Salsa, sickness & FB

John Taylor: January 30, 20130 Comments

Had just about reached a vacation rental in Cambria when the cell phone rang. The news: a relative had been stricken critically ill. The caller had learned the news via a Facebook posting.  The dark tidings sent our heads and our next days spinning. Now, a tad more composed, the question I posed myself as a regular user of Facebook and Twitter: Did it matter that Facebook was the medium for conveying a grave message?

We’re not “friends” with the person who posted the message. But we still got the message and confirmed its authenticity with a real person.

To be sure, there’s a generational thing at work here. Three friends can be sitting at the same Starbucks table each of them texting the other, none speaking a word. Social media can be emotional accelerants or neutralizers.

During my years as a newspaper reporter, any interview that wasn’t face-to-face spelled trouble – you miss body language nuances and not knowing who else might be in the room. Those are some instinctive “lie detector” tools. But interviews done by email were the worst.  Computer programs can be designed to write replies. Some college grads should be thankful they got their diplomas before the advent of plagiarism detection computer programs.

Back to the FB posting. Telling the world, including evil-doers/mischief-makers, where you are, what you’re doing and if you’re under the weather – is your choice. But when it involves someone else, not so much. It’s not the same as wanting advice on fixing a toilet, extolling the best Ethiopian food in town or saying “wow” to a “Downton Abbey” episode. There is an element of appropriateness to consider.

Somehow it reminds me of an old comic skit from when very important news sometimes came to your front door in the form of someone in a uniform delivering a charged-by-the-word telegram.

Homeowner:  A telegram? Oh, I’ve always wanted a singing telegram.
Messenger:  Ma’am, this isn’t a singing telegram.
Homeowner:  Oh, please, just for me, would you sing it?
Messenger:  Um, well, OK. “Your sister Rose is dead.”
 

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