Whose living room is this?

As far as discussion on the internet goes, a common analogy is that someone’s blog or website is basically their living room. It’s used both to encourage people to be polite, and to remind folks that, no, the first amendment has nothing to do with speech on someone else’s site, and yes, a site owner or moderator has every right to kick you out if you act like a butthead.

With most sites, the analogy works just fine. And then there’s Facebook. Facebook is this weird trans-dimensional space where everyone’s living rooms overlap. I post something to my wall, it shows up on yours as an update.

This means that when people say things that are hateful, in their own space, as they more or less have a right to, it shows up in my “living room” too. (I say “more or less have a right” because Facebook’s terms of service are supposed to prohibit hate speech, but they aren’t necessarily always applied.) I’m not sure how to deal with this. If someone were really truly in my living room (or on my blog), I’d have no problem telling them to stop, or politely but firmly disagreeing. But they’re not. They’re in their own space, and yet what they say gets into my space as well.

My problem is not just that these sorts of comments irritate me, though that’s a huge part of it. I also feel that if I sit back and say nothing when people are saying things that are hate-filled and verifiably untrue, that I’m essentially accepting those things. And yet, at the same time, it’s not my place to be the Facebook cop and make everybody play nice based on my standards of “nice.”

I made the mistake, recently, of saying I thought a post about Park51 was in bad taste because it was really disrespectful toward someone else’s religion. That unleashed a stream of vitriol from someone I don’t know, which I’m not really sure how to respond to. I don’t think I was out of line, though it probably would’ve been wiser to keep my mouth shut. So, part of me wants to smooth things over, but I don’t know that there’s any way to do that without apologizing for being in favor of religious tolerance. Or without ignoring, and essentially accepting, some of the totally baseless assumptions that came out (for example, talking about people “moving to this country and the complaining” as if there aren’t plenty of Muslims who are natural born citizens). The other part of me would like to actually call out that sort of BS, but I know I can’t do that without it getting even uglier.

From a technological standpoint, the thing that irritates me is that there’s no way to hide one specific post of someone else’s from my wall. It would be way easier to deal with if I could do the same as I do with obnoxious e-mails, delete and move on. But the X button on another person’s post hides them from your wall completely. I did have to do that with one person, but I’d prefer not to as a general rule. I’m not really sure what the right answer is in this situation.


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