Crabby Old Sensationalism

I enjoy Facebook. Ever since KU was added as a school, I have been a happy member of this social network. It has allowed me to keep in contact with friends old and new, correspond on coursework, and now it is becoming a new vehicle for career growth in my post-college life.

Being a fairly open platform, people can start and join any group they choose. Several of the ones I am part of include fan clubs for TV shows I watch, a group for the BVTV program (founding member, woo!), and a club sharing my disgust for the Ugg boot.

Imagine my surprise when Angela mentioned to me a post she read describing FB as a haven for bigoted speech! According to Crabby Old Lady, a new form of discrimination (learned no doubt from those repressive college environments) fills the site. Of course, I’m talking about ageism. Ageism? The idea is so foreign to me that I didn’t even know such a term existed.

Crabby, as she refers to herself, tried out FB. She doesn’t have a lot of free time, and she still finds no value in the site (“there doesn’t appear to be much going on at Facebook except people collecting friends”). On one tragic day, however, a friend alerts her to the horrors that lay inside the ivory walls of FB: ageist comments. Out of the hundreds of thousands of groups on FB, Freydberg happened to search around enough to find a handful of “hate-filled” group names, which have been reposted on Crabby’s page.

At the most, these names are hyperbole, and at the least they are an unbelievably small subset of users. For instance, the most “inflammatory” group they listed (“Ban Old People from Going back to School!!!”) has 60 members (the most of the list) out of 30 million. That’s 0.0002% of the FB population.

Apparently I do have more free time than Crabby, though, and I was able to scan through all 130 or so friends I have and none have joined any similar group. My friends cross all segments of society, and I’m happy to say that I love older folk. It appears my friends do to, or they simply aren’t crass enough to show their true ageism in a public forum.

I won’t go through her entire post point by point, but I did want to focus on one area specifically because she misrepresents racism, FB, and the elderly in one go. Crabby goes through a group of the posts using what she calls the “TGB bias test” (apparently for her site, Time Goes By), in which she does word substitution to show how hurtful these comments are. The greatest folly in using word substitution is that it elevates whatever issue you are challenging to the same level as your control. In this case, the comments made and the group names found on FB do not instill hate or prejudice into the reader as evidenced by the overstated nature of the comments themselves. To put such comments on equal footing as racism is wrong. Secondly, any word can be substituted in, so swapping pedophile or murderer in makes for a equally ridiculous result that is still valid using this test.

Crabby closes her post by calling Facebook “Hatebook” and suggesting that everyone cancel their accounts. An extreme measure to an extreme post. I hope Crabby understands that there isn’t widespread hostility in my age group towards our elders. However, harping on the few ageists comments out of millions in Facebook, then making the blanket assertion that all kids are out to get them, rings of the same kind of bias against kids Crabby herself finds against elders. It also verges on a digital “get off my lawn“. Maybe we need a new term, lessagism, to describe those older than us who feel we’re out to get them.