the personal gets political: personal space in social media

I opened a discussion on my Facebook wall yesterday about the horsemeat scandal. You know the one. I was genuinely perplexed by the uproar, which in hindsight makes no sense as I have read The Jungle*. I was honestly not sure what all the fuss was about, so I did some digging, and I asked my friends on Facebook what made this so wrong.

ohrightitneedsaname

As you see.

Only I worded it wrong. I think I should have been more specific about asking why this discovery is a scandal in this case, in this part of the world (which is Europe; you don’t have to go checking your Wegmans ground round unless you care that much). I got a few highly personal answers, which, thanks but not what I was aiming for. I got speculation about societal attitudes — also fascinating, but not quite what I’d had in mind. I mean, if it were that, I wouldn’t also have gotten “hey, horsemeat’s a delicacy Over There”. So I figured those Europeans were not freaked out over the fact that they were eating horse per se.

Gradually it emerged that the problem must have been the mislabeling and the uncertain provenance of the horsemeat. Sophie was kind enough to share articles demonstrating that France hasn’t really come that far since Upton Sinclair. I grant you I know absolutely nothing about the history of French food and drug laws. I still think they ought to at least be up to a sanitary sort of snuff, which I suspect they are and it’s just slaughterhouses disobeying them and what was I talking about? — Oh, yes.

I need to give credit where credit is due: what sparked me to post this at all was Stuart’s observation that respect was not happening on either side. In this particular case, my friend Vinessa*** decided to vegangelize at me. I shut her down twice. If that’s disrespectful, fine. I’ll own it. But I think it’s equally disrespectful to derail a discussion repeatedly that way when you know the person running it (in her space) disagrees. So if I’ve done that to you, please smack me down and tell me to stop posting. And if you do that to me, I’ll do the same. I wouldn’t put up with it offline. I shouldn’t put up with it because it’s pixels on a page. I know, if you are reading this from Facebook, that you may try to tell me that Sophie did the same thing — she didn’t. She talked about industrial practices, which are absolutely relevant to this discussion.

Call me out if you think I’m disrespecting you, because I have Feelings about the line between the personal and the political, and the line between debate space and personal space. In my case, I think my wall is personal space and the questions I pose on it are not necessarily up for debate. Because I try not to be a hypocrite: Vinessa, I’m sorry I tried to invade the happy progressive not-Obama-fans lovefest on your page. That was a mistake on my part and I hope I backed off fast enough. If I didn’t, I truly apologize.

I should set clearer boundaries, because assuming everyone understands mine leads to Trouble. For the record, if you’re not sure? Ask. Ask before you advise, ask before you debate. Love is awesome, though. You can send that anytime. Disagree, but be ready to hear “no”. (Disagree after “no” and be prepared to hear “HELL no”). If I am showing my ass, tell me in private and I’ll happily pull up my metaphorical trousers in public — having admitted my mistake, having taken time to process. I am trying to become a more tolerant person every day, though not to the point where tolerance overcomes personal values and, hello, boundaries. We all have the right to our values and boundaries, wherever we have them, in whatever context.

And also for the record, this is where you debate me, call me out, whatever. This is a post for that.

* And I think you should too. I apologise in advance for all the propaganda bits, unless you like that sort of thing, in which case OMG, have you read this book about socialism?
** I am always fuzzy about this one. Sorry.
*** I’m beginning to get Natasha’s point about vaguebooking. It is kinda passive-aggressive and I do hate passive-aggression.

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2 thoughts on “the personal gets political: personal space in social media

  1. Sorry, but I don’t think that the scandal is to do with mislabelling at all. If someone were selling pork mixed in with beef then I don’t think that the scandal would have got anything like the legs that it has. It is ALL about the societal ick of eating horsemeat.

    I absolutely agree that Facebook is overused as a bully pulpit, though – I have many of my “friends” set to not show on my newsfeed simply because I really do not want to be confronted with their seemingly endless proselytizing (even if it’s something with which I agree), whether it’s on their own page or the comments to someone else’s.

    • And that’s a fair assessment, too, about the pig vs the horse, at least where eating horse is squicky. I was thinking maybe it wasn’t as squicky in some places and the, ah, meat of unknown provenance may have been a major factor. Can they both be, d’you think?

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