Eons ago, when Facebook had only just begun its rapid decline into rabid division, I enjoyed with one afternoon’s lunch a particularly delightful piece of bread. The flavor was developed and balanced, the crust crackly and golden, and the inside open and exquisitely chewy. It was the chewiness that got me that day, the shining goal I longed to master in my own baking but which had so far eluded me, teasing me from artisanal loafs, harboring technical secrets that I had yet to earn through trial and time. What I did know, was that the chewiness I loved and longed for was the result of gluten which, outside of the baking world, is often viewed as a bad word.
I tapped out a short love note to gluten and shared it to my Facebook page. It was nothing more than, “Dear Gluten, I’m sorry you’ve been so terribly slandered by current trends and received so much hate from society. I still love you.” I thought this was pretty innocuous; silly, but certainly not incendiary.
Shortly after sharing, my phone pinged with a notification that I had a comment. What’s the word for someone who isn’t quite a friend, but whom you know a little bit more than as an acquaintance? Surely there’s a word for that. I don’t know what it is. Whatever you call that person, that’s who had commented on my gluten love letter. We had gone to school together and had several friends in common and so being “friends” on Facebook was fine, but I’m not sure we’d ever had a conversation one-on-one, in person or online. I certainly didn’t know details of her health history, but she made it abundantly clear that she was deeply offended that I should defend something as terrible as the ubiquitous wave of redundant “gluten-free!” labels because some people (she was the some people) become violently ill from even the minutest traces of the stuff and they certainly didn’t choose to have such a troublesome autoimmune disorder.
Before I could respond that wasn’t at all what I was talking about, someone else jumped to my defense, and it became a rather hairy meatball, and all because I had practiced a little mindful eating (before I knew that was a thing) during my lunch and shared the joy it brought me.
In case it isn’t clear, I obviously never meant that gluten-free products are unnecessary garbage. I know there are people with real and serious health conditions, in varying degrees of severity, that make them unable to digest this particular protein, and I’m glad there are options that allow them to avoid it. I was referring to the crazed fad of people claiming that they had a (completely unfounded and unsupported) gluten “sensitivity” that led to countless bullshit articles about the detriments of gluten for everybody and so many food manufacturers sinking their claws into the buzzwords “gluten free!” to put stickers on items that would never contain a protein found only in grains, primarily wheat, such as fresh oranges or canned tomatoes or raw steak.
The biggest lesson I learned that day, though, is that some people will see any opinion shared on the internet as a direct and personal attack, and these people may not always be the people you expect them to be.
I have a very strong opinion that I consider airing on Facebook every autumn, but I never do precisely because I’m
a chicken sure it will garner responses much like the gluten post, and probably more so. But this is my own blog, so I’m finally going to write it here (and then I’ll share this to Facebook, which kind of defeats that protective measure, but whatever).
Here’s the problem: deer season.
For those of you in more urban environments or outside of the U.S., I’ll explain: every autumn, particularly in November, Missouri (and I think other portions of the U.S. but I don’t know the details), open the hunting season for whitetail deer. I am not a hunter, but I apparently have many, many friends and family who are. I find the general idea off-putting and more than a little nauseating BUT I understand that a controlled harvest is in the best interest of the deer population as a whole and, by extension, the entire ecosystem. Left unchecked, the population is prone to significant disease, starvation, and an even higher likelihood of charging into traffic to generally fuck things up for everyone involved. I also know that my friends and family who hunt eat the meat they harvest.
I understand and appreciate the conservation of the practice even though it’s something I desperately want to never, ever have any involvement with.
That being said, please stop sharing pictures of your dead animals!
Facebook is anxiety-inducing enough. I’ve worked really hard over the years to fine-tune my feed so that it’s mostly pet videos and actual life updates from humans I know in person and whom I trust not to go on hateful, prejudiced rants. But without fail, year after year, every November starts with, “This is our happy family in matching flannel at the pumpkin patch!” and makes a horrifying lurch to brandishing the carcass of a once-majestic animal.
I know you hunters are proud of what you’ve done and you probably feel powerful for besting such a large creature. I know you’re helping keep various diseases at bay throughout the deer population and you feel fulfilled by knowing you’re helping feed your family for the next few months. But I don’t want to see it. I’ve taken some pretty impressive shits that left me feeling accomplished, powerful, and proud, but I didn’t snap and share a photo because I know not everyone wants to see that.
I grew up fishing with my family. I’m well acquainted with Bass Pro Shops. I fondly remember my dad reading Patrick F. McManus stories aloud on roadtrips to pass the time. I get that hunting is necessary and I don’t think less of anyone hunting for food purposes (trophy hunting is a different matter, but that’s not what we’re discussing today). I don’t hunt, but I fish, and I understand wanting share the excitement of “getting a big one,” but there must be a better method than surprising your unsuspecting friends with pictures of dead animals. Even in a few other animal-oriented groups I follow, there are guidelines about sharing pictures that may have dead animals, either prohibiting them altogether or, if strictly necessary for identification purposes, shared in a comment rather than in the main post.
It’s no secret Facebook community standards are a bit “loosey-goosey,” but I’m pretty sure there’s a general rule about trying to limit gory and violent images. That’s why you sometimes see a blurred image with a warning that content may be graphic and you have to specifically click to see the actual picture. Why can’t Facebook do that with the deer pictures? Sure, most of them aren’t bloody, but some of them are, and if you thought I felt strongly about seeing your preteen posing with a carcass, you can imagine how I feel about pictures where they’ve already started skinning the deer.
I don’t know if my complaint is directed more to the people sharing the pictures or Facebook programmers. I guess maybe both. Technology has come far enough that the Facebook algorithms should be able to figure out a) when a picture has a deer in it (especially since it’s almost always accompanied by a caption that says “Got my deer this weekend!”), and b) that I never want to see this.
I’ve tried, in the past, just fasting from Facebook during the month of November when this happens, but Facebook is just smart enough to realize I’ve been gone and thinks it will helpfully catch me up on what I missed, presenting me with an mountainous backlog of month-old dead deer pictures upon my return.
I’ve also experimented with the snooze posts feature, where, as soon as I see a friend has shared a dead deer, I snooze their posts for 30 days. This isn’t great, though, because I do generally want to see everything else my friends are posting. I like seeing life updates, pictures of that fancy anniversary dinner, and the cool clouds they saw on their morning commute. It’s also not ideal because most of my friends are only going to post one, maybe two deer pictures per season, and snoozing their posts when the offending one has already appeared is too little, too late.
So help me out: are there other steps I should take to avoid seeing dead animals in my social media feeds? Do you suffer this every year as well? Will you reconsider sharing pictures of animals you’ve hunted? If you feel similarly (or at least understand where I’m coming from), will you pass this along so we can get Facebook to do something helpful with its algorithm for once? Let me know what you think in the comments! Thanks for reading!