Defusing Society

By Amy R. Babcock

This story has been crossposted in

It’s no secret that everyone, everywhere around the world seems to be antsy lately. It’s almost palpable in the air we breathe. No matter what your opinion, no matter the subject, there is someone you know that will argue the point with you. Everyone wants so badly to be heard, to feel as though they are right in all their thinking, that they start verbal altercations at the drop of a hat.

So often, we see posts about current political happenings, and we might read the comments. We see posts about another mass shooting, and we might stop to argue about gun law reform. A post about the threat of war or corruption, and an argument is likely to ensue. These seem like good reasons to have heavy discussions. But so often sides are chosen solely based upon something someone read in a caption of post, rather than after having done independent research. We too easily believe what we see without much proof.

As an example, there is a page on Facebook called Fact Maniac. This page claims to post facts about a given topic, usually in the form of a meme, or with text over a picture. Recently, this page posted a picture of a gravestone. On it was written the name of one Frederick Kreuger. If you’ve never heard the name, it is the name of a popular horror film villain from the Nightmare on Elm Street movies of the 80s and 90s. On screen, this was a man who, long ago tortured and molested many children. The parents eventually found out and cornered him in the boiler room of a building. He ended up being burned alive. Years later, he came back to seek revenge on those that murdered him by torturing and killing their children in nightmares. An evil dream walker of sorts.

Fact Maniac posted the gravestone with text that stated that Fredrick Kreuger was a real person from the late 1800s that was a serial killer of children who was subsequently, actually burned alive. Later, in another post, a different page posted the same picture with the same text, but at the bottom of the post told viewers that they made the story up to match the movie and this man did not truly ever exist. They went on to state they were thrilled that their post had been shared so many times on social media.

In trying to see if people would really argue about something for which there was no proof or where proof proved their argument wrong, I recently ran a social experiment on the best place for such a venture: social media.

We’ve all heard of memes. These are usually social media posts with a humorous image, video, piece of text, etc. that are copied and spread rapidly by internet users. Often, we see these, and while they are meant to make some point, they are also often misspelled or contain bad grammar, or even incorrect facts. Another type of meme that makes the rounds purports to correct or educate the public about proper grammatical usage.

While scrolling through my social media newsfeed, I came across a meme that had an American spelling of a word that I’m unaccustomed to seeing. Though I knew the spelling to be correct, I decided to put up a post stating that I would be correcting badly spelled memes from that time forward. The response I received was surprising. So many people came to the defence of memes. They fought for the right to post memes of all types, regardless of the spelling. Some even took the time to try an explain the purpose of memes to me. It was interesting, to say the least.

One individual actually started an argument with me about this. He went on to tell me how I needed to get off my high horse and stop thinking I know more than I actually do. He told me that everything I post is negative and that I should just stay out of people’s business. And throughout his comments, there were multiple spelling and grammatical errors (none of which I corrected). This man’s profession is as an adult educator. Although I’d never actually gone out of my way to correct any meme I saw that day, he still made it a point to comment in such scathing retort that it went on for a long time in social media terms: two days.

Suffice it to say, in just posting about something I was going to do (but never actually did), regarding something so innocuous as a meme, this man was so easily triggered that we are now no longer friends on social media. I can’t say I’m devastated. But it goes to prove that right now, people seem to be actively looking for a fight, no matter the subject.

There are also those individuals who seem to thrive on being mean just for the sake of being mean. We see this often with people complaining about how they can’t say anything anymore unless it’s politically correct. These are the same ones who use the word “snowflake” or call people looking for equality “social justice warriors.” And yet, we see, time and again that these supposedly strong-minded individuals are the ones most easily triggered.

But what hope is there when the person feeling trigged is an armed adult, trained to kill their enemies?

Recently in the local news, a soldier stationed at the local military base was arrested and is facing charges of planning to bomb a local news media company, as well as murder presidential hopeful, Beto O’Rourke. Regardless of one’s political views, violence should never be the answer. Especially when that violence is being planned by someone trained in protecting the rights of all citizens in our country.

The violence seems to be escalating and I wonder what it will take to deactivate this powder keg that has become our society. If we can’t find the answer soon, I fear we are all doomed.

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