Friends dont

In the midst of the entire BS that is our political reality, life goes on. People have to go to work; have to navigate through traffic jams; have to feed their families; have to play with their children and help them with homework; have to deal with illness and mounting medical bills; have to bury loved ones and cope with their absence; have to struggle with debt and stress. 

There was a time you could depend on friends to help you get through the tough times, no matter what.  But since the advent of social media (and especially since the presidential campaigns for 2016), friends that I once trusted, friends that I thought were capable of critical thinking, have shown their darker sides. Far too many of my longtime friends and acquaintances are behaving like xenophobic haranguers. This conduct greatly disappoints me. It wounds my heart and offends my soul. The real kicker? They don’t seem to give a damn. They are often intolerant and delight in tearing others down over political, authoritarian BS, as they grab onto false stories (aka, “fake news”) and post incendiary memes that are not based in fact.

Don’t get me wrong.  I, too, am guilty of posting false stories or fake memes on occasion. When that happens, it is most often due to my sharing something on Facebook that came from one of my friends. I admit that I sometimes don’t take the time to check a post’s validity because of the overall trust I have in people, and I am particularly trusting of those whom I call my friends. However, when a post that I’ve shared turns out to be BS and someone points it out, I own up to my mistake. But, oh, how I hate it when I fall for BS and then turn around and share it. I should know better. I am normally astute, and I know how to detect BS.

Yes, it’s embarrassing to find out that a news article or a meme you’ve posted is BS. But, despite any personal chagrin, appreciate it when friends respectfully call out BS posts.  Constructive criticisms allow you to rectify gaffes (clean up the BS) and help you learn to avoid stepping into the same social media dung again. Demeaning denunciations of something you’ve posted that is BS is a form of BS in itself and will tempt you to go ahead and wallow in the mire, instead of rising above the stench…

Friends don’t let friends post BS… and true friends don’t attack, unfollow, or block you if you do.

Now, I don’t use social media like most people do and I never have. I didn’t engage in Facebook at its start, while others were accumulating friends by the dozens. When I decided to join the trend, I used it frequently for activist purposes; posting news stories about the environment, government, politicians, and commenting on social issues. I also utilized it for downloading pictures of my grandchildren, sharing music I like, community theatre pieces, and poking my old friend, Bill K. (I love us, Mr. Bill.)

SB5 March 2011jpg

In the first quarter of 2011, I greatly increased my use of Facebook for four reasons:  (1.) John Kasich was the newly elected Governor of Ohio. (2.) State Senator Shannon Johnson introduced Senate Bill 5 (SB-5) – a bill that was “a direct attack on public employees that would strip them of their collective bargaining rights”.  (3.) Facebook was an effective way to connect with groups and people in the fight to repeal SB-5. (4.) Several of my friends and family members are public employees and I couldn’t stand on the sidelines in silence while government “referees” made bad calls against "our team".

Back then, it was through Facebook that I was able to connect and team up with like-minded people in the battle to repeal SB-5. One of the many friend connections I made while actively opposing SB-5, was with John McNay, Professor at University of Cincinnati. John wrote, “Collective Bargaining and the Battle of Ohio”1 - the only book written about this historic victory for the American Labor Movement. In his book, my friend and teammate John wrote, “It is often said that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, fail to take a stand. In this time of great moral crisis in our battle against Senate Bill 5, the people of Ohio stood up for the middle class and did what was right.”

Our team, led by the referendum group called “We Are Ohio”, won that big game. On November 8, 2011, SB-5 - listed as veto referendum Issue 2 on the general election ballot - was defeated by 22 points! So you see I would be spreading BS if I said that Facebook didn’t help in the fight. Facebook played a HUGE part in garnering attention for the referendum efforts and in getting out the vote for the repeal of SB-5.  

After SB-5, I continued to post things on my Facebook page, as I had always done. Then sometime in late 2013, I noticed a lot of BS was showing up in my news feed. If I had clicked “Like” on an article or meme and/or commented on a friend’s post; an ad containing a word I had used or a “like this page” suggestion would pop up. This annoyed me and, as Facebook settings are buried deep and not in the least intuitive, it took a bit of time to figure out how to stop the flow, or at least lessen the frequency of the unwelcomed marketing BS.

Changing my profile settings really didn’t help for long because Facebook was regularly adding features to their interface, making user settings even more difficult to navigate. It was frustrating and confusing, but I now know that it was not my imagination that Facebook was screwing around with its users’ news feeds.

In the insanity of the 2016 election cycle, which started well before the candidates had been nominated; BS posting on Facebook was amplified. And I noticed that a lot of my friends were posting verifiably false information and news articles. It appeared to me that most of the BS was being shared from - and believed by – those who fell on the far right side of the political divide. But if I would comment to the contrary, or post factual information and/or articles showing that what they were promoting was untruthful, some not-so-friendly FB friends would attack me personally, rather than explore the possibility that they were shoveling BS on their page.

We now know that a lot of fetid BS came from Russian troll farms during the run-up to the 2016 election. They engaged in a disinformation campaign that was disturbingly effective in creating political chaos that pitted Americans against other Americans. Arguing about whether any American candidate or campaign organization did or did not conspire with Russia is a BS distraction from the utmost concern:  Interference in our democracy by a foreign adversary is an American issue – not a partisan issue. The Russian meddling didn’t stop after the election; it continues to this day and any American that insists otherwise, regardless if the news helps or hinders their cause, needs to cut the BS, wake up, and start paying attention.

The proliferation of BS on social media stresses me out. And it is especially distressing to see people respond with vicious comments if challenged about the veracity of an article or meme they’ve shared. A lot has been learned since the 2016 election on how to spot fake news, but some people don’t bother to check their posts for BS if because it supports their way of thinking.

It is hard not to get caught up in all the political spin and nonsense on social media, and my stress levels often go through the roof when I see friends repeatedly posting BS. Lately, I’ve had to just stop; take a break and regroup. Writing is an outlet for me; friends who know me understand this about me.  I’ve sat on and been revising this article for weeks… many, many weeks. The reason I held back is that, regardless of their political bent, I love all my friends – even when they post BS.  I don’t want to - or mean to - hurt or embarrass anyone, especially those I care about. I care about my friends. I care and, therefore, will not let friends post BS. I hope they won’t let me, either.

Peace out, y’all.


AUTHOR NOTE:  Credit to my longtime friend and sister from another mister, “Skinner”, for creating the graphic banner for this article; I love you, my friend. Thank you!

[1.] Professor McNay’s book, Collective Bargaining and the Battle of Ohio: The Defeat of Senate Bill 5 and the Struggle to Defend the Middle Class. New York, NY: Palgrave, is available for purchase on Amazon in Kindle, Hardcover, and Paperback.. ^

Bonnie Bertelson

Bonnie Bertelson

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