Hasn’t Facebook changed our world? It seems like just yesterday when I watched Wall E and its humorous, if slightly disturbing, portrayal of human beings in little mobile capsules communicating with others via the computer screen in front of them, all the while blissfully unaware of the real people physically around them (but doing the same thing). Now it’s (virtual) reality! I saw evidence of this while studying for my Visual Art qualification. In the library, two youngsters were seated at computers and gleefully carrying on a discussion with each other – via the computers! And did they look at each other? Well, no. What would be the point of that?
The Vegan movement has been hugely assisted by this leviathan of instant communication, as have many other causes. Recently one of our local vegans noticed a community green grocer had begun stocking foie gras; he had barely walked through the front door before he’d posted this onto Facebook. Within hours people responded; commenting and pledging various forms of action. One FBer emailed the store owner about how he was opposed to foie gras, and included a link to a video that showed how the birds are force fed to make their livers fatty and sick; the very thing that ends up on someone’s cracker.
Most importantly, and with all credit to him, the store owner responded by watching the video, permitting himself to become aware of the inherent cruelty, then removing foie gras from his shelves and promising never to stock it again.
Right about then a few FBers posted about how that action saved only a few animals; what about the cows/sheep/chickens….? Those comments are very true and relevant, of course, but for now I guess people have to pick their battles. At any rate, Facebook was a tool by which a small group of committed people inspired action with a positive result.
I recently had the opportunity to take part in a Facebook thread. A local animal protection organisation (referred to as “Org” from here) was holding an event to raise funds for its rescued animals, strictly cats and dogs. This place practises a no-kill policy, and where the cats live is the most amazing shelter I have ever seen. It is a cat’s paradise of baskets, blankets, pillows, nooks, crannies, ledges and scratching posts. The kitties are fed and cuddled and loved. Most touchingly, they even have some old timers who are safely living out their lives in this soft and padded haven. I have not seen the dog side of Org so am unable to comment on that, but I’ll bet it is just as awesome as what they have created for their cats.
Proving to be quite a tool for inviting people to events, Org created a Facebook page to publicise its fund raiser and the guest list started to rapidly grow. People were posting about how they were looking forward to being part of the event and that particular Facebook page was a warm and fuzzy place to be. The blurb advised that food would be available to purchase on the night; quiche.and vegetarian pies. Beef pies. Chicken pies.
So one of our more in-your-face vegans posted the following statement:
Why is a Society for the PROTECTION of animals selling products made from pieces of abused animals and the products of abused animals? I’ll never understand that. Can you at least please ensure there are cruelty free options for those of us that do not wish to be complicit in the abuse of animals (that means vegan, not vegetarian)?
This was followed by a few supportive comments written by vegans, including offers to provide homemade vegan pies and sausages on the night for Org to sell to everyone. Brimming with enthusiasm and energy (and a touch of the vernacular), if read with negativity, I can see how the comments could have been misconstrued as aggressive and lecturing. This was already obvious in only the second of Org’s supporters’ replies, which included: Preaching only gets you haters not followers. Which can come across as a bit preachy too, although I am certain that was not the writer’s intent. Some Org supporters responded graciously, with valid comments like the fact that Org cares for cats and dogs, not other animals, so its focus should be those companion animals and not on what Org offers as food to humans at a fund raiser.
The third response from those to who I will now refer to collectively as “the Orgs”, illustrates the above: I would imagine as thier history shows they will be raising funds to help thier abandoned cats and dogs……which is what thier refuge is ALL about….I dont think you will find any of those in thier pies at the quiz night! Why dont you concentrate your efforts on putting down organisations that ARE cruel to animals and not those that are simply out to do thier best and help these dogs and cats in need……! (sic)
In-your-face-vegan replied, and made a suggestion that Org change its name to reflect that it rescues only dogs and cats (which is not specified in its current name).
The fourth response: omg are you people for real?? If you don’t like it dont go, pretty simple if you ask me but coming onto their event page and bitching about it is about as rude as it gets! Maybe next time you could get down off that pedestal that you have put yourself on and organise it yourself instead of carrying on like a hard done by child.
Hmmm, things started to get a little personal here. This is where the thread began to go downhill, and it’s a long hill, considering it went on for over 200 posts before the event creator deleted it. It does, however, bring to light a number of issues about Facebook that may, one day in the future when we have a social network police, be addressed by law. Or maybe that’s just in my head. Either way, I want to share some of the issues that I identified by taking part in what I found to be a demoralising and exhausting thread. Please note, my comments below are applicable to BOTH SIDES OF THE DISCUSSION (not yelling; emphasising).
Firstly – and probably least importantly – some FBers are obviously supersonic typists. This is self-evident in several of the posts because there is no doubt that those particular people can type faster than they can think. It is easy to get caught up in an emotional debate (or fiasco, as the case may be) but really, it is in everyone’s best interest – and probably especially so for the person making the post – that anything and everything written is CALMLY proofread before hitting the Reply button. I meekly admit that sometimes I can’t see the wood for the spelling errors, grammar mutilation and complete gibberish. I do try. And I acknowledge that someone who is challenged by communicating through the written word should not be precluded from such a debate; however I find myself skipping over those posts that have a (seemingly) flagrant disregard for English to concentrate on ones wherein the language flows and is calm.
