Does Facebook cause friends to fight?

Does Facebook cause friends to fight?

Summary: Sigh. It's happened again and again. Facebook has caused my friends to fight.

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Sigh. It's happened again and again. Facebook has caused my friends to fight.

Here's the story. I have a lot of friends with very diverse interests. I have the earthy-crunchy tree-hugger friends from the years I lived in California. I have the very martial, very conservative, very right-wing friends from some of the national security and military circles I've traveled in over the years.

Normally, I wouldn't invite these two groups to the same party. They don't play well with each other.

I also have friends who love Windows, some who are Linux aficionados, and some lovable but misguided sorts for whom Apple is the way in all things.

Also on CBS News: Does Facebook cause friends to fight?

These friends don't play well with each other either and often can't be in the same room. I remember vividly the evening I met a Mac-loving friend and a Windows-wise friend for sushi. My Windows-oriented friend spent the entire evening baiting the Mac fan, until my Apple-loving friend almost cried. Needless to say, I never issued another dinner invitation to those two in combination, again.

But then, there's Facebook.

On Facebook, all my friends can party together. When I posted to my Facebook feed one of my more politically-oriented articles, I was shocked at how crazy things got within hours.

One of my more loony liberal friends posted a comment that was particularly loony, even for a loony liberal. He's a kind, sweet, somewhat naive old gent, but I've known him for years and he's got a great heart.

One of my crazy conservative friends then proceeded to remove that heart and eat it.

To the liberal's defense jumped more libs. To the conservative's defense jumped more conservatives. Suddenly, my little Facebook posting was a war zone. Feelings were hurt on both sides, I had to drop a ton of combatants from my friends list, and I went on a Facebook friend moratorium for a month or so.

When I posted a link to one of my many Apple-related articles, insanity ensued. There were friends who agreed with me, friends who disagreed with me, and friends who proceeded to hate on other friends for whichever opinion they espoused.

It was nuts.

Sure, you could say I should choose from a better class of friends, but despite what you might think (who'd be friends with David?), many of these friends are actual pillars of society. Some of them are nationally-known best-selling authors. Some of them are top leaders in the military. Some of them are very successful business people and others are what the marketing drones call "thought leaders". One of my friends is even a professional wrestler. They're fun people, all.

All in all, these are people who, when in a room physically, probably wouldn't throw the first punch (although at least a few could certainly throw the last). But, on Facebook, they all seem to feel that brawling is perfectly reasonable.

I now post my articles to Facebook with far less frequency. I wanted to post 10 things (and 4 outrages) techies need to know about President Obama's State of the Union Address last month, but I had no idea who would attack who. Yesterday, I thought about posting 11 reasons NOT to buy an iPad 2 (including 6 that haven't changed from the iPad 1) but decided I didn't want to foster any friend-on-friend Facebook violence (although rabble-rousing here on ZDNet Government is just great fun).

So here's my question: does Facebook cause friends to fight? Because Facebook allows all your friends to see comments by all your friends, and you can't segregate one class of nut from another class of wacko, do your Facebook friends let loose on each other?

Here's the poll:

[poll id="65"]

TalkBack below. Do you have a story to share?

Topics: CXO, Linux, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software, Windows, Social Enterprise

About

David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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Talkback

46 comments
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  • Facebook certainly causes facile idiots to fight

    Anybody who sits in a restaurant and spends the entire time 'baiting' another diner (ostensibly on the same invite) deliberately, with a view to upsetting them, is nothing but an @rse. Maybe there is some correlation between people who are fulltime @rses and people who will seriously kick off over a posting on a social website. Facebook might aggregate @rseholes but I don't think it creates them- they do that, all by themselves
    whisperycat
    • It happens all the time

      @whisperycat
      I've been a Mac user for more than a quarter century. I prefer the Mac platform, and I've been providing tech support for the platform (professionally and personally) for at least half of its existence.

      For the last decade I've also been testing software, supporting, and administering various versions of Windows from 98SE and NT 4.0 on up. I really like Windows 7. There are some things that Windows 7 does much better than OS X and if OS X migrates too much in the direction of iOS, then Windows 7 <i>may</i> take over as my personal OS of choice.

      I have also used Ubuntu Linux and I advocate that OS for a lot of my friends and associates. If Netflix would stream to it, I'd have never hacked my netbook to run OS X.

      Despite this technological heterogeneity, I am almost universally known as "The Mac Guy". Every day at work, someone tries to bait me with Anti-Apple rhetoric. Every time I get into a party situation, the same thing happens. My friends, some of the best loved people I know, when you put them into a group the Windows fans start Apple bashing, and the Macheads start throwing stones at Windows. Inevitably it is the Windows people who start the fracas by trying to bait me and being overheard by the Macheads. I generally stay out of it all, but the situation gets anywhere from amusing to idiotic on both sides pretty quickly.

