Friday, 26 February 2021 11:27

COLUMN: Social media rife with exclusion from inclusion

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There's been a lot of talk about individuality these days, and the acceptance of such and how we should just all accept each other's differences and live our lives. I guess that's one of those things that sounds good in theory but when it's actually implemented, is about as useful as you know what on a bull. 

Think of a few things. I bet there were a lot of people who thought casting Al Pacino in a movie about the Revolutionary War was a great idea. I have seen the movie and it wasn't such a good idea. I mean, it wasn't such a great movie anyway, but the casting was done picking names out of a hat. The point is, folks, a lot of things that seem like good ideas really aren't. 

I don't know if a lot of you are on social media, but I am. I used to find it amusing and fun but now I see it as a window on the world — and looking through that window has made my brain hurt. 

I am a member of a number of social groups on Facebook. You know, the kind where people who share a common interest all get together and talk about that interest. I am a member of a couple of wrist watch groups and some social groups from where I grew up and a couple that like certain movies or books and such. 

One of the groups I thought might be fun was a fan club for the 1980 humor book “The Official Preppy Handbook.” When and where I grew up, preppiedom was a big thing and the book, which started out as a satire, became an actual handbook and a lot of people started to model their lives around things in the book. I have been to some of the places in the book. I wear some of the clothes in the book. I have not been to an Ivy League college or even gone to a prep school. I went to public school and lived in a little house with average parents with average jobs. The whole idea of the book was fun, so when I found the fan club on Facebook, I thought it might be a nice diversion.

Well, that was a crock of something other than butter. 

At first, it was a little fun. I liked seeing the appreciation of the book and the humor of it and how it sort of defined a small era of my adolescence. Soon, I started seeing the cracks. I started to see how people who prided themselves on manners would quickly dismiss someone if they did something that was “not preppy.” Posts asking if a type of music or movie was preppy. I saw one asking what a preppy beer was. It became clear that the members of the group had pigeonholed themselves into such a rigid boundary that they dare not do something that wasn't considered preppy. Seeing this, I looked into some of the other social groups I belonged to on social media and saw it was pretty much the same. 

I'm not saying that sharing interests with others is bad. I believe just the opposite. I do believe that if you don't allow yourself some latitude, you just might find you are bored and lonely and not have anything interesting to do or say. 

It's been the worst-kept secret of this column that I am a gun owner. I have many friends who are not. I have friends who are absolutely disgusted at the fact that people own or even carry guns. For the record, I do both. My wife and I were invited to the home of another couple who asked that I not carry a gun when we visited. A percentage of my friends told me to tell them to take a long walk off a short pier and never visit their house ever. Well, I have known one of them for over 35 years and I value their friendship more than getting into a fight about whether my .357 Magnum is welcome at their dinner table. I left it in the car and had a nice dinner. 

My point is, I am seeing, in a time where acceptance and inclusion are being stressed ad nauseum, more of a divide than I have ever seen. People are sectioning themselves into little groups of common interest and excluding those who don't share those interests. When someone in the little group shows an interest in something outside of the group, they are called out on it. 

I remember this going on in grade school and didn't really expect to see it from adults, But here it is. 

I think I'm just gonna build a fort and hide in it and not let anyone in. Well, maybe you. You're different and I like that.

Joe Weaver, a native of Baltimore, is a husband, father, pawnbroker and gun collector. From his home in New Bern, he writes on the lighter side of family life.