Since its inception, Facebook has been a regular target of mockery and criticism—everything from, “Do I really need to see a picture of the pastrami sandwich you had for lunch?” to “Why did you help the Russians get Donald Trump elected?”
No one likes to mock and criticize more than I do—just ask all of my former friends. And while I agree that Facebook can be a legitimate target for derision (we’ll get to that in a minute), it does have a tremendous upside.
First, it freaks out millennials and Generation Z because baby boomers have embraced it. That has sent them scurrying to other social media platforms such as Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram—none of which I understand at all other than one of them gives you the ability to change a photo of you so you look like a cat.
Second, Facebook gives one the power to reconnect, which is why I think most of us baby boomers get a kick out of it. Without really trying, I stumbled across former high school classmates, former co-workers and an ex-girlfriend or two. Sometimes I get friend requests from people I was never really friends with in the first place. When these requests appear, I wonder, “Where do I know this dude from?” Oh, yeah…high school! Then I think, between kindergarten and 12th grade, we spoke maybe seven words to each other. Why in the world does he think I want to reconnect with him when we were never really connected in the first place? Request denied!
Facebook will sometimes recommend folks you might want to be friends with. Some of them are elected officials, law enforcement personnel and, sometimes, co-workers. And I think, hell no! The last thing I want is these people (some of whom I have to write about) see my misanthropic Facebook ramblings and the videos I post of baby goats wearing pajamas. (Not a joke—really did that.)
Two of my Facebook friends are old high school buddies who share with me a love of great rock ‘n’ roll music. We had a fun chat going on the other day about what our favorite Nektar album was. Don’t know who Nektar was? Well, that’s why you can’t be in our group!
Anyway, we decided we should all go to a show together sometime at Daryl’s House in Pawling—our mutual hometown—for a mini-reunion. (For those of you just coming out from under your rock, Daryl’s House is a restaurant/music venue owned by rock ‘n’ roll icon Daryl Hall of Hall & Oates). So, I searched the club’s website and discovered Graham Parker was coming to perform a solo acoustic show. Don’t know who Graham Parker is? That’s why you can’t be in our group!
So, I tossed the idea out to my Facebook compadres and they were all on board with the idea. Tickets were purchased; plans were made. On the night of the show, we all met at a favorite local watering hole in the village of Pawling. It was a delight and a shock to see my buddies once again after all these years. They looked different. They looked…old! All I could think was, thank God that hasn’t happened to me!
So, off we went to Daryl’s House, reminisced, ate some great food and listened to some very cool music. It was a night to remember.
That is what Facebook is good for. Without it, such a night would never have happened.
One of the dark sides of Facebook (among many), however, is that it also provides a platform for the cowardly, the uninformed and the belligerent. Now, this is America, so all those people are entitled their own platform, for sure; it should just be as far away from me as possible. I do not suffer fools lightly and these folks have obviously never heard the old bon mot, “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”
We post many of our news stories and columns on our website and then link those stories to Facebook. The idea is to get Facebookers to see them, click on the link and go to our website and read the story. This makes our advertisers happy. But there’s a rub. There always is.
On Facebook, people get to comment on these stories, and while we always keep our fingers crossed for intelligent, civil discourse on the issues we write about, it is, sadly, wishful thinking.
Now, clearly some of the people who say dumb stuff are just trolls—individuals who make ridiculous, cruel and vapid comments for the sole purpose of ruffling feathers and derailing the conversation. The reason they do this is between them, their psychiatrists and their mothers.
Others are simply in love with their own hate. They marinate in their toxic vitriol and then spew it all over the internet—a modern version of, “You kids, get off my damn lawn!”
Then there are the uninformed. These are probably the most infuriating because we, as editors and reporters, live so close to these stories for weeks, and sometimes months, on end, it’s frustrating when people don’t grasp them.
Sometimes the answer is right there, if only they’d care to look. The Facebook page only shows a small part of the story—often just a headline. It might be something like, “Town Unveils New Park Plans.” Then people will comment, “Well, how much is this going to cost?!” That tells us they never read the story because if they’d just clicked the link, they might have read something like…”a $500,000 project fueled primarily by federal grant money…” And then they would have known.
Real-life example: Last week we posted a story about how the town wanted to curtail parking on the shoulder of Route 6 near Restaurant Row because it obstructs the line of sight and creates a dangerous situation for those exiting the parking lots there. Some people howled that the Town Board was restricting their rights as Americans to park anywhere they damn well please. We, apparently, have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of free parking.
But one lost soul suggested that the answer to the problem was to tear down some old bungalows that he knew about near Tompkins Mahopac Bank and build a parking garage there. I nearly choked on my morning donut.
First, we’ve kind of been writing about those bungalows ad nauseum—it’s the site of the Swan Cove passive park/parking lot project. So, thanks for the heads up, bub. Second, that patch of land is about 3 miles from Restaurant Row, so it’s not going to alleviate that conundrum, but thanks for playing. We have some lovely parting gifts.
Then there was the guy who referred to us as Mahopac News Lite. In one callous yet casual snark, he managed to insult a team of hardworking people who put in 50, 60 hours a week to get you the damn news. Our editorial staff alone has more than 50 years of collective experience. He thought he was being funny. He was actually just an ass hat.
So, I think I’m going to escape back to Daryl’s House, where the music is loud, the food is ambrosia, the beer is ice cold and no one ever...ever...gets old.