Monday, February 02, 2015

Has being banned from Facebook been good or bad for me?

As most of you probably know, Facebook expelled me back in November. The official explanation is that my pseudonym violates their name policy and several other bloggers with fake names, including HaRav Pinky Shmekelstein were tossed at around the same time. Though a recent, entirely unfounded rumor says a kiruv Rabbi turned us all in, I've always suspected the anti-vaxxers. Indeed,  the night before my account was terminated I had a long, ugly argument with several of them.

Over the last few months I've had very little contact with Facebook, or with many of the dozens if not hundreds of people who interacted with me there. An activist called Sister Roma took up my cause at Facebook headquarters and a reporter friend made some inquries but Facebook itself remained silent. Meanwhile, Pinky enjoyed a breakthrough and somehow got his account restored,  fake name and all.

Has losing Facebook been bad for me? For ten years I feasted on what might be called "blog energy."  That's my catch all phrase for the fantastic exchange of ideas that happens on my comment threads. Once upon a time, a post here would have twenty comments within two minutes of posting. Threads with four or five hundred comments were not unusual. That hardly happens here,  or any blogs,  anymore but it did happen on my Facebook threads, which is where some of that blog energy relocated.

Being suddenly deprived of that rapid,  furious,  brilliant exchange of ideas has been an adjustment. Non-afficiandoes often disparaged my comment threads as snark havens or places where angry people insulted each other but they were wrong. My comment threads,  both here and on Facebook,  is where people who were willing to argue honestly got smarter. Not because of me. In fact, I probably hold the record for having made the most losing arguments on those threads. But losing those arguments - over Bible criticism,  or haredism, or Zionism - made me smarter because by confronting the better arguments I was forced to abandon the bad ones. I wasn't quite ready to leave the University which is what it feels like to lose access to those magnificent debates.

On the other hands, losing Facebook means having one fewer platform to manage. It means having fewer nudniks and trolls harrasing me. It means getting trapped in fewer go nowhere arguments with abject denialists. As a result it means having more time to devote to the blog itself which means better posts and better threads here, I hope.

I started this post hoping the process of writing it would help me discover if losing Facebook, by which I mean access to a large, intelligent community, has been good for me. I didn't find the answer. Maybe it's too soon to tell. Maybe the answer is that for a very long time I was a guy who spent most of the day discussing and arguing ideas with a huge variety of people and now, having lost access to the network, I'm not that guy anymore. So it's not a better or worse it's just a new and different form of existence.

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