I've written about Facebook in these pages a number of times, and while I'm no expert on its use, I certainly have a few ideas about what is and is not acceptable FB behavior. First, let me back up a little. Remember when you first discovered Facebook? You were friending all kinds of people. It was sort of like CB radio in the 1970s. Breaker one-nine, would you be my buddy on Facebook, ten four, ya copy? The more I see it, the more I'm reminded of CB, however, it is CB radio with pictures and a more sophisticated form of networking. "People you might know" is a little service Facebook provides. I call it "People you would rather not know, and here's an option to keep it that way." Think about this for a minute. If you could rewind your Facebook experience, would you do things differently? Of course you would.
I remember one of my daughters getting in touch with a former college roommate when she first got on to Facebook. After a trip to a tropical climate together with their children, my daughter remembered exactly why they had "lost touch." Something about the old roommate not paying her share of the airfare and stealing my grandson's hat put it all back into perspective. Toxicity is not erased by a few years and a new Internet application. I'm sure this little horror story is minor compared to what some folks have experienced at the hands of FB and the foolish notion that people change. I know I haven't changed all that radically from when
I recall a couple of years back making a wise ass comment on the Facebook page of a friend's business. I think I regretted it the second I hit the return key. While I thought it was funny at the time, it wasn't, actually. Fortunately for me my friend forgave it. What's really important to remember when you are communicating with the written word is that you don't have the luxury of being able to read facial expressions and catch sarcasm or certain inflections in a person's delivery. Emoticons help, but they don't really convey all the little subtleties that make up communication. Folks who really know me can tell when I am joking, but recent acquaintances aren't up to speed on all the cues, so I have to watch myself. I have certain Facebook friends who had trouble communicating when they were right in front of someone, so can you imagine how easy it is to misinterpret a statement or a comment once it has been filtered and flattened by Facebook?
I read somewhere that the largest growth demographic on Facebook was people in their fifties and sixties. What that has meant for me is the opportunity to reconnect with old classmates from more than 40 years ago. Recently I was fortunate enough to be invited to a simple get together of old classmates from my Chester Elementary days, arranged on Facebook. We met at the Fullerton Inn and had a really nice time. While my fiancee and I had to leave a bit early, we really enjoyed the gathering. It triggered lots of memories, and the vast majority of those memories were good. That's when Facebook redeems itself. You are given an opportunity to see how classmates from decades ago turned out..and this small group truly turned out great.
Then there are the Facebook contacts like my daughter's aforementioned college roommate. I've had some of those and some old co-workers, and while most of them have been enjoyable contacts, there have been at least a couple of not-so-great reminders of why you didn't really care for someone. In my case it came in the form of comments on my posts that just rubbed me the wrong way.
Just like CB radio, you have the option to shut the damned thing off, and I exercised that option more than once. Now I do it on Facebook. While the occasional comment will strike a nerve, I like to think that I have grown enough in my lifetime to simply delete the crap. It's what you do socially anyway...The avoidance of toxic humans is a God given right, in my opinion. You can exercise the same option on Facebook. You have the option to delete comments or simply "unfriend" someone. Facebook doesn't have to be "In your Facebook" if you don't want it to be, and nowhere is it written that you have to tolerate idiocy. Mine included.
Arlo Mudgett's Morning Almanac has been heard over multiple radio stations in Vermont for 20 years, and can be tuned in at 92.7 WKVT FM every weekday morning at 8 a.m.