump wants to make an announcement, he commands dozens of types of federal military and police anizations. This allows Trump to calmly walk up to a podium or stroll down the street in order to tell Americans what a smart man he is, or how religious or healthy or whatever. While he stands up there flatulating these lies, no one interrupts Trump because he controls a massively expensive and well-armed system of law enforcement officers and they extend their perimeter so widely that unfriendly others can’t get close. If any protestors try to get close enough to interrupt Trump’s bombastic bullshit, Trump’s police officers and soldiers throw their asses into jail.

Compare this to the Gee Floyd protests, where many thousands of ordinary Americans took to the streets, but they were then on their own. Ordinary Americans don’t control law enforcement. They cannot control their perimeters in order to safely deliver their message without interruption. As we’ve seen over and over, as soon as the heartfelt protestors get started delivering their messages in the public square, the area becomes an undefended magnet for uninvited masses of miscreants: anarchists, vandals, arsonists, inciters of violence and many others who clearly don’t give a shit about Gee Floyd. Virtually every time ordinary people gather together by the hundreds or thousands, their message gets corrupted because ordinary Americans do not have the money or power to hire hundreds of law enforcement officers to control their perimeter. Their message gets diluted by broken glass, thrown bricks and burning businesses, as well as horrible injuries, shattered dreams and gruesome deaths. Following this widespread mayhem, the heartfelt protestors get blamed for something they never planned or intended. The many people who simply wanted to bring attention to Gee’s Floyd’s murder are accused of intentionally destroying America’s central cities. The photos appearing in the mass media are Exhibits A-Z.

That’s how it almost always ends for those without great amounts of money and power. That is how it is in this Land where everyone only has the right to pointlessly yell out their grievances in their own living room or from their front porch. This is the Land where people of modest means can no longer assemble in peace to deliver stinging rebukes to corrupt politicians because they do not have the money or power to control and deliver a message in the public square, no matter how important that message is.

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