The Hardest Thing To Do On Facebook

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I remember when Facebook only allowed one picture, and that was your profile picture. There was no ‘News Feed’, the only way to communicate with your friends was to write on their wall, or message them. Facebook was only accessible to people with .edu email addresses, so basically, college students. My days looked like: wake up, check Facebook, ride my dinosaur to class and back, check Facebook, go to the library, check Facebook…Everyone was doing it. It was addictive.

I was a freshman in college when that version of Facebook was still extant. My memories of Facebook intertwine with memories of early dorm life days, so it’s hard for me to separate out the excitement around Facebook from that surrounding the beginning of the college experience. But I remember it as a way to stay connected with my high school friends across the country, and to check what music/TV shows/movies my new college friends liked, without actually asking them. When Facebook started allowing users to upload multiple photos, we spent hours trying to get pictures from our digital cameras onto the website. It was painfully slow, and it also marked the beginning of a long descent into increasingly complicated territory. Should you un-tag unattractive pictures of yourself? What about drunk pictures? What about pictures with your ex? It was the social quagmire of 2005.

There were some groups that irritated me, namely ‘Classy Classists,’ but Facebook was for the most part an extraordinarily positive and pro-social experience. In 2008, the ability to update status was added, which was an obvious steal from Twitter. All of a sudden, Facebook was being dominated by my most prolific friends. Whereas earlier, I had to click on friend’s profiles to see what had changed with them, now there was a ‘News Feed’ letting me know what was going on with everyone.

And then, at some point, you could post things from the internet onto Facebook. I initially hated this more than any other move that had been made. I already knew which websites I liked, and I didn’t feel like it was my place to tell my friends about them, or vice versa. But the animal videos lured me into complacency, and like anything, I got used to it fast.

Of course, animal videos and Buzzfeed quizzes weren’t the only web content being re-posted to Facebook. Whereas earlier, political preference was a line on your profile, now it was all over the News Feed. Facebook became increasingly stressful and negative: when friends posted political things that I agreed with, it reminded me of political problems. When friends posted political things I disagreed with, I struggled with whether or not to respond.

I hated these feelings slipping into the social media site that I love, and I promised myself that I would never re-post web content written by someone else, especially political content, on Facebook, because I don’t think that it should be a platform for political debates.

But then people started posting a lot of really hateful things about Israel, and I felt like I couldn’t be silent, because it was very personal to my family. After agonizing over it, I re-posted some content and wrote a status update regarding the situation. Then, the ‘Black Lives Matter’ stories erupted, which really upset me, so when I found a really well-written personal essay about it, I though I should share. And I’ve also re-posted some Dinosaur Comics, because I think Ryan North is the unrecognized contemporary literary genius of our time. And a story about Sea World, because, umm, the whole thing just surprised me, so I thought it might be interesting to other people? I’ve clearly been letting go of my rule.

Last Sunday, I went to the best rock concert I’ve ever been to in my life, Belle & Sebastian. It’s my favorite band in the world, and their music has imbued my life with happiness and meaning. When I first heard “Put the Book Back on the Shelf,” I didn’t know that music could be like that: so tender and poignant and rich. They have a really great song about the Israel/Palestine conflict based around the lives of a young girl in the IDF and a boy in Gaza, and the lyrics suggested to me that the band had visited both places. Beyond that, I didn’t know of any involvement of the band with the situation.

Coming back from the concert, Amir Googled something like ‘Belle and Sebastian Israel’ and found that the band had indeed been on a tour of Israel/Palestine, and the keyboardist Chris Geddes had said that he thinks that Israel shouldn’t be treated as other nations because they are discriminating along racial lines. Later, he back-tracked, saying that his views may be one-sided, and maybe it isn’t his place to judge.

I felt really badly after reading that, because to me, the conflict with Palestine isn’t in the control of 99% of the Israeli population. They can vote every now and then, but other than that, they don’t have a say in how things are set up. It’s not fair to punish citizens for how their government is acting: people are born into countries arbitrarily, and most of us just try to live the lives we were given. Many, many Israelis disagree with the actions that Netanyahu has taken. Further, the keyboardist was speaking about the separation wall as discriminatory, but it was constructed during a time when Israeli lives were being lost in droves due to Palestinian terrorist activity. Also, if the band is going to discriminate based on governmental injustice, I would really suggest they start with a boycott of the US. Visit a Native American reservation for a day, hear their stories, and then tell me that Israel is worse.

I’ve been struggling with hurt feelings over these comments, and then yesterday, my Facebook friend posted something about Palestinians suffering on the Syrian border, and how the story has been under-reported. So I re-posted that as a kind of conduit for writing about what I was actually thinking and feeling.

Un-original political content, you did it again. You snuck into my Facebook account.

“No re-posting political content” is the hardest rule of Facebook etiquette because politics seep into our lives so seamlessly. ‘Oh no my rent’s going up” turns into a discussion about Prop 13, or “Happy Yom Ha’atzmaut!” is tacit approval of Liqud-style Israeli politics.

There’s also a question of hubris. I want to let people know what I care about. I want to share information that I found. And I know that people will at least glance at it if it’s couched between two cat videos in their News Feed. But I know it’s not my place to be the educator of the world. My role on Facebook isn’t ‘educator,’ it’s ‘friend.’

So I’m re-committing myself, here and now. I will say what I want to say with my own words, or I won’t say it at all. People aren’t on Facebook to hear what I think about #Hillary2016. They’re there for the babies and the weddings. That’s cool. That’s what Facebook is for.

Marina Gafni

Marina Gafni is a 28-year-old speech pathology student. She lives with her husband in San Jose, CA.


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