On Wednesday I wrote about the veils of cyber reality and the impact it has on real life interactions through the platform of the popular social media site Facebook. Continuing in that sphere of thought, I’d like to comment on something very disturbing that happened on Facebook earlier this week.
According to Gawker.com , despite numerous requests from friends and family of a suicide victim, images of the victim taken by the victim himself were not removed from his page because they did not violate Facebook’s community standards.
This man was a marine and the suicide statistics on veterans are extremely disturbing. The fallout from war, readjustment to normal civilian life, lack of understanding from society at large about the experience of war, and overall machismo military culture that historically has not been extremely friendly to the idea of mental health care are contributors that I am guessing cause veterans to fall into the dark hole of suicidal thought. It is extremely sad to see so many men and women who voluntarily committed their bodies and minds to the patriotic mission of the American military not be properly cared for when re-entering American society after completing their missions abroad.
Facebook is a hegemonic force within social media. Like hegemonic powers, the power it exerts over its users is often irrational and unyielding. Specifically, one of the more disturbing phenomenons is the discrepancy of its community standards with regards to sexuality versus violence. Sexuality is a big no-no in Facebook land. Nudity is point blank forbidden and enough of it can get a user kicked off the site. Even non-sexualized nudity is forbidden; I had a friend who posted photos of herself that featured body paint on her abdomen and exposed breasts, and within hours was required to delete the photos despite their beautiful artistic quality. The photos were not sexual, it was simply her body with paint on it. Indeed, if it had been a male abdomen the photos would have been allowed to stay up because everyone knows male chests are not sexy (tongue-in-cheek remark, folks) and only the female body can be sexualized (again, sarcasm). It does not seem that Facebook will ever reverse this stance on nudity.
However, violence, BRING IT ON. But wait, no, just kidding. Well, maybe, we’re not sure. The flippity floppity dippity doppity dance Facebook engaged in with regards to violence was a stark juxtaposition to it’s stance on nudity, declaring beheading videos were okay, then well maybe not, then “‘When we review content that is reported to us, we will take a more holistic look at the context surrounding a violent image or video,” Facebook said in a statement. ‘Second, we will consider whether the person posting the content is sharing it responsibly, such as accompanying the video or image with a warning and sharing it with an age-appropriate audience,” Facebook said.”
Good fucking god.
Age appropriate audience? Your standards for sharing violence are age appropriate audience? As far as I know, my friend was not sharing photos of her naked torso with anyone underage, and the audience for those photos was all adults, most of whom I’m going to assume have seen at least one topless lady in their lives. Why can’t that apply to nudity?
I have a theory about why our society allows the gratuitous show of violence more than it allows the gratuitous show of sexuality/nudity. When done in a consensual context, sex is the ultimate bonding act between persons. Heterosexual sex results in children, and children are impressionable beings who can be imprinted in whatever way their caregivers so choose. Homosexuality, while not resulting in the begetting of children, is a sexual discourse that has historically been taboo, but in our modern society we are finally coming to terms with gay love and the legitimacy of that, and the idea that gay people can too raise healthy children. Love brings people together in ways that cross man-made social constructions concerning who it is proper for an individual to associate with based on a plethora of identity characteristics. In None of Your Business I explored why it was socially significant that I as a White woman have chosen to date outside my race. If I have mixed race babies, those babies (hopefully) will love me and their father. If there are enough of those babies who grow up to love both of their parents who are of different races, the white privilege system is in jeopardy. To prevent a dominance system from falling, there are codes of conduct that are implemented in everyday life to prevent this. Restricting sexuality is a big code of conduct that is massively policed.
Violence, however, destroys. It destroys people, it destroys relationships between people, and it destroys the spirits and wills of people. The threat of violence, though, builds. It builds power, co-opted by some for benefit which results in the loss of power for others. It builds its power by coercing people into confusion and fear to create and maintain hierarchical systems where some lives are viewed as more valuable. The paradoxical effect of love destroying violence results in ways of life that stand in stark contrast to those previously prevailing dominance and power systems. Systems of dominance remain due to both the experience of and threat of violence. Facebook, as a hegemonic force in our culture, is not going to challenge these systems of power. It is clearly dedicated to perpetrating them.
I do not know what Daniel Ray Wolfe, the marine who posted his suicide on Facebook, experienced in terms of violence, a different kind of violence than the type I wrote about in above paragraphs. Military violence results from the participation of individual soldiers carrying out orders and, as I noted when starting this post, I do not disrespect these men and women for their participation in the military because it is a necessity for our nation. In fact, I do not oppose the use of violence in all instances and I am not a pacifist. But I do know that we as a society do not explore the intrinsic nature of violence enough and we most definitely do not explore how it effects our identities. It does seem apparent that Daniel Ray Wolfe’s experience with military violence it had a disturbing effect on his psyche. His mind was clearly occupying a dark space and engaging in suicide is the ultimate expression of self-hate. One of his final posts read “Im serious I want a viking funneral (sic) push me out on a wooden raft soaked in gasand (sic) oil in a pond or lake once I’m a good distance out shoot a flaming arrow and torch my raft…”. I think these words speak for themselves about the despair this man felt.
Facebook did a violence against this man, his family, and his friends by not removing these posts at the request of the people who knew this man personally. Facebook’s “community standards” do not reflect the standards of any kind of functional community that is committed to the health of it’s people. Indeed, by allowing these disturbing posts Facebook is diminishing this man’s intrinsic value as a human and instead letting the darkest moments of his life prevail over the kind words family and friends are likely to share on his post-mortem page. Facebook pages of the dead are often used as a cyber memorial to remember the value of that person amongst the living. What Facebook is doing by not taking these posts of a mind in true and utter despair is disrespectful and shameful.
Facebook, I really wish you could make love and not war.