In my earliest interaction with Facebook in 2007, one of the first things I discovered were dozens of sites devoted to hating old people.
Back then, Crabby Old Lady noted a few examples of the hate speech she found:
sometimes i see old people in wheelchairs and i have a strong urge to push them down the stairs.
Old People Make Me Want To Puke
I like to beat the living crap out of old people
Let us unite and join for a common cause, abolish social security and legalize euthanasia.
Nothing has changed in the intervening eight years. Well-known and respected aging researcher, Professor Becca Levy of Yale University, with colleagues from three other colleges have published the first ever study of age stereotypes that appear on social networking sites – in this case, Facebook.
Here is an excerpt from the abstract of their report published by Oxford University Press (full report is behind a paid firewall):
”…we conducted a content analysis of each publicly accessible Facebook group that concentrated on older individuals. The site ‘Descriptions’ of the 84 groups, with a total of 25,489 members, were analyzed.
“The mean age category of the group creators was 20–29; all were younger than 60 years. Consistent with our hypothesis, the Descriptions of all but one of these groups focused on negative age stereotypes.
“Among these Descriptions, 74% excoriated older individuals, 27% infantilized them, and 37% advocated banning them from public activities, such as shopping. Facebook has the potential to break down barriers between generations; in practice, it may have erected new ones.”
No kidding. One charming little piece of ugly bigotry said anyone older that 69 should face a firing squad. Another, quoted in the Vancouver Sun, agreed:
”You haven’t got much going for you, so my advice is…take the bullet and enjoy your grave.”
I want us to consider what kind of media and advocacy storm would erupt of those statements were directed at blacks, Latinos, Asians, women, etc.
In its policies, Facebook forbids hate speech directed at race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability and disease. Do you see anything missing from that list?
Huffington Post quoted a Facebook spokesperson responding to questions about the age-related hate speech on the social networking site:
”A Facebook spokesman said the company had not yet seen the research, but noted that as of February 2012, one-third (34 percent) of Internet users age 65 and older use social networking sites such as Facebook, and 18 percent do so on a typical day.
“The spokesman directed Huffington Post to a University of Arizona study that found using Facebook could improve the memory of people 65 and older as well as help them feel more socially connected.
Uh-huh. Does that mean Facebook thinks hate speech is good for old people?
Facebook spokesperson, Andrew Noyes, was just as oblivious when the Denver Post asked for comment saying that “statements of hate” are removed when they are reported and they violate the Facebook Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.
“We welcome meaningful research on how people connect and share on Facebook,” he continued, “but believe this study paints an incomplete picture of how more than a billion people use the platform.”
Apparently that means Facebook finds it acceptable for 25,000 of their billion members to spout hate-filled diatribes against one certain cohort of people but not those others listed in their policies. Researcher Levy reports that all the ageist Facebook sites they studied were open to the public and easily turned up in searches using common words related to age.
Canadian artist Marja-Leena Rathje emailed me the Vancouver Sun story about the Yale Facebook study. That paper reports:
”Canada’s International Federation on Aging is petitioning Facebook to ban age-related hate speech after a recent Yale University study found seniors were targets of bigotry on the social networking site…
“Jane Barratt, secretary-general of the IFA, said it’s unacceptable that Facebook doesn’t protect seniors from such attacks in its Community Standards on hate speech…”
Hate speech is awful enough when it is aimed at any group at all. But when one group is singled out as an exception to prohibition against hate speech – and, in this case, corporate spokespersons support the exception – the corporation becomes the definition of bigotry.
Again, let me ask about the media storm there would be if, instead of old people exempt from Facebook’s hate-speech standards, it were women, gays, people with brown skin and so on.
Originally published at www.TimeGoesBy.net All Rights Reserved.
I’m on Facebook several times daily and have been for several years. I haven’t experienced anything like this anywhere.
We can banter about how this can be happening, what our responses are and other ‘armchair’ warrior retorts. Bottomline, if we deem ourselves advocates then let’s ADVOCATE. Respond to these posts, be bold in representing the aging experience, speak out. As noted in a comment below, “Take the opportunity to educate, and while you’re at it: a healthy slant toward enlightening others about the value of elders would be a great place to start…” Each day, every day. Those ‘of age’ need to rally as well.
