How do you feel about Facebook? Is it a wonderful gift to improved human communication or a divisive force that’s driving us all into echo chambers and filter bubbles?

It’s certainly getting more hectic. At least, my feed is. I’ve never ‘unfriended’ anybody, you see, so get to read stuff from all sides of the political spectrum.

Most of the time I’m just a spectator, watching the clumsy wrangling and immature name-calling unfold like a slo-mo pie-fight – or else a desperate scrap in the dark that makes me feel somewhat nostalgic for my old school debating-society with its dignified dance of thrust and counter-thrust. A choreographed verbal joust conducted face-to-face and a friendly handshake at the end …

Maybe I’m looking back through rose-tinted spectacles. It’s tempting to paint our youth as a golden age when everything was hunky-dory, buffeted and bruised as we are by an ever-changing present. Something of this same injured innocence fuels the following Facebook post – received yesterday – although its increasingly bizarre and highly unlikely turn of events reveals the underlying message to be anything but innocent:

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Phew! Where on earth does one start? Well, we are expected to sympathise with the protagonist – a poor martyred victim of ‘political correctness gone mad’ – when the reality this implausible fable seeks to obscure is almost its opposite. In real life the social groups mentioned are victims of inequality, yet here they are implausibly caricatured as oppressors in a sinister conspiracy. If there’s anything truly sinister going on, however, it lurks between the lines of this hysterical little story.

That’s between you and me, of course. In the public arena of Facebook the mask must remain in place. Sometimes it seems that only two questions are permitted:

  • What’s the matter, can’t you take a joke?
  • What’s the matter, can’t you feel my pain?

Oddly, the passive-aggressive post above managed to combine them both. This stuff is fiendishly difficult to answer because it’s quite artfully done – it may be that art itself is the answer. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em! Let the battle of the stories commence!

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Bearing this in mind, I responded with the following Facebook reply:

By a curious coincidence … made a group of snow figures holding hands to represent tolerance between people of different genders, races, faiths, nationalities, political viewpoints and sexual orientations. Just woke up after a well-deserved nap and looked out through broken windows to see they’d all been flattened. Left here wondering who I could have offended …

So far, I’ve got one Like. Not being dramatic – well, OK, being dramatic! – that’s somebody else who’s stumbled into the soundproof silo … sssh! … perhaps another snowflake. Nothing wrong with snowflakes. I hereby take the word as a badge of honour …

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My favourite riposte to the derogatory use of this word came from comedian John Cleese:

After one unamused follower used the term ‘snowflake’ as an insult, Cleese, 78, couldn’t resist tweeting a response. Adding his trademark humour, of course.

In his cutting reply, Cleese said: ‘Yes I’ve heard this word. I think sociopaths use it in an attempt to discredit the notion of empathy.’

Next post: How to Tell a Good Story!

17 thoughts on “Snowflakes

    1. Agreed, Trev! I reckon Facebook should publish some simple ‘rules of engagement’ – then at least there would be a model of polite interaction for everyone to ignore! Maybe the issues themselves are just too intractable …

      1. Agree. Alot of people here in my lil red dot are on FB. It is used here as a platform to name and shame or do cyber bullying. It is sad and I have always steered clear from posting other than to like or “talk” to my nephew.

  1. I’ve seen that post, and while I do think it’s cleverly written and quite amusing, the intent also wasn’t lost on me. I think you’re right. It definitely was ‘passive aggressive’ move by the person who wrote it. That’s the thing about Facebook (and the internet in general) I suppose… you’ve got to go in with eyes very very wide open. 😛

    1. Perhaps it comes down to the difference between ‘laughing at’ and ‘laughing with’. I think humour has to contain an trace element of self-mockery to come into the second category. Eyes wide open is right, though empathy can make that rather painful – that Kubrick film wasn’t exactly a barrel of laughs! Thanks for your thoughts, Tony!

    1. Indeed, Opher, and your question stumps me. But as a ‘nurture over nature’ man – doesn’t culture mean we’ve stopped evolving physically? – I’m inclined to ‘encouraging’. Which is where the idea of art as a battleground comes in, I suppose …

  2. I’ve just started using both Facebook and Twitter, but only because I feel compelled to by the fact that these are the current networking tools. For the first week, I focused on and was repelled by how awful human beings allow themselves to be. This week, I decided to focus on who I would be in those mediums. Much easier to live with, less depressing.

    I strongly limit my feeds and connections. I don’t feel the need to hear a thousand misinformed and histrionic opinions to form my own. Sorry, that was a bit sharpish, but the lack of critical thinking, constant parroting of talking points, and the plethora of memes annoy me to no end. I feel strongly that we must curate what feeds our minds, lest we fall prey to the same ignorance and ugly strategies.

    1. Such a thoughtful response, Michelle, and highly thought-provoking! I like the idea of focusing on who to be rather than, I suppose, going with the flow. It adds the creative possibilities that come when operating aesthetic rules, providing a way of channelling experience … sounds a little pretentious, I know, but you’ve got me thinking out loud … and your final sentence should be on the wall of every classroom!

  3. That FB post sums up my feelings about the world (as I see it) perfectly. Too many people are too ready to be offended. And that seems to be the main source of conflict wherever you look. Why can’t we just accept that we are all different and, consequently, no-one is going to be exactly the way we want them to be?

    1. Not sure about this. I make a distinction between the genuine offence felt by disadvantaged groups and the imagined or downright bogus offence proclaimed by those such as the protagonist in the snowman story. Society is not a level playing field and it’s easy to forget how many human rights were and are a struggle to achieve. You’re right, though, that acceptance of diversity is the mark of a truly civilised society. Doesn’t this FB post show an unwillingness to accept such diversity?

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