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My interests include veganism and vegetarianism, health, ethics, politics and culture, media, and the environment. I have three kids; I teach college part-time, study piano and attempt to garden. I knit. I blog on just about anything, but many posts are related to my somewhat pathetic quest to eat better, be more mindful of the environment, and be a more responsible news consumer. Sometimes I write about parenting, but, like so many Mommy bloggers, my kids have recently told me not to. :) Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Facebook Weirdness

Since I'm not getting ANYTHING done yet today, I might as well blog...

That's a terrible way to begin an essay, I know.

Let's try this: in the past 10 months since I've been on Facebook, I've reconnected with many people whom I should have never lost contact with in the first place. I've also, very recently, added a couple "friends" who are semi-famous. Yeah, that's weird. I don't need to be told that. This internet stuff tempts people to the dark side, I swear.

So, here's the story. God's honest truth. I read the book Skinny Bitch (as you know if you've been reading my blogs). I also, roughly at the same time, was convinced by a friend to try Twitter, which I don't particularly like (which you also know, if you read my blogs). Somehow (and I truly do not remember the details here), I stumbled upon the author's Twitter feed. I decided to follow her. So far, so good. In the Twitter world, such activity is "normal." Boundaries, or the lack thereof, take on a whole new meaning in Twitterland.

About a week into my Twittering (or is it "Tweeting"?), the author mentioned on Twitter that she'd just updated her Facebook page and everybody should go see it. So, off I went, to my Facebook page, to look at her Facebook page, which of course I couldn't see because she's not my friend. So, I cautiously sent her a message, asking if she used Facebook for her fans or just for her personal friends, and adding that I would of course understand if it were just for the latter. She added me as a friend (she has, oh, 4000 or so) and so now she's in my feed and I'm in hers.

Copy and paste that story for two other semi-famous people, and you know the story of three of my Facebook "friends." We've never seen each other in real life and I doubt like hell they pay attention to my Facebook (or Twitter) updates. After all, they have, potentially, thousands to follow. But, it turns out, in real life, they actually know each other (as judged by their photos, where two of them in particular are often seen hanging out together at posh NYC and LA parties). I also doubt they look at my photos, but if they do: nobody famous appears in any of them.

Two of these people leave many posts (often per day) having to do with animal rescues, vegan recipes, animal rights, human rights rallies, gay rights, etc. I admire their work (otherwise I wouldn't bother to follow them or friend them). They are very strong animal-rights activists, human-rights activists, hyper-environmentally aware, and vegan. Add to that list attractive, glamorous, well-connected and evangelical.

If the last word catches you off guard, I intended it to. In most circles, *I* come across as quite liberal, very open-minded, relatively smart, well-educated and (as you know, if you've read my blogs), a food experimenter, most recently of almost-veganism. However, I've learned (unhappily) through commenting on some posts by aforementioned "friends" that I'm seen by their friends (and perhaps by them, too, though I'm not sure, since they generally don't comment on their own posts) as hopelessly backward, uninformed, "speciesist," and cruel.

One part of me (the more sensible part?) knows I don't need to take these comments to heart. After all, they don't know me, and I don't know them, and it's OK to disagree and such. But another part of me (the part that wants everybody to like me?) feels terribly misunderstood and defensive. If I take a centrist position on a topic (as in, "some meat and dairy consumption is OK," or "some animal research, carefully conducted with well-screened protocols for animal safety, is justifiable"), I inevitably get chewed out by people who take the stand that the ONLY way to peace (HEAVEN / SALVATION) is through veganism (JESUS)and that animals have EXACTLY the same rights as people, and if you think that perhaps that's an overstatement, you're part of the (WORLDWIDE) problem, and that only they (the VEGANS / ANIMAL-RIGHTS ACTIVISTS) are going to take you there (Peace, or is it salvation?).

I can't help but think of the parallels with religion: if I were Jewish (or Hindu or Muslim, or Jain or...) and an evangelical Christian came up to me, lecturing about the ONLY way to get to heaven, most sensible people would tell that (albeit well-meaning) Christian to bug the hell off. Even as a Christian myself, I'd be at the front of the line, telling the evangelical to take her views elsewhere. Similarly, if a white person uttered some sort of racist remark to a non-white, there would (hopefully) be a throng of people telling that person exactly where to go. But there have been no such defenders of my (in my opinion) centrist-to-left positions on these threads. I'm left feeling beat up and tempted to call the evangelicals crazy, though in my leaning toward tolerance, I have refrained from such behavior.

I've decided to back away from commenting on these threads. I had hoped that a good conversation would actually start with one of my comments -- one that involves sensitivity to other points of view, or recognition that people start out at different places and take different journeys (which do not all end at the same locale). Alas, evangelicals are not long on seeing other points of view.

But do I regret these virtual friends? Not at all. I'm learning a whole lot (not the least of which is internet etiquette, which still throws me off now and then). But I am super-happy that the majority of my FB friends are people who really know ME. Love you guys!

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