by Donna Andrews
A couple of days ago, while poking around to see if anyone I know had posted anything interesting on Facebook, I ran across a political cartoon so offensive that I was momentarily rendered speechless. When I got my voice back, I spent a couple of lively seconds telling my monitor exactly what I thought of that cartoon, using words that I do not customarily use in public or in my books. Both middle fingers got a workout.
And then I did something very liberating: I unsubscribed from the person who had posted the cartoon.
I stumbled across this unsubscribe feature quite by accident. My fingers itched to comment on that cartoon, to tell the sender precisely what I thought of his/her intelligence and taste and canine ancestry. I knew better, you understand, but every time I looked at that wretched travesty, I was tempted. And that way lies flamewar madness.
So I hid the post that was having such an ill effect on my blood pressure. And after I did it, Facebook popped up a little menu that gave me the option to change what updates I got from the cartoon's poster. I could get all updates . . . most updates . . . only important updates . . . or I could unsubscribe. Oooooh.
Clicking unsubscribe gave me a curious, half-guilty thrill. Most satisfying thing I did on Facebook all week.
Let's face it, some of our Facebook friends are real friends and some are not. At the moment, I generally accept Facebook friend requests from anyone who looks like a reader or a writer. It's curious how some of the people who started out as merely names and postage stamp-sized photos, with maybe an occasional brief conversation at a convention, really are becoming friends. And yes, I have reconnected with a few family and old school friends.
But sadly, the fact that someone likes my books or that we share DNA or a profession doesn't always mean we think alike about political and social issues. And while Facebook may be many things, it hasn't yet evolved into a place where serious issues are debated in a calm and reasoned manner. Mainly it’s a place where, whenever politics rears its head, people bellow at each other, and are then cheered on by those who share their opinions, while those who disagree find themselves wishing Facebook would finally get around to implementing the "dislike" button. If I ran Facebook, we'd already have that "dislike" button, and may even a "go to hell" button.
But as long as I'm making suggestions about what Facebook should do--they seriously needs to introduce a "No politics" option. Just imagine it--you're sick and tired of the election; you just can't face another ad from either party, and you go to Facebook to check on what your friends are doing and it's like wading into a freaking bar fight. Wouldn't it be nice to have a little drop down menu that lets you choose what percentage of political posts you see? All . . . most . . . only important. . . or NONE. I think I'd be on none, at least until after election day.
Facebook should also allow you to manage the amount of cute cat and dog photography you see. I hasten to note that I have always adored cats and have come to appreciate dogs equally, but I have a limited capacity for cute photos of either species. And I just don't get the whole lolcats thing. Sorry, but I maintain that if cats could speak, they would do so with impeccable grammar and awesomely large vocabularies. Many American cats would affect an upper-class British accent, and all of them would frequently correct our mistakes in usage or pronunciation. I'm not quite as certain how dogs would talk, but consider the rapt attention that they focus on us. I bet they'd become pretty fluent in whatever language their humans spoke, although they would never embarrass us by correctiong our grammar. But--getting back to the issue at hand--I'm not trying to suggest that people shouldn't post cute cat pictures or cute dog pictures or whatever cute pictures they want to post. I just wish Facebook would offer a filter that lert us receive only as many cute photos as we want to see. Me, I could manage on one or two a day.
I'd also request a filter that wouldn't let people send certain kinds of posts without giving a location. Get a clue, Facebook friends! If you invite me to a concert or a signing, if you implore me to rescue a dog from a shelter or show up at a rally, at least tell me what coast it's on. If I ran the show, Facebook Facebook should bounce back all such posts unless they gave the city and state.
And just for the record, I'm not a big fan of capital punishment, but I think it might be appropriate for spammers and identity thieves and creeps who send out Facebook posts designed to lure people into downloading malware. And I think public flogging might be just the ticket for people who try to flog their own books on other author's walls. It would be nice if Facebook would take the lead on bringing about these needed reforms, though I'm not holding my breath.
I'm not holding my breath waiting for the politics-free option, either, or any of my other suggestions. After all, the people who don't play Facebook games have been begging for years for a way to fend off all games rather than having to make them invisible one by one, as they appear.
But this unsubscribe button's my new favorite toy. I've only used it maybe half a dozen times and already my Facebook newsfeed is a lot less irritating. Does it seem logical that a mere half-dozen people would be responsible for the majority of the annoying political posts that used to clog my newsfeed? Maybe not. Then again, I read somewhere that a mere dozen companies, mostly foreign, account for ninety to ninety-five percent of the world's spam. Maybe it's the same with strident political content.
And if not, that unsubscribe button's always there.