Reporting on pedestrian life in the D.C. area

What Facebook groups and pages tell us about our transportation curiosities

November 14, 2011 - 08:45 AM
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(Photo: Facebook)

Facebook is retiring its traditional "groups" feature soon and will begin archiving old groups and moving them into a new format before long. No surprise there, really. The world's biggest social network always changes its appearance and features. But I recall the existence of groups, in more or less their present form, since the site's inception. There's really nothing complicated about the concept — any user can found a group devoted to any shared belief or thought and others can join and talk on the group's collective wall.

So as I learned of this coming change, I asked myself just what we can learn about transportation and our collective curiosities by examining the world of Facebook groups and pages? From an entirely unscientific glance through the site, here's what I've learned:

Bus drivers fascinate the commuters who rely on them

Not only is rider-driver etiquette frequently the focal point of Facebook groups but people love to dissect the behavior of their drivers. Case in point: "The sexual tension between bus drivers as they pass eachother[sic]" page has more than 62,000 fans. I also noticed a page with the title "The fierce eye sex between the bus drivers as they drive past eachother," although that one had far fewer advocates.

Yet another group notes how happy bus drivers get when they ride past one another and several, by my count, "That little wave bus drivers do when they drive past eachother[sic]." One group highlights a singing bus driver.

Other groups focus on both frustration and gratitude toward bus drivers. Countless people on Facebook apparently are proud of the fact that they thank their bus drivers. Others blast mean drivers as well as the bane of all banes — slow drivers. But bus drivers were only one among many groups discussed and lessons learned as I glanced through the sloppy social reflection that was our Facebook world.

Don't trust anyone on the road

Why? Here's some groups and pages out there:

"Drinking and driving is relaxing," "Driving past cyclists and shouting real men ride women" (that one with 60,000 fans!), "Police call it 'reckless driving', we call it 'skills,'" "Driving like a normal person on Grand Theft Auto" (more than 300,000 members), "There would be less drunk driving in the world if McDonalds delivered," "Putting the cell phone in your crotch while driving," "yelling sexual and outrageous things at people while driving by," "Wanking while driving."

Many people seem to neither like nor respect taxi drivers

While the consensus seemed to acknowledge bus drivers as friendly community members worth caring about, the Facebook community turned on taxi drivers and effectively Other-ized them in their often offensive groups. I had new-found respect and sympathy for people driving taxis when glancing through these Facebook affiliations.

These were sentiments that popped up when I glanced: "The Awkward moment when your Taxi Driver is a faster runner than you," "Talking Shit to a taxi driver while drunk," "Going to India and becoming a taxi driver just to see how they like it." All of these had tens of thousands of fans.

Yes, of course everyone loves singing in the car

48,000 likes for "I don't care if I look like an idiot singing in my car, I love this song!" Tens of thousands of others belong to similar groups including "Singing in the Car" and "Singing in My Car." I get the instinct, you get it, we all get it. And as various groups acknowledge, we're also well aware of the awkward looks we can get from other drivers on the road in the midst of our epic solos.

Three Metro riders continue to have faith in the Red Line 

"Even though metro is going through alotta stuff, I STILL RIDE THE RED LINE," declares one page with three likes. Encouraging!

Perhaps this people are the same ones who are, as another page trumpets, "Using a defective SmartTrip [sic] to ride the metro for free."

Drivers like messing with pedestrians

Again, no real surprise here, but Facebook interest after Facebook interest reflected the vehicle owners' desire to piss off the walkers among us. Walking is so inherently innocent an activity, and sinister desires take over when people spot an unsuspecting, helpless person in the midst of a good stroll. 

I'll start with perhaps the worst one: "Urinating in balloons and throwing them at unsuspecting pedestrians."

Many others expressed the driver desire to "scream" and "shout" at pedestrians. They denied that pedestrians had the right to walk in front of their cars. One alarming title: "Beating the shit out of pedestrians." "Pedestrians is another word for speedbump," one group declares. Nearly a thousand people can get on board with, "Drivers who splash pedestrians when there's puddles on the road." One person founded a group with the specific goal: "Yelling 'i see you baby!!' out of the window at random pedestrians.((:" Another describes the need to kill pedestrians as "obsessive compulsive."

As with many things, the Internet brings out our most delightfully sinister and curious instincts. Facebook confirmed exactly what you'd imagine, in all its glory and horror.

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