A lot of people are worried about the new Facebook messenger app. They are wondering if they should bother with installing it or just ignoring it. Well, pretty soon you won’t have the option. They’re slowly rolling it out so that you have to use it. My version of the app has already switched. So, you either need to get used to using it or completely stop sending/receiving messages via Facebook.
As far as the hype goes, it seems like there is a lot of needless paranoia about it. For example, the suggestion that it can tap into your microphone and camera to record you without your permission. That’s pretty ridiculous. The reason the app asks for these permissions is just so the app can operate as it was intended. Having said that, Facebook is a private company (and not the government), which means that they aren’t restricted by the same laws about privacy. So, keep that in mind.
As far as the things it really can (and will) do, they are mostly things that just make the program integrate into your phone. It can send text messages and make calls on your behalf, but only if you actively decide to do it. Plus, it can access your contacts and recently called list to establish your relationships and other information about you. I realize the idea of that may bother people, but it’s really nothing new. Facebook (and many other apps/websites) have been cataloging this information for a long time.
Ultimately, you have to ask yourself what Facebook would be doing with this information. Are they Big Brother that wants to spy on everything you do or are they just another company who wants to make money? My guess is it’s the latter. They just want this information to help target ads better, which is the whole reason Facebook exists. Remember, Facebook is free to users because companies pay to advertise on it. You are not a customer, you are a commodity.
The winds of the Internet blow hard and fast, so people don’t have time to read an entire article before they are emotionally invested in it. They mostly just rely on the headline and/or the source to sum things up for them. So, when people started seeing headlines like Wendy Davis supports open carry gun law in Texas it inevitably led to headlines like Davis Takes Friendly Fire on Gun Issue and fair weather friends saying things like, “I want my donation back.” After all, it makes sense that progressives would suddenly feel betrayed when a champion of progressive thought suddenly appears to backtrack and bow down to the gun lobby.
When Wendy Davis was asked if she supported open carry of handguns in Texas she said, “Yes.” ::gasp:: Et tu, Wendy? Could there be anything else to your answer other than that shockingly-straightforward admission? Nah. Well, I mean, except for the very next sentence: “And state government should be sensitive to private property owners (including governmental, education, religious, health care and other institutions) to determine whether to allow open carry on their own properties.” Basically, what Davis did say is that she supports a law that would allow private property owners to determine whether handguns could be openly carried on their property. She did not, as the headlines would have you believe, state that she supports open carry.
Like any reasonable Texan, Davis knows that guns are almost impossible to separate from our lives. But like any savvy politician, she knows that open carry isn’t a popular idea among the public as a whole. The law she’s talking about wouldn’t give the government the right to control open carry; it would give individuals the power to decide where people could open carry. Not only does this empower gun control advocates, it’s perfectly in line with the Second Amendment and appeals to the libertarian ideal of citizen-based regulation.
Even the NRA isn’t fooled by this apparent shift in position. As their spokeswoman Catherine Mortensen pointed out (with no sense of irony), “Voting records speak volumes. As a state legislator, Wendy earned an F-rating from the NRA by voting against the Second Amendment repeatedly. Her about-face lacks credibility.” Well, of course it does! That’s because it’s not an about-face. The only thing that has changed is implication in the headlines.
If you supported Wendy Davis up until this point, then not supporting her now means you’re letting headlines think for you. She has proven to be in favor of common sense gun regulation. Backing away from her now because of this one issue (even if the misinformation was true) is a cowardly way to vote, especially considering how courageously she has fought for the rights of women, students, LGBT, and all Texans.
“The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.”
I am a committed humanist, so I obviously support some form of intervention in Syria. However, I do not think the United States should act alone. I believe that doing anything outside our nation’s borders simply in the name of America’s interest is provincial, which is why I never once supported the Iraq or Afghanistan wars. I can forgive us for going into Afghanistan, but only because of the unprecedented nature of 9/11. And I have never strayed from the belief that going into Iraq was a horrendous mistake.
Even though the events in Syria have been unfolding for over two years, I have never really felt like our nation had a vested interest in getting involved. Of course, I believe that any nation with so many resources and the ability to deal with these conflicts has an obligation to do something, but I realize that the climate of each conflict makes that all but impossible.
