When the indomitable comedian Betty White (now 97) hosted Saturday Night Live nine years ago, she acknowledged the power of social media in thrusting her onto the iconic show. 

“I have so many people to thank for being here,” she began her monologue, “but I really have to thank Facebook. When I first heard about the campaign to host Saturday Night Live, I didn’t know what Facebook was.” 

Then came the inevitable zinger…  “And now that I do know what it is, I have to say it sounds like a huge waste of time.” 

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That was followed by another zinger… “I would never say that people on it are losers, but that’s only because I’m polite.”

(Thanks to media consultant Mike Blinder for mentioning Betty White at a recent seminar on local marketing that he presented to local businesses for Halston Media.)

You can label me a two-time loser of late on Facebook. I’ve been called out twice in the past few weeks: once by the deputized Facebook police, and once by an ad hoc group of Facebook vigilantes. 

CAN THE SPAM 

After making what I thought was an innocuous, if self-serving (on Facebook?! OMG!), comment, under a blog link by a book author for whom I’m a ghostwriter, I received this message: “Your comment goes against our Community Standards on spam. No one else can see your comment… to prevent things like false advertising, fraud and security breaches.” 
The minimal information I included in my comment was a chapter number and page number from the blogger’s book, Fisch Tales: The Making of a Millennial Baby Boomer, by Bob Fisch, plus a link to his website (millennialbabyboomer.com). 

What I apparently failed to do was phrase it as a comment. It looked to Facebook’s bots, I presume, like an ad for something irrelevant to the original post, which is pretty much the definition of social media spam. So I re-phrased it and the new comment was not Face lifted, but remained intact.

PUNCHED IN THE FACEBOOK

The Facebook vigilantes (or trolls, if you’re a fairtyale fan) reprimanded me in no uncertain terms when I whined on the Facebook page of a fast-casual restaurant about the painfully slow service at the location I had just patronized (I was there more than 30 minutes for a take-out order). 

My transgression was two-fold, said the Troll Patrol, according to its Draconian standards and practices for dealing with disgruntled customers: 1) My discontent was made public instead of confined to a private message visible only to the restaurant; 2) The photo I posted, showing a lengthy line at the order counter, invaded the customers’ privacy (despite their being unrecognizable in the photo, taken from a distance).

One of the Facebook vigilantes went so far as to brand me a “horrible person.” And that was a friend of mine. Just kidding, but they’re not just kidding. Clearly, these folks have a zero-tolerance policy for restaurant reprobates like yours truly. I imagine their rallying cry must be, “Let him eat cake!”

After removing my hairshirt and tending to my wounds, I had an epiphany! I replied to my inquisitors that their ringing me up (with relish) made me realize the bell tolled for me. 

SHAME ON ME FOR SHAMING THEM

I vowed to think twice next time before shaming a business in full view of its Facebook followers, opting instead for a direct message. Ditto for posting a photo of customers whose permission I did not have. I could see their point, sort of.
It’s not surprising that Facebook is a popular place to post complaints about whatever displeases you. 

As Mr. Blinder pointed out, the average Facebook user is 47-years-old. I’m comfortably past that, and as the years pile up, it becomes easier to grow impatient and to vent at the slightest provocation. Not unlike 4-7-year-olds. 
So the next time you’re tempted to get in somebody’s face on Facebook, take a deep breath and consider whether the psychic reward is worth the risk of wrangling with the Troll Patrol. 

POSTSCRIPT 

I did not return to the scene of my Facebook crime—on that restaurant page—to check out what the Troll Patrol might have to say about my mea culpa after they chaperoned me to the woodshed. 
No doubt at least one skeptic among them suspected that, in my offering an olive branch, I was being a tad too precious, if not disingenuous. 

They may be right about that too. 

Bruce “The Blog” Apar is a writer, publicist, actor, and civic volunteer. He is sole proprietor of regional marketing agency APAR PR. He is the ghostwriter for new ForbesBooks title, “Fisch Tales: The Making of a Millennial Baby Boomer,” by Bob Fisch, now available at Amazon, WalMart, Barnes & Noble, Target, and other online bookstores. Follow him as Bruce The Blog on social media. Reach him at bruce@aparpr.co or (914) 275-6887.