So the principal social-media-site-turned-cesspool went offline for a few hours 10-4-2021, inconveniencing people who rely on it for everything from communication to, well, things that surprised me, owing to the number of subsidiary “apps” Zuck’s little social experiment controls.
My personal Facebook feed has, over the years, turned from a handy access point to all the clever and thoughtful things my friends write and say (not to mention my favorite hobby, lake freighter chasing) to a sludge-flow of ads, memes, “suggestions” for things and people I might find interesting (I generally don’t) — and even the things my friends and I post have changed. Posts are shorter, terser and … a little less inclined to concede the other side might have a point.
One might want to blame Facebook’s clicks-at-any-cost algorithm, as detailed by the ex-employee blowing her whistle up on Capitol Hill; one might want to blame the agonized “debate” over COVID vaccines; one might want to blame one Donald John Trump Sr. — but really, this predates all of them.
Before there was even a Facebook (or at least, before it impinged on my awareness and I signed up), I was dealing with the proclivity of people to be far, far braver from behind a keyboard than they ever would be face-to-face.
People on my former newspaper’s online comment sections felt free respond to my cartoons (or anything else in the paper) with remarks about my editor’s intelligence, masculinity and/or ancestry; my weight; the fact that I was not “from here” — anything. It got to the point that learning many of the comments were coming from a co-worker who’d spoof other employees’ log-ins didn’t even faze me.
And years before that, I’d deal with online comments on a cartoonists’ forum from one cartoonist in particular who lived in the land of kangaroos and prawns on the barbie and, online at least, was, shall we say, a bit of a prick.
“Don’t take him wrong,” his friends would assure me and others. “He’s not at all like that in person. Nice guy, really.”
“What I’m hearing,” I would reply, “Is that he’s a lot braver from behind a keyboard and with the bulk of the planet between me and him. No thanks.”
When I had the opportunity to meet him in person and shake his hand, I found something else to do.
It continues to this day.
I had the opportunity to meet a couple of my online gadflies when I was still employed at the paper; predictably, the fire-breathing online critics were cringing sycophants in person.
Two of my longtime friendships have ended, another will probably never be the same — because the people in question either got brave online or allowed their online personae to percolate into their face-to-face personae. I’m finding it difficult to count these as losses.
Mostly, I stick to cartoons, freighter photos and pictures of the family and the cat.
I miss my old social media, but it’s not coming back.