Saturday, October 23, 2010

What if I DON'T like it?

I'll say it - I like Facebook. I use it as a professional networking tool as much as a social networking tool. I keep in contact with friends and colleagues, learn of links and connections and industry goss, watch the occasional funny video.

But there is one thing about FB that I find rather irritating. It's the groups with views that might be seen by some as worthy of challenge or further discussion; some examples might be fundamentalist religious groups and prosperity Christians, or conspiracy theorists, or anti-immunisation groups, such as VINE. I find that these groups won't allow you to comment unless you "Like It!". And often we don't like it. But we can't respond. We can't discuss, engage in dialogue, perhaps even learn, unless we agree that we "Like It!", ergo, join the group. And we don't want to do that. Which means that these corners of Facebook remain the sole domain of people who all believe the same thing, and foment those beliefs.

I use the example of VINE, or the Vaccination Information Network. I was in a discussion with a friend about the pros and cons of childhood vaccination, and found my way to VINE, which vehemently opposes vaccination. (Incidentally, this site also likes to provide "evidence" for all manner of conspiracies - the government is gathering data on you so you'll be first against the wall when the revolution comes, the 9/11 attacks were an inside job, drop-bears aren't real, etc etc.)

But the bit that made me sit up straight was VINE's claim that whooping cough is neither "dangerous nor life-threatening". I beg to differ. Almost 300,000 people died globally from pertussis last year, and furthermore, I've personally nursed babies in PICUs who are on life support due to whooping cough. So naturally, I wanted to comment. But I couldn't, unless I joined. I wanted to send a direct message to the person who runs the group. That link was disabled. Meanwhile the regulars on the site are agreeing, agreeing, agreeing, all the while remaining blissfully unaware - or deliberately ignorant - that there is another side to this story.

I'm not saying that FB should shut the site down - I welcome discourse on pretty much anything. But let's at least have the conversation.

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