The Facebook Golem Or Unwelcome Opinions

On October 13th The Marker cited a new study which found that during Operation Protective Edge one of six Israelis blocked or defriended a Facebook friend. 60% of the people did it because they disagreed with the content and 52% because they encountered offensive posts.

During the war I expressed similar sentiments about  unwelcome opinions of some Facebook friends in the following essay:

I have nothing against other people’s opinions, sometimes I even change my mind based on what I hear. But I would like to choose where, and when to hear or read them.

In the past I could think of two main examples when those opinions were not welcome. First, on the evening news when reporters chose to spend a good part of the program on interviewing  “the man/woman on the street.”  I guess the rationale was that their opinions were representative of  most people. I always preferred to hear the opinions of experts in the field.

The second  occasion happened when, during  the questions and answers session following a formal lecture, some people in the audience mistook that time to be an opportunity to voice their opinions rather than to ask for those of the speaker.

Now because of the war in Gaza I can add  Facebook to the  list of unwelcome opinions

Until recently I was an active user of Facebook and enjoyed reading about my friends’ life. Facebook for me was exactly what Mark Zuckerberg meant it to be: a social network. I didn’t know the political opinions of most of my friends and never requested new  friendships based on people’s political inclinations. Yet,  I didn’t mind reading  my friends’ opinions  about those subjects as well.

However, with the war, many people started sharing and promoting those  political views to which they subscribe. For me  it means that the social media stopped being social. I should have known that, what is Facebook if not the man on the street in his contemporary attire?  While I like my friends and used to look forward to hearing about the different aspects of their lives, now I dread Facebook and it has lost its appeal.

I hear that this war is the war of the social media. My friends are civilized people, their posts may be  disturbing, yet they are never offensive. But  our activity on Facebook does not represent what is out there  in other parts of the social media. I guess we are not the “real man of the street” of Facebook, where I was exposed to horrible posts  full of violence and hatred. It is scary.

Until recently I was also a  fan of Facebook and regarded it as a  big bazaar where unexpected treasures could be found. But now I realize that the big unpredictable bazaar has become a Golem, that unintelligent creature who was commanded to perform a task, but became enormous, uncooperative and ultimately out of control. There is evidence everywhere, and not only in Israel, of the damages created by the Facebook Golem.

I wonder if it is too late to stop it. In one version of the Golem story the rabbi who created him had to resort to trickery to deactivate it, whereupon the Golem crumbled upon its creator and crushed him.

I sincerely hope that we are not looking at a similar future.

About the Author
I have a PhD in English literature from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and I usually write about issues concerning women, literature, culture and society. I lived in the US for 15 years (between 1979-1994). I am widow and in March 2016 started a support/growth Facebook group for widows: "Widows Move On." In October 2017 I started a Facebook group for Older and Experienced Feminists. I am also an active member of Women Wage Peace and believe that women can succeed where men have failed.