Thus – please take the time to proofread what you have written before you post it. Or at least be aware that it is possible to easily delete your gobbledygook once posted, to rewrite it and repost. No-one expects you to be George Bernard Shaw in a paragraph; however, you might find that there are things you have written that don’t even make sense to yourself. Ever placed all eight fingers on the wrong keys, gazing meaningfully at the ceiling while typing? Only to look at the screen and discover that you have suddenly mastered a language that undoubtedly has its roots in a planet somewhere out past Betelgeuse? *guiltily raises hand* Or gotten so carried away with the amazingly powerful stuff you think you have written as to triumphantly hit “Enter” before glancing back at the screen? *hand remains in the air* Or even stated that someone was preaching, but channelled the Reverand Ian Paisley while stating it?
For example (and I have shortened this): why, they have animals in thier care not once does it say breed and species specific or how many so that debate seems ended to a negative for you doesnt it now, compassion i have for animals but not for those being pushy anough as religions to shove your soy down my throat, i come from the same ancestory prehistoric neanderthals you do, and from way back humans have eaten meat if you choose not to in this day and age well good for you, but while you are at it, save the enviroment and switch of your computer, dont drive a car, recycle and save the nviroment from all the carbon gases you are emitting as you type, i dont claim to save the world or preach my views on you or anyone else as we are all individual with our own preferrences. and i think (Org) are doing a great thing raising money for thier venue and thier animals they are helping .. so who is the one not being compassionate when thinking of them,, as far as cruelty free diet goes i chosse to eat meat, its what my teeth were designed to do, have a good day wont ya now (sic)
Incidentally, I wanted to clarify something about Neanderthals to the above writer, so responded with: the Neanderthals are popularly considered to have been a different species to modern humans; one that died out after the end of the last Ice Age, possibly due to an inability to evolve. If you choose to insist you descended from the Neanderthals, I find it easy enough to believe you; but please don’t declare I descended from them too. And also, the best way to convince me you don’t “preach (your) views on (me)”, is not to. If that last post was anything but preaching? Frankly, your tirade did little else than convince me I hit a nerve. Have a good day yourself.
Cool. Calm. Informed. Researched. Flows well. Freely acknowledges that some of what the prior poster wrote was correct. If it was a knee-jerk, at least it does not come across that way. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Which brings me to my next issue – the Rant. Does the Rant, written or spoken (or yelled) get anyone anywhere? Read a rant, and my Psycho Radar starts to go off (and I have written this with a big smile on my face – it is not a reference to the writer, it is a reference to how a rant can make a writer appear to a reader). By ranting, someone with valid things to say can come across as self-righteous and maybe just a little unhinged. Supersonic typing abilities aid and abet the Rant. It is far better to say few things well in one paragraph than attempt to rewrite Wikipedia in its entirety. Take a breath. Calm down. Proofread.
Be aware of your unintentional irony, like this gem: and yet they still don’t believe they have been condescending or abusive. look through your posts (In-your-face-vegan) and co and don’t think your shit doesn’t stink.
During the course of the thread, some of the Orgs and the Vegans reached an accord on a number of issues that had been raised. I should note here that some vegans posted specifically to support the Orgs and suggest that other vegans ought to be ashamed of their conduct on the thread (it is just easy for me to refer to the “opposing sides” as the Orgs and the Vegans). Admittedly, there wasn’t that much support in reverse, but the debate about eating animal products is of course, one hot potato. *laughs at own joke* The point is, as the thread grew, it became obvious that some people were jumping in at latter stages without referring to what had gone on before. These posters were bringing up old chestnuts that had been discussed and put to bed earlier. Ostensibly these people were just thirsting for a fight. That may not have been their intention, but because of the situation, that is how they came across. Of course, some of the posters were just thirsting for a fight. And what happens when one reads a post by such a someone? Well, I get a distinct sense of a pitiful person with low self esteem and no friends, possibly the victim of bullying, huddled over their computer while locked away in their bedroom (probably in the dark) who has found one small avenue in which they are able to feel a sense of power. They grab onto that opportunity. I am in no way saying that the posters are like that, I am saying that that is how some posters come across via Facebook to me.
And it’s tiresome, really.
