I've talked before about how I think Facebook is a bad setting for political debate, and how it's all too conducive to a very unproductive kind of anger. Well, I've strayed a bit lately from the arguments I made in those posts, and on Friday, I got a rather unpleasant reminder of why, whether or not it's a bad idea for most people to air their politics on Facebook, it's definitely a bad idea for me to.
Turns out I'm very bad at it. I shared a link to a Forbes article about '#gamergate' which I thought made some very good points about the tenor of the debate. A friend of mine followed the link and took me to task over the article's denial that misogyny was at the centre of the issue.
Now, there is a debate to be had over whether the article actually denied that misogyny was at the centre of the issue, or whether the writer was simply trying to put aside the misogyny, on grounds that it had been discussed elsewhere, and focus on another aspect of the controversy, but we didn't get to have that debate. I started going to pieces too quickly.
In my first response to my friend's comment, despite re-reading and checking it over several times, I used an imprecise phrase which made it sound as if I was endorsing the dismissal of misogyny from the debate. Called on that, too, I got flustered and did a terrible job of explaining the mistake. I then sat stewing in my own anxieties for an hour or two before deleting the whole post out of fear of being screencapped while trying to dig myself out of the rhetorical hole I'd gotten into.
As a highly-trained academic writer, I normally pride myself on my ability to express my thoughts in writing, but this isn't the first time something like this has happened on Facebook. (In fairness, as anyone who's been following this blog for a while can attest, I sometimes have a little too much faith in that ability). Something about that environment really makes me feel the pressure of public access.
In this case, I don't think it helps that I mainly know very smart people - I hold the judgement of most of my Facebook friends in very high regard. This raises the stakes any time I put my views on display, because if one of them calls me an idiot they're probably right (and several of them have, at various times, done so and been right). It's possible that the anxiety that causes gets in the way of clear thinking about the words I'm using, though the problem I have is also probably partly due to differences between the academic context for which I've trained and the (for want of a better word) 'popular' context of Facebook.
Whatever the cause, I don't have a solution. I'm not kidding about that re-reading and checking. I spent at least twenty minutes each on two three-paragraph comments, and still came away sounding like a conceited idiot (and yes, while I recognise that this may mean I am in fact a conceited idiot, jokes to that effect at this point in time are not a helpful contribution). For now, though, no more sharing political material for me on Facebook.