Introducing the ERQ

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There are times I just have to walk away from Facebook. Last night was one of those times.

I mostly like Facebook, really. Yes, I know that I’m the commodity as far as they’re concerned, but it’s become an important point of social contact. People find each other on Facebook and get to stay peripherally part of each other’s lives when they would naturally have drifted apart and never heard from each other again in a pre-internet era. You can decide if that’s a bad thing or not. Overall, I like it.

The problem I usually have with Facebook (when I have a problem with Facebook), as all the crackpot, idiotic, stupid bullshit people not only believe in the privacy of their own skulls, but now can post for other people to believe or plaster all over other people’s news feeds in an effort to make them believe it.

My current profile picture on FB is this:

Demand evidence and think critically

That probably tells you something about me. What it should tell you is that I believe everyone has a brain of some sort and should use it to the best of their ability. People should think for themselves and not just believe what they’re told. Demand evidence. Think critically. These are two very important things.

But most people don’t do either. I’m sorry. Don’t be offended, but in my experience, it’s true. Conduct your own experiment.

And start it this way: go through your Facebook news feed and see how many ridiculous things people in your friends list have posted in the past 24 hours.

Ignore the jokes and memes and “what I had for lunch” status updates and pictures of cats. Well, go ahead and look at the cats. They’re pretty cute, mostly.  Even Grumpy Cat.

Instead, tally posts that spout conspiracy theories, new age pronouncements, natural remedies completely unsupported by any science or evidence, urban legends, virtual chain letters, and hoaxes that have been floating around long enough that they’re obviously hoaxes. Depending on your religious persuasion, you may or may not leave out the religious pronouncements, if you like, unless they fall under some other category. I include them.

Sorry. I realize I’m asking you to do a little work here, having a look at your entire feed, comments included, for a 24 hour period, but it’s a worthwhile experiment. Trust me.

Count comments friends of friends have made on your friends’ posts. This might serve to inflate things a bit if you have a friend or two who attracts the flakier crowd, but it will give you a better representation of what you’re seeing. You’ll need to open up the comments list on posts with more than a couple.

Don’t count things on pages you’ve subscribed to. Most people don’t read more than a couple of those on the posts they really love and none at all on the rest unless Facebook draws their attention to them.

Got your number yet? Okay, now divide this number by the number of friends you have on Facebook. The resulting number is your current ERQ. Eye Roll Quotient.

I’ve just conducted this experiment myself, rolling my timeline back to as close to exactly twenty-four hours ago as I can. My current ERQ is 0.0892, which is actually better than I thought it would be, considering I had to step away from the Internet. Then I think about the handful of people I’ve hidden because I’ve gotten tired of the conspiracy theories, new age and/or religious pronouncements, natural remedies completely unsupported by any science or evidence, urban legends, virtual chain letters, and hoaxes that have been floating around long enough that they’re obviously hoaxes.

So, 0.0892. Sounds like a nice small number, right? What it means is that out of every hundred (non-page) posts in my news feed, Nine of them have at least a comment attached by someone who hasn’t demanded evidence or taken the time to think about what they’re about to post/comment.

Lower is better. It should, for most people, be a small fraction. If it’s a big fraction, and especially if it’s more than 1, you’re probably in trouble. Or maybe should look around a bit and figure out what universe you’re in.

Be well, everyone.

Also keep your eyes and minds open.

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Lance Schonberg is an eclectic genre fiction author with more than two dozen stories published or on the way. 2019 is the year he dives into independent publishing, starting with "Thorvald's Wyrd", "Skip To My Luu", and "Turn the World Around". And he needs a more exciting short bio.

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