I’d rather just stare at this tree

I had a disturbing interaction on Facebook the other day. Yes, hold on, I know. “Disturbing” plus “Facebook” is a common combination. Bear with me, I’m making a point. It’s all about thought processes. And how some people apparently think “I’d rather just stare at this tree.”

So, to the interaction.

My Facebook “friends” list is at a little over 800. The vast majority of these (probably 95%) come from playing Facebook games. Things like Mafia Wars and Farmville. I’ve long stopped playing those games and similarly, rarely seem to get a new “friend” request.

My “friends: flood my Facebook feed with massive amounts of nonsense. For the most part, it’s harmless. Occasionally, it’s interesting or funny. Once in a while, though, it’s totally head scratching.

Today’s blog centers on such a post. It is not a political post, so don’t worry on that score. In fact, it was a post about something that I’m betting almost every American agrees with. Except, it was within an article so bizarre, I found myself thinking, “This can’t possibly be real, right?”

Mindful of disinformation on social media, I began Googling. A little reading across several sites (including the invaluable Snopes.com) confirmed my suspicion.

So, naturally, I posted a short comment to the person who shared the link mildly suggesting that the article may be false and they might want to look it up. The response was about the issue that almost no one would disagree with.

Okay. I get it. What we have here is a failure to communicate. I write another comment, this time making sure to point out I am referring to the article only, not the issue.

The response is just as swift: Why don’t I think the issue is a problem.

To shorten this discussion, I try once more and fail. I decide to give up and move on. Not content with that decision, the poster comments twice more.  The final time, including a statement that they read the article I linked to on Snopes debunking the original post.

And the person still says that my link didn’t say the original issue is bad!

So, to be clear: the issue is something nearly everyone would agree is a bad thing. Neither I nor the poster nor Snopes, even, is denying that.

But the article the poster is sharing on Facebook that mentions the issue is patently false. It is a smear tactic to brand a minority group with a widely reviled activity.

The person sharing the post doesn’t see the lie within. Despite literally seeing the evidence. Because they are frozen by the revulsion they feel about the specific issue. So they are perpetuating this falsehood across social media.

Yes, I know we can bring this back to politics of the day, but I don’t need to take it there. What is more alarming is the preexisting nature of some people to ignore facts once they have been “triggered” by a particular “hot button”.

The issue at the heart of the article is repulsive. But it should not be used as an excuse to seed false information and disparage otherwise innocent groups.

It’s better if more people look at the big picture of the world around them and not get trapped thinking, “I’d rather just stare at this tree.”

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