But international laws have been broken. Atrocities have been committed. And more importantly, much more will happen if we do not act. Assad will continue gassing and bombing innocent civilians, Iran will feel no pressure to cease their nuclear ambitions, and a dozen other nations/factions/regimes that have been under the radar will start to emerge.
If a married couple was standing on the street and arguing about their relationship, the people walking by might notice it and have their opinions, but no one would have the right to step in and tell the two how to behave. Even if someone did speak up, they would probably just ignore them and continue arguing. But if the man backhanded his partner so hard that they hit the ground, then I would hope that at least one person would punch the guy right in the nose. Not beat him senseless, not kill him, and not merely wag their finger in his face. Just give him a reminder that his behavior is unacceptable in a language he can understand.
That’s what I believe we need to do in Syria. Don’t kill Assad because that will only make him a martyr. Don’t bomb the living hell out of their nation because that will just create unnecessary collateral damage. Don’t go to war with them because people will incorrectly interpret it as American imperialism. But most importantly, don’t sit on our hands and let this go unabated while touting ourselves as the greatest nation in the world with our beacons of hope and freedom and all that bullshit.
The term “troll” is so new that it often gets misused, and it gets used so frequently that people sometimes dismiss it unfairly. It’s not just internet lingo to throw at someone because you don’t like or agree with them, and it’s not something to dismiss simply because someone used the term. It has real meaning and legitimate usage. The trick to dealing with trolls is learning to recognize them when you see them so you can learn to avoid playing their game.
If someone says something you disagree with (even if it seriously offends you), then that’s not necessarily trolling. The whole purpose of social media is to encourage and further discussion, even about controversial subjects. Since there are as many opinions on a subject as there are people, you’re always going to run into someone who doesn’t agree with you. That’s just how these things work.
If someone says something ridiculous, then that’s not necessarily trolling, either. They may actually believe that ridiculous thing they said, and they may not care what you believe. Contrary to popular belief, just because you have an opinion or belief doesn’t mean it’s correct. Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but even opinions can be dead wrong. However, the troll doesn’t care if you try to prove them wrong. They want you to prove them right.
There are different forms of trolling, but the end goal is always the same: goad people into reacting. The fallacious troll is someone who says or does something off-topic in an attempt to take control of or distract from the topic at hand. This usually comes in the form of an attack on the person, like saying “typical liberal” or “right-wing nutjob.” If you address their attack instead of continuing your point, then you have fed the troll. Just make a note of it (or ignore it) and resume what you were saying.
Another form of trolling is using controversy to instigate a flame war. They will do or say something they know will bring out an emotional reaction without attempting to make a point. So, for example, making fun of feminism in a group of socially conscious people, or telling a group of Christians that there is no God. The troll knows that will upset someone who will inevitably (and rightfully) come to the defense of what’s being attacked. But the troll doesn’t really care what you think because they already know. That’s why they posted it. They just want someone to start paying attention to them. How they feel about the topic is irrelevant. As long as you respond, you’re feeding their ego.
Believe it or not, trolls do serve an important function. They teach us how to resist the urge to react emotionally. Thoughtful and intelligent debate should be as free from emotion as possible. It’s okay to get drawn into a discussion if it’s something you care deeply about. There’s nothing wrong with being passionate and standing up for your beliefs. Just don’t get caught up in a flame war. Remember that passion is just an emotion, and even it can lead us down the wrong path.
As the old saying goes, don’t feed the trolls. It only encourages them. Just like the mythical trolls that lurk under bridges they don’t own and demanding money that isn’t due to them, an internet troll is lurking in social media and demanding attention that isn’t due to them. If you leave them starving for attention they will die off or throw a tantrum. Either option is a win for you. And there is probably no better way to deal with a troll than turning their behavior back on themselves.
My first book is officially for sale. This is a collection of ten short stories that were intended to bemuse, berate, and bewilder. They include everything from the serious to the absurd, from events which are entirely possible to ideas that are barely comprehensible. They have little in common except that my brain pooped them out, so you’re bound to find something to keep you entertained.
© 1999-2021 Eric P. Metze