      The irony of it all as relates to this discussion? In my case this never happens on Facebook, only in real world crowd settings. The only place this happens to me online is - you guessed it - right here at ZDNET.
      use_what_works_4_U
      • RE: Does Facebook cause friends to fight?

        @macadam, I can understsand your angst at being baited at parties etc by windows guys. However if you become a windows guy (as I am - though like you I am agnostic and stray into Mac territory regularly) you will notice that may mac users have this kind of superiority complex thing going where anytime someone mentions some problem they are having with their computer (that happens to be windows) there is this disdainful "harumph" and statement that "see, you should be using a mac". Or they are showing their new HTC Legend or some equally fricking awesome phone and the mac guy is "yes but I have iphone, I can browse the internet". It's hard to remain silent in these situations!!
        pitdroidtech
  • Not mine - because I boycott FB! (NT)

    nt
    bmeacham98@...
  • RE: Does Facebook cause friends to fight?

    I was one of those friends for awhile, and now I just for the most part stay away from politics and religion in particular. Who's mind am I going to change anyway? Nobody's...
    nuttob
  • RE: Does Facebook cause friends to fight?

    Yep and nothing makes me happier than to out an idiot liberal in a discussion. It usually goes like this:

    1. Liberal makes a point
    2. Conservative makes a point
    3. Liberal makes a point
    4. Conservative makes a better point
    5. Liberal makes a point and inserts an insult or reference to past conservative President blaming them for everything going on
    6. Conservative makes another better point, proves what's going on is the fault of the current administrations lack of action
    7. Liberal hurls more insults, calls everyone in the discussion that is conservative a racist, unfriends the conservatives, blocks them and sends them a hate spewing email wishing physical harm on them.

    Pretty pathetic
    Ron Burgundy
    • You have that backwards

      @Ron Burgundy
      I have a friend who has this issue on Facebook. <i>Every single time</i> it's the Conservatives spouting exaggerations and insults first. Every time.
      use_what_works_4_U
      • I'm sure it goes both ways.

        @macadam

        These sorts of arguments go both ways. It's easier for people to insult first before actually proving a point, I know I'm guilty of it as well. Bottom line is no matter what an arguments about you have people on either side that give one side a bad name, it's unavoidable.
        tbensen@...
      • RE: Does Facebook cause friends to fight?

        @macadam I think you guys are misunderstanding. It's not because they're liberal or conservative. It's because they're idiots.
        Aerowind
      • RE: Does Facebook cause friends to fight?

        @tbensen, @Aerowind
        I agree with the both of you, actually. The issue does go both ways and is caused my idiots. "Ron Burgundy" has been irritating me lately with his penchant for following this exact behavior to pick fights here on ZDNET with various Windows advocates. As a result my retort was less than complete.

        Thank you both for filling in the blanks I left.
        use_what_works_4_U
    • Hear, hear!

      @Ron Burgundy Clearly a student of history.
      Gaius_Maximus
  • I'm sure Linux is very nice, but....

    ....if you just use it day-to-day office work, you are crazy. All normal people know that desktop nirvana was achieved with Windows for Workgroups 3.11

    ;)
    alsw
    • RE: Does Facebook cause friends to fight?

      @alsw you're so right.

      Windows 3.1/3.11 was nirvana. It was actually quite easy to replace the shell with another program and not make Windows unstable (I have nice memories of that desktop from PC Tools for Windows 2.0, which put icons on the desktop and allowed long names for folders and files... on Windows 3.1!!!)
      lepoete73
    • RE: Does Facebook cause friends to fight?

      @alsw You guys are idiots! OS/2 is the way to go! Remember those fights? I do, especially between our I.S. and Corporate Assistant staffs. Too funny. OS/2 was better, by the way.
      20kwfence
  • RE: Does Facebook cause friends to fight?

    No, LIFE causes friends to fight.
    Real World
    • RE: Does Facebook cause friends to fight?

      @Real World Ding, Ding, Ding... we have a winner! Finally the voice of common sense. Facebook - like all social networking including forums like ZDNet - are communication [i]tools[/i] and like all tools they are capable of building things up or tearing things down dependent on the actions of the user.
      athynz
  • RE: Does Facebook cause friends to fight?

    ZDNET articles/commentary cause friends to fight. Welcome to the divided states of America
    edkollin
  • No FB= Great Success!

    I have never and will never have a FaceBook. Killing the problem right at the source seems to be the best way to deal with this issue.
    Bates_
  • How Sad but don't blame Facebook

    Your article demonstrates the problem in America and that's the lack of respect for another person. You don't have to agree with someone or even like them to respect the fact that they can have an opinion. Our culture has become one of finger pointing, name calling and disrespect to the point we can no longer find common interests or concerns.
    Duncan651@...
    • Bingo!

      @Duncan651@...

      You hit the nail right on the head.
      ExEm2SS