Social networking has taken off like wildfire.

Welcome to the age of online partying. Take your pick of venues, chock-full of possible buddies and bedmates.   far cry from dad’s poker game and mom’s book club…  these gigs have lots of flash, no cover charge, and are always open. Pen Pals Gone Wild. Email on Steroids.

The current Hostess-with-the-Mostess is Facebook. It’s been well-populated, oft-litigated, and hacker-confiscated. It continues to pick up steam, bridging countries and cultures. The most recent addition to it’s impressive resume: successfully spearheading a campaign to get Betty White (who was already a grandmother when freshman Bill Gates started tinkering with computer circuits), to host Saturday Night Live. Pretty powerful stuff.

On the surface, Facebook is a brilliant concept―connecting long-lost relatives, associates, classmates, and lovers, while fostering friendships between total strangers that otherwise never would have existed.

But it’s not all virtual hugs and fortune cookies. I’ve seen the darker side of social networking. Beneath the pictorial, post-driven atmosphere lurks a potential hotbed of disaster. It’s downfall is it’s upside―the ability to say anything to anyone who has granted you passage to their page.

Without body language or verbal intonation, facial expression or eye contact, almost anything can be extrapolated from your text. Which makes it ripe for misinterpretation. Your words are isolated, your meaning meaningless. A vacuum, where no one can hear you scream or see you cringe. Your intended joke unintentionally comes across as mean and vindictive. Your light-hearted banter suddenly wreaks of jealousy and spite. And this can fester for weeks, even months, unbeknownst to the poster or postee. Before you even have a clue, your ‘Friend’ is ready to rip you a new one. You pop on one day geared up for Smilies and Stickers, and see that you’ve been….  *dut, dut, dut* <cue the dramatic music> — DEfriended. Or worse, had your reputation smeared like a kid playing in finger paints.

I’ve seen both of these scenarios play out.

1) The Public Smackdown. Verbal shrapnel shooting in all directions. Not only are you wounded, but you’ve got a full audience staring at your bruised and battered ego.

2)   Silent but Deadly. The Great Wall of China goes up, blocking you from ever visiting again. Not only are you cut off, but you don’t know why and may be unable to reach that person to attempt reconciliation.

Sidebar:  I personally think instead of defriending, they should have a ‘Frenemies’ category. People you love to hate. Or hate to love. Or used to love. Hell, why not make things crystal clear, and create publicly-visible categorizations: Friends; Best Friends; Friends I Call My Best Friends But We Both Know We’re Not; People I Don’t Know But Felt Bad About Not Friending; Cling-Ons (or Klingons, if you’re a Trekkie); Family I Truly Love; Family I’m Stuck With; Classmates I’m So Happy To Have Found; Classmates Who Found Me Even Though I Tried to Hide From Them; Stuck-up Bitches, Sac-less Bastards, Complete Assholes…  Hold on, I have a phone call.

“Hello?…  No, I was just trying to illustrate a point.  Ok, I understand”.

That was Hallmark — I didn’t get the job. My point being, at least it would be glaringly obvious where you stand.

Often what started as a two-person interchange becomes fodder for the masses. Thus starts the side-taking and team-bashing that always makes things ten times worse. It’s no longer just about what X or Y said, but whether YOU think X or Y is the douchebag. What used to be fun and frivolous becomes a source of sadness and contention.

Why, Facebook, why?  Can’t we all just get along? Maybe they could add another emoticon in the vein of the thumbs-up ‘Like’. I suggest a question mark, which would signify: “WTF”, or more politically-correct: “I’m not sure quite how to take this, please clarify”. So much misery could be avoided if messages were perceived as intended. Better yet, let’s grab the reigns. Don’t let FB be our administrative assistant or mailman, removing ourselves from the equation once the message has been delivered. Don’t make it our sole source of communication. Make sure our intended knows through some other platform how we really feel, and vice versa, so neither of us has to worry or wonder. You can’t make a mountain out of a molehill if you don’t let the dirt keep piling on.

This isn’t directed at any specific individual, nor am I bashing social networking on the whole. This is merely a cautionary tale. Facebook has many levels of enjoyment, and I’ve eagerly partaken. It takes time, thought, and energy to sustain/build a close bond, yet only a few moments or words to damage/destroy it. We need to assume the best, and make no verdicts until the defendant’s been subpoenaed and the testimony’s been heard.

pink purple thin line

Poke, Peek, Post, Tweet til the (Farmville) cows come home, but with your sensitivity chip safely in place. The rewards will be plenty and the risks few. As the liquor industry says….  Enjoy Responsibly!

Even an unintentional, small incident can spark a chain of events… not in the interest of peace“.
~ Abdul Sattar

Impassioned by the pen,
Platinum Pink

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  1. Donna

    Very well-said. Thank you for taking the time to write this out. I’m glad that Jill posted it, as well. Best, d.

  2. I get called on that all the time. I don’t know, I just leave a comment. I’m chastised that it’s supposed to be fun, have no value, play with it! IT is like high school, I’m not part of the cool group that can volley around senseless banter and links back and forth, again and again. I step in and somehow ruin the thread for everyone. I have to second guess how to respond to anyone lest I offend a complete stranger I never met. It’s a quagmire to say the least and I come away feeling like the big loser sitting by herself in the hs cafeteria.

    And you’re right, no one knows how you want that comment to come across, it’s like you have to include a video upload with your face saying the words so they get it. No matter how many LOLs I add.

    It’s fun to be able to connect with old friends and such but you do have to watch your mouth (words). When we were kids, we hung out, so we got to toss those jabs and insults in person and it was hysterical, we’d be LOAO. Now we’re on fb and it’s definitely not the same. There’s other people looking at your conversations and I have more than once said something someone didn’t like, a stranger no less! ha! That’s why I like twitter so much better.

    It’s the new cause for divorce now! Lawyers are gathering evidence on facebook to use against spouses in divorce cases. It’s pissing a lot of people off, seriously.

  3. Wendy

    Brilliant, as usual, my friend!! You have such a way with words! I enjoyed reading this post, and want to post it on my wall as well! Thanks for sharing this blog with me! Love you, friend! xo

  4. Lillianne

    WOW. Let’s just get this out of the way – you’re brilliant and hilarious. You know I know that and sing (lalalalala) your praises oft and from the nearest mountain top.

    Everything you penned is spot-on, girl. You know I’ve been involved in one of the scenarios you so articulately described, and, hell. It sucks donkey balls. Guess what, digital age? There’s feelings behind font. What a concept.

    This is the very reason I want to incorporate the people I’ve met electronically and have grown to care for (not everyone, mind – just the *speshul* ones) into my real life. Because, as you said, emotional nuances can’t possibly be exchanged in black and white…no matter HOW fabulous a writer one is. Just not possible.

    I love your suggestion about the alternate button. LOL!

    Girl, keep these coming. This isn’t just a blog – it should be a properly published column. Holla. :)

  5. You are one of my favorite writers, and I hope these entries blossom into a book of short stories. Brilliant analysis and beautifully articulated as always. Love you girl.

  6. Theresa

    LOVE IT !!!!! Did I not just share with you this happening to me…way to funny. We need to share this blog with EVERYONE. As for myself, I am in my 40’s, not trying to hurt or offend anyone. You are so right about the non-emotion of the text or status. To those who have de-friended (especially the one who de-friended me) Lighten up….let it go……no bad vibes offered, we (I) am to old for that nonsense, let’s just get along. We can always use another friend, no one needs an enemy.
    Keep it up !!!!!!

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