Judy K says
Frankly, I am just digesting this…and find myself somewhat shocked!!
Facebook clearly needs to respond.
Cindy Laverty says
Sadly Facebook has become a place filled with hate speech. For some odd reason people feel totally comfortable hiding behind their picture or screen name and posting whatever enters their brain in the moment. We live in a society that tells us that if you are not thin, unwrinkled, or near perfect, then you need not participate in society. It’s disgraceful and frankly, I find it frightening that these social media trends are not only tolerated, but accepted and even encouraged.
Robert Albert says
I DO NOT condone hating anything for any reason, but the word ‘hate’ is hyperbole when taken in/out of context. In this case, a (formerly) very young cohort communicating with one another using a space hidden from the rest of the world for many years. To now say that there is political incorrectness in the speech/words/absolute silliness is just fine and dandy, but don’t complain about it… write back to the owner of the ‘hate,’ pages, not here… Your just talking amongst yourselves here, not the purveyors of what you perceive to be a problem. What you infer may not be exactly what was meant at the time, at one point is was ALL just a big joke. If it’s time for a change, so be it… but next week it’ll be time for another change. And so on. You already know though don’t you? 🙂
Facebook is what ‘we’ made of it, but it was started exclusively by and for college students. “Groups” don’t even exist on FB anymore that I know of, but there used to be groups for everything. I do remember ‘I Hate…” groups and groups for hundreds of other things, elders were not specifically targeted, they were just part of the fray. Ex. of groups from pages I saved for years include: “I hate hate groups”, “F#$% You, I went to public school b!t@$,” “Sport#$%ing is my favorite activity,” “I hate crusty ketchup,” “I made it out of Corpus Christi without getting pregnant and am proud of it.” Again, I saved a few of these pages that many (of your) kids posted because I found them shocking, but entertaining and enlightening none-the-less. As a childless non-traditional full-time student at the time (35 years old) FB offered me some insight into the youth I went to University with, into the insanity that was that day’s youth spewing forth everything they had to offer online. THERE WERE NO RULES! Mommy and Daddy didn’t have access to this diary/on-line blog/look at me, look look look at me site.
The average age of FB users has probably skyrocketed since it’s inception and formerly exclusive use by college students. When first joined in February of 2005 there were so many diverse groups of a nature and that has changed drastically since the parents, and grandparents and every relative… of all those students can now look over their shoulders. I’ve even heard that many parents of kids that first used FB are now ‘upset,’ that THEIR parents are now using FB too. For real. Anyhow, the whole world wasn’t a part of the FB college ecosystem for many years. Now that you’re all here, I’d like to say we may have acted foolishly in the past, but that’s how we do, eh.
“Well-known and respected aging researcher, Professor Becca Levy of Yale University, with colleagues from three other colleges have published the first ever study of age stereotypes that appear on social networking sites – in this case, Facebook.” Really? I may not take the time to do so, but I’d like to know just how this research took into account the ever changing nature of FB, which includes phasing things out, like FB Groups in favor of ‘Likes,’ de facto groups. Besides that, how many “hate groups,” are there anyway? What percentage of these groups are aimed solely at seniors? Is there a corresponding percentage of groups that ‘hate’ things stereotypically done by youths?
Dr. Bill once mentioned something along the lines of the “atomization,” of either information sharing or social networking… I can’t remember exactly (I went back a few days later to try and find that specific post/word, but never could! The website had so many new entries I could not find that specific one.) Atomization? You bet! The prolific nature of the drivel (such as my response to this insightful post) that appears on the internet is just one aspect of the nature of this beast that is sharing what’s on your mind at the time. In real time. Warts and all. Get over it or go outside and play like you should have been doing in the first place. It’s springtime outside if you hadn’t noticed already.
Hate? No. Bad. Wrong. Does it still happen? Yes. Too bad so sad. Take the opportunity to educate, and while you’re at it: a healthy slant toward enlightening others about the value of elders would be a great place to start… for reasons obvious to regular readers of this blog.
That or find some seniors and ask them where all the “I hate snotty little s#!t$ like your kid because…” It is verbal abuse which is dangerous, but a good inflection of humor added in keeps FB fresh and exciting. It’s far from perfect, but I don’t think a perfect medium for banter exists outside of convivium, and I don’t think we are ALL going to get together for that anytime soon. Until then…