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This is why I deleted your comment on Facebook

Posted on 23 October 2015

My relationship to Facebook is kind of dumb. I like it, in that it connects me to people and provides a platform for conversation, but I hate it in that I think it’s a poorly designed platform for conversation and I would happily abandon it except it’s where a lot of people I like hang out.


I often post things I write there, and a lot of the time it’s fun because other people read it and give me feedback, which I enjoy. But there is also a downside, which is that if a thing gets popular it starts to get shared and show up in the feeds of total strangers who think the things I have to say are stupid and would like to say so, and they do, in the form of comments. It’s not always as simple as “this is dumb” but they disagree with me to a certain degree and would like to say so.

Now, disagreement is completely fine, and yes my posts are public so they are basically sitting there for people to comment on, but the reality is, it is still my space. If I go to my Facebook page, I would like to see things that make me happy and I would also like the people who are, by whatever definition, my friends, to be happy upon seeing one of my posts. And I’ve noticed that the more I take a laissez-faire approach to what people can say on my posts, the more likely it is that I and others will not be happy with what comes out, to the point that it has at times spilled over into real life negativity.

Look, it’s not like I’m saying I am infallible and incapable of error so dissent will not be tolerated. But I guess I kind of think of it like this: if a person writes a book, what sense would it make for them to put negative reviews on the back jacket so that every time they saw this thing they created, they would see the words of people who think they did a bad job or who fundamentally disagree with their worldview? Those people are entitled to hold those opinions and even post them, but I am not required to let my space be a place for them to express those views. In a weird way I view my posts as a body of work, and every comment on that work actually becomes a part of my piece because it is inextricably linked to the original text and given essentially the same amount of visibility. So if I write something I like and someone comments “this is stupid” below, the words “this is stupid” are appended to my original writing and become a part of it. This is the part of Facebook’s design that I hate.

This becomes especially true if those views are expressed in a way that is less than respectful to myself or others. As a matter of fact, I am far more comfortable with critiques of me than critiques of other people involved in the discussion, sort of like it’s not super to have two people come into your home and then get into a shouting match – you feel a certain amount of responsibility to step in, and that is not something I have always been the best at. Especially when it comes to sensitive issues like race and gender it is sad to me when I write something with the intention of bringing people together and it devolves into ad hominem attacks.


So with that in mind, here is a partial and ever-evolving list of reasons I *might* delete your comment:

My hope isn’t to limit to discussion, but to make that discussion productive rather than combative, which online discussion too often is. If you feel strongly that you want to get into a debate about the existence of white privilege or sexism or xenophobia or whatever, then feel free to write your own post outlining your views and invite me to participate.


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