If you want to take part in a thread, by all means – do! But please take the time to inform yourself of what has happened prior to your diving in. Read. Prior. Posts. Being informed is crucial to worthwhile debate. This also may help to prevent digression from the relevant point, which is something that happened in the Org thread, a lot. For some reason, some of the Orgs were dishing out “how dare you” posts to the Vegans for the latter having somehow discredited the good work that was (and is) being done by the organisation in question. That never happened. In fact, the very opposite was true – the Vegans kept reiterating that they admired and supported the work that Org does. It was never about belittling Org; it was about challenging an organisation that compassionately rescues animals, serving dead animals for human consumption to raise funds to save animals; especially when delicious cruelty-free food is easy to prepare and a fantastic educator. Surely that’s a no-brainer! Obviously it is, because several people with no brain chose to post to the thread….oh I’m sorry – did I say that out loud? Despite the many times the Vegans expressed their admiration for Org and attempted to get the debate back on track (if it ever was on track), people kept declaring that, no matter what the Vegans did or said, Org was doing a damn fine job and should not be picked on. So there.
There were the ubiquitous (and – here’s a tip – done to DEATH) objections to vegans telling omnivores what they should eat. I would like to quote someone here; unfortunately I cannot remember his name nor where he wrote the following, but it is so applicable: “Vegans don’t tell you what to eat. They tell you who you are eating.”
There were also the posts that made assumptions about what the Vegans do or don’t do. The writers of these posts assumed that vegans:
- Don’t volunteer
- Never take part in fund raising to benefit animals
- Have no respect nor do they care for humankind
- All believe that cats and dogs should also be vegan (this one is a touchy subject)
Some folk only posted once or twice but chose to make their mark with something that hardly served a positive purpose: I’m not an animal activist nor am I vegan whom many of the other volunteers I believe can relate. I do know however that I love each and every one of those furry bastards who call this place home. (In-your-face-vegan), please kindly remove your head from your arse, get off your narcissistic high horse and stop pointing out irrelivancy. Simply, you are attmepting to shit on a good thing (which may I point out is rather difficult with your head in it’s current position) (sic)
Well, ok – that is actually quite funny and there were indeed some humorous posts in amongst the aggro. In the midst of the battle one person posted: I like turtles. That’s it, the entire post. I read that and had myself a Zen moment.
But things eventually took a dark turn; someone posted something inexcusable: Are u going to this event (In-your-face-vegan)? I would watch ur ass hey theres going to be a lot of people there who’d like to find you & kill you. I hate to discredit the event any more than it already has been by popping death threats in here but seriously (In-your-face-vegan) get a damn life … like the twenty people before me said you could have approached this in a clever manner. Kind of want to punch u in the face (sic)
I guess one way to try and excuse this is acknowledging the obvious immaturity of anyone who would post this on a public forum. I wonder whether this silly person has the capacity to recognise the gravity of their words? Perhaps they meant it as a joke, although given the situation it remains, in my opinion, an explicit example of how Facebook gives some people the opportunity to behave inappropriately with what they no doubt feel is impunity. That said, In-your-face-vegan had a good laugh about it.
Before concluding, I’ll just slip another small thing in here. For anyone who has referred to something along the lines of you have the right to be what and who you want in life (from a post in the Org thread; undeniably getting into the deeper philosophical quagmire here): have you really thought about what you are saying? Or is it just a handy, throwaway line a lot like “everything in moderation”? I ask this because I used to use the “you have the right to do what you want” angle myself. Overtly it is a pretty good way of looking at things. It makes sense. Until you dissect it. For a start, did someone actually give you the right, or is your ego making a self-serving presumption? Secondly – and this is the main reason I stopped using that statement – would you agree that it applies to murderers, rapists, slave-traders, humans who abuse animals, etc? Because sure – they all have the right to be what they want to be. But for me, things got a little grey when I really started to consider the implications of what I was fearlessly stating. Just like “everything in moderation” – which, by definition, includes cannibalism and paedophilia. Or “no-one has the right to judge anyone”. Try telling that to a judge.
One thing stood out about this thread as most disconcerting. Sure, things were said on both sides by undoubtedly nice people that could have been expressed with more finesse. Some (both sides) even embraced the possibility of collaboratively trying a completely cruelty-free approach to a future event, hurrah! When the people who are open to embracing ahimsa get face to face in a room, then they can change the world for the better – together. And being physically in the same room, communicating with the spoken word, would eliminate the ongoing possibility of misconstruing someone’s tone, attitude and/or words to the extent that it can happen on Facebook. I am guessing that some of the Orgs have “picked their battle” and are changing the world for the better by rescuing dogs and cats, which of course is a wonderful thing. But what I found very sad was that in all the posts, the Rants, the preaching and the pontificating (both sides), not one of the Orgs had the clarity of thought to post something along the lines of “Hang on a minute! We love, rescue and protect animals, and yet we will be serving other animals for human consumption to raise funds for our animals….that is a little weird, isn’t it?” In terms of suffering, a cow is a dog is a cat is a pig is a chicken. Is a human? But in terms of humans showing them love and compassion, all animals are equal unless it interferes with what someone wants to eat.
That is what the initial post, that volatile trigger, was about.
A moment of awareness and the ability to question something ingrained that stabs mercilessly right at the core of our identity.
For the critters.
PS – When Org held its event, it raised several thousand dollars for the cats and dogs. What a brilliant effort. Kudos!