Don’t make me blow up the castle


Gary Abernathy Staff Columnist

Gary Abernathy|[email protected]

For professional purposes, I firmly believe it’s smart for businesses – including The Times-Gazette – to utilize all digital platforms, from websites to Facebook to Twitter and everything in between.

But on a personal level, my “online footprint” and participation in the digital world has intentionally been so anemic it would require a transfusion. Until now.

Little by little, I have been surrendering. A couple of years ago, I built the barest outline of a Facebook page, a requirement necessary to allow me to look at other Facebook pages, which I was only interested in because there are sometimes news leads there.

I later created a Twitter account, and since January 2014 I have sent 23 “tweets,” the most recent on June 11 when actor Christopher Lee died, a sad occasion. Some people send 23 a day.

Then, just a few weeks ago, I finally created a Linked-In page, which brought a response from the mayor of Hillsboro saying, “Congrats on jumping into this exciting new, cutting edge platform for networking and being so ahead of the curve!” I don’t think he was being sincere.

But before you knew it, I had nearly 200 “connections,” which I guess was pretty good for just a couple of weeks, but paltry compared to people I know who have been on the platform for years and have “connections” in the thousands. I have no idea what to do with these connections, but I have them.

On Facebook, as you know, you do not “connect.” You “like” or you “friend.” Since there aren’t many things I actually like, especially not enough to share what I like publicly, I struggle with Facebook more than any other platform.

There is absolutely nothing in my DNA that makes me the least bit interested in providing personal information or photographs on the Internet, or “sharing” things that other people might like. I am perfectly happy to like what I like and let you like what you like without having to like them together.

And yet, as the “Captain” told Paul Newman in “Cool Hand Luke,” I am increasingly feeling the pressure to get my mind right. So, I’m making an effort, and after feeling I have sufficiently wrestled Linked-In and Twitter into submission, I am preparing myself mentally to tackle the king of the hill and my worst nightmare, Facebook.

As of this writing, my Facebook page consists of the following: My name and my picture. My picture’s there because I literally just now added it.

But I am determined to get with the program. So now Facebook wants to know the following.

• Where do I work?

• What is my “status?”

• What is my “life event?”

• Who are my friends?

• What do I like?

It also wants me to post photos and videos.

For the couple of years that my Facebook page has existed, my only friend there was my wife, not too far off from my real life situation. Anytime I looked at the Facebook page of someone she is “friends” with, it would tell me, “You have 1 mutual friend.” One mutual friend is all I have had on Facebook for about two years.

“Friend” did not used to be a verb. It was a noun. Now, “friend” is an action. You can “friend” people, which to me sounds pretty forced. I may not like you, but darnit, I’ll make you “friend” me. Or at least I’ll ask you to “friend” me. I guess I can “unfriend” people, too, but that seems mean. There should be another option for people you put up with but don’t really like. Maybe call it “tolerate.”

Makes me feel like the poor Monster in “Bride of Frankenstein” trying to make his newly-created wife like him. “Friend?” he asks her pitifully, only to be greeted by her screams.

If only he had Facebook, where he could have sent a “friend” request and spared himself the humiliation of being rejected in person, which led to him blowing up the castle. Maybe Facebook is a good thing after all.

In fact, as much as it might appear that social media more fully connects everyone, it could just as easily be argued that it creates more distance. People interact less on a personal level even as they communicate more in the digital world.

People text or email instead of call or visit. Sometimes I am made to feel like a dinosaur because I suggest that I will pick up the phone and call someone.

“Just text them,” someone will say. No.

Email communication is just as unreliable, especially if someone is trying to avoid you. In the workplace, it is quite common to pretend that emails are an acceptable means of trying to track down an answer or some information.

“Did you hear back from George?” I might ask.

“No, and I emailed him an hour ago but he never got back to me.”

“Did you try to call him?”

“No, but I emailed him.”

This is when I feel even more like the Monster and let out a low growl. Chances are “George” is ignoring your email and will pretend later that he never saw it, because he gets so many emails, you know, or his email was down. A phone call is harder to ignore or pretend you did not receive, especially if you leave a voicemail. Showing up on someone’s doorstep is even better.

But I’m out of time and space for today, and I need to get back to updating my Facebook page, because the world must know what I like, who my friends are, and what my status is, in this virtual universe that is rapidly replacing the real world.

Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.

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