Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Recap: October 4, 2021


I am suspicious of any ideology that deals in absolutes. 

I am suspicious of any cause whose sacred principles require others to make a sacrifice. 

But we'll come back to that. 

Facebook went down without warning yesterday. 

To be honest, I was busy and didn't really notice until I started getting messages from various friends and family asking what was going on. Yes, I'm that guy. I've got a couple of degrees in CompSci and nowadays I make a living via the internet, so I'm the one in my circle people call when they're having problems with The Google. 

I looked into it, mostly by checking other social media sites, and assured them it wasn't on their end. Likely things would be back to normal in a few hours or so. 

But, it got me thinking about my dad. 

When he was young, my dad was the most active guy I knew. He was a veteran, a Navy man, restless, always going, full of energy, he had a million friends, and he was always eager to learn new things. 

But you get older. 

The horizons get closer and closer as the years go by. 

You live long enough, you start to lose people, friends, family. You lose connections. Your eyesight goes and your hearing. You hurt. Goddamn, how you hurt after a while. The world speeds up and you slow down, things change, complexity increases, it gets harder and harder to keep up until you just can't any more. You become more and more distanced from the world. 

His health went to hell. The things he used to love doing, he couldn't do any more. 

But there was the internet. 

Social media. 


Wait, what? Birds? 

Yeah, birds. 

My dad became a birder. A bird watcher. He loved birds, always had. It was something he could do.  Something he could still enjoy without reservation. He'd walk slowly downstairs every morning in his old ratty Navy sweats (later riding the chairlift the VA installed in my folk's farmhouse when he could no longer manage the steep stairs), and shuffle out to the sunroom to see who might be visiting his feeders. I think he spent more on food for those birds than he did on feeding himself. On cold Michigan mornings when he hurt too bad to do it himself, my mom would fill the feeders for him. There he'd sit in his old easy chair, watching intently. He knew them all, the various species, the colors, male and female, their songs. When he was able, he'd sit out in his woodshop and make birdhouses. He could talk about birds all day and my folks' property was often a riot of wings and color and birdsong. 

He had my old film cameras set up inside the glass. And he'd spend the day happily snapping away. He'd get the film developed and laboriously scan in the images to his computer -- why not a digital camera? Because he knew how to do film and that's what he was comfortable with and what business is it of yours? 

And then, well, then he'd spend hours sharing those pictures with other birders on social media. 

He was one of Cornell University's legion of bird watchers, carefully tracking migrations and sightings and another data points in a vast global web of science and information. In the last years of his life, it was what gave him joy. It gave his life meaning and purpose. It mattered to him. It was something he could do. Every day. He looked forward to it. 

But see, there's something I haven't told you. 

My dad was prone to depression, as a lot of older people are.

When he was cut off from those things that mattered to him, it affected him badly. When his internet connection was down or the software didn't work or he couldn't connect to the things that gave his life joy, well, it was depressing. He'd muddle on, find something else to do, but still it hurt him. 

And that's what I was thinking about yesterday when Facebook went down. 

My dad's been gone for longer than I like to think about now, my mom lives alone in the old farmhouse. She's a thousand miles away. We talk. She's got her friends, a lot fewer now than there used to be. But there's been a pandemic for two years now, social distancing, services shut down, the things people like her do to maintain their social lives have gotten a lot harder in recent years -- and it was already hard enough before.

If you live long enough, loneliness becomes a looming ghost in your life.  

And so social media, Facebook, is important to a lot of people. It's part of their lives. Just as other forms of technology are, TV, phones, electricity. 

Now, I can already hear the righteous rage, because people have been righteously screaming rage at me for going on 24 hours now. 

So, before we go any further, I suppose this is where I have to make a disclaimer: 

Facebook sucks. 

Yes, it does. 

Facebook sucks giant festering donkey balls. 

I'm not talking about Facebook the platform, though that sucks too. 

I'm talking about Facebook the monstrous, multi-tentacled, poorly managed, juggernaut of a company.  

Those who have followed me for more than a few minutes know, or should know, my opinion of Facebook. And Twitter. And massive global multibillion dollar corporations in general. 

And that opinion is not high. 

Facebook, Twitter, et al are very often churning cesspools of the very worst of humanity. 

I have said so. Many times over the years. 

I moved my content back to here because of it. 

I've written over and over about the damage these unregulated platforms are doing to our civilization, about how internet billionaires like Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg are essentially spoiled maladapted children who've been handed a loaded machinegun, and about how our enemies are demonstrably using these communications systems every day to wage information warfare on our democracy in a manner most of our leaders are ill-equipped to even comprehend let alone counter with any degree of effectiveness -- I mean, you only have to look at Senator Blumenthal on your TV right now doddering on hysterically about the "The Finsta" to see that. 


And there's always a but isn't there? 

But, the very things that make these platforms so dangerous are also the things that give meaning and joy and purpose and opportunity to many people. 

People like my dad. 

They aren't trying to destroy the world, they just want to talk to other people who enjoy looking at pictures of birds. 

And in that regard, well, Facebook is their world.

