On Friday, after I created that change.org petition asking Facebook to remove the 12-Year-Old Sluts page for violating their community standards, I managed to work myself into a pretty deep funk. I’m normally an extremely optimistic person, and I prefer to believe that most people are doing their best, that the arc bends towards justice, and that if you explain your position clearly and persuasively enough, anyone can become an ally.
Sometimes, that optimism leaves me vulnerable to being unpleasantly surprised by the world. Friday, I exhausted my resources for fixing what, in my view, is horrifying and unacceptably brutal abuse of social media. I made my case as articulately as I know how, I reached out to personal connections at Facebook to push from the inside, I sent my petition around. Nothing worked. I don’t get devastated easily, but aside from personal tragedy, this was the most furious/outraged/helpless I’ve felt in quite some time.
It’s a perk of living in Chicago, of surrounding myself with progressive, liberal folks, that I’m naive enough to think that the world will just agree with me if I’m clear enough about why they’re wrong. Turns out, that’s often untrue, a lesson most of you are well aware of by now. Facebook knows quite clearly what they have on their hands with “12 Year Old Sluts,” and they believe it’s on the safe side of the controversial humor/misogynistic bullying line. They are wrong, we are right, but it doesn’t matter.
So how to pull myself out of the funk of helpless spirals of people-are-the-worst anomie? Yoga first, community second. An hour of sweating, bending, twisting, and breathing did wonders for my mental state, and when I got home to find 100 signatures on my dinky little petition (plus dozens of supportive comments), the clouds cleared a little more. To seal the deal, my roommate reminded me that my outrage need not be lonely. Other media institutions were all over it, and another petition already had 500 times as many signatures as mine.
Facebook likes to think they are facilitating connections between people, and in many ways they are. I’m eternally grateful to the smart, funny, opinionated internet network I can tap into any time I want. I truly believe it expands the world in extraordinary, amazing ways. But if Facebook believes that they are protecting the freedom of speech of commenters who tell children to kill themselves, well they better hope none of these girls take this “controversial humor” too seriously.
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