And that's what I was thinking about yesterday when Facebook went down and I said on Twitter: 

I'm literally texting with older family members right now who are suddenly isolated due to FB being down. It's hugely frightening for them to be cut off from their primary means of social interaction. 

I don't think some of you really understand what this is like for some people.

Now, please note that I did not say: Facebook is awesome! 

said that for some people who I was talking to, the sudden unexplained outage of their primary means of social interaction was terrifying, disorientating, depressing

But I didn't say: hey, Facebook is awesome and we should have more of it and please let me gargle Mark Zuckerberg's tiny hairless balls. 

What I said did not seem controversial to me. 

A day later, it still doesn't. 

I said that for many people, ordinary people who have little other means of social interaction, Facebook is important. And maybe a lot of us don't realize just how important until it goes down and they call you up worried that they did something wrong. And those people are not monsters, they just regular folks, old, confused, lonely. 

And that, predictably, did not sit well with a lot of very, very righteous people. 

There were more. Hundreds of comments more. But that's probably enough to make the point. Well, except for this one, my personal favorite:

I'm eager to watch this person spend the day talking 90-year-olds through the download, installation, and setup of Zoom software, along with the requisite video conferencing hardware, and get them all connected and chatting via some sort of coordination process that doesn't involve social media or long distance international charges and yet somehow magically functions on a global scale. 

But it's more than that. 

Do you see the assumption in that comment? Start a zoom party! Set up video conferencing! This assumes everyone can not only access the necessary technology and can afford it, but that audio and video are suitable mediums for them. I guess if you're hearing or vision impaired, you're just shit out of luck. More, it assumes everyone you socialize with is online at the same time you are. Oh, and here's a thing you might not be aware of: not everybody has the bandwidth. My mom? That farmhouse I mentioned? Rural Michigan. Farming country. No cable service. No fiber. No broadband. You can't even get copper DSL anymore because it wasn't profitable for the local phone companies. So, she accesses the internet via a cellular connection and she's lucky to get that because the cell tower in the cornfield behind her house is only a few years old -- a lot of areas near her don't even have that. So, she's got a cell connection and a limited number of bits each month. And beyond that things get very expensive very fast. Even in the local town, access is limited. Remember when Biden was talking about broadband as infrastructure? That's why. Because there's a lot of America, probably more than you care to imagine, just like this. 

Some people can't just go outside and "meet people in real life," and it takes a hell of a lot of unconscious privilege to think that's some sort of solution for everyone -- especially when you're condescendingly suggesting it on social media.

Some people can't just easily switch to other platforms. They don't know how. Or those platforms don't work for them. Or those platforms don't connect them to the world they need -- not you, not your needs, theirs. 

And then there's this idea, shouted at me over and over these last 24 hours about how people existed before the internet, before Facebook, they can do it again. Like my 90-year-old mom is going to roll outside in her walker because Facebook is down and take up skydiving or something. Oh, man, if only I hadn't been socializing on The Facebook all these years, look at what I missed! Woohoo, Imma try some rodeo next! 

And it's worse than that because for the last two years we've been telling these people to stay home, to avoid physical contact, to isolate. And now -- now -- here you are shouting for them to go outside and meet people? 

I mean, can you even hear yourselves? 

A lot of these people lived full lives. Some of them were skydivers, or racecar drivers, or scientists, teachers, pilots, doctors, adventurers, veterans... But, here you are telling them to go outside and do stuff because it's just that easy when you're 90 years old and dragging an oxygen tank behind your walker. 

Again, if you live long enough, the horizons close in and there comes a day where you just can't anymore. Before the internet, before social media, when that happened a lot of people just sat and waited to die. No matter how attentive and caring, their families have lives of their own. There can't be someone there all the time. A lot of their friends are gone. Their spouses. Their families. There can't always be someone who understands. Who shares your interests and experiences. Social media, Facebook for good or ill, provides a means to connect to others who do share your history, a place to still be able to interact and be part of the world. These things matter

Those who are suddenly cut off from that, well, it's frightening, it's lonely, it's unsettling, even if it's "only" for a few hours and it shouldn't take a lot of empathy or imagination to see that. 

Should there be a better way? A better company? A better platform? One that's not destroying the country too? 

Sure. Of course. Why not? 

But here's the thing: Facebook is like a coal-fired power plant. 

Yeah, it's terrible for the environment. There's going to be consequences. It's poisoning people. It's destroying the future. It's polluting the air and water. It is. No argument. But, it also provides power. It keeps the lights on, it keeps thousands of homes warm in the winter and cool in the summer, it provides the juice to run industry and schools and hospitals. Without it we'd freeze or starve or have to squat in the dark and shit in a hole. We need that energy. People die without it. 



Right. You're that guy. The one up above in those tweets. People existed before technology, they can do it again. Learn to grow their own food, pump their own water, milk cows, make candles, ride horses or walk, live their allotted time and die. Life was better then. Right? 

Civilization existed before electricity. 

We could go back to that time. 

But there are unpleasant side effects and quite frankly I don't want to live in the fucking Stone Age. 

Could we do better than burning coal to power our civilization? Of course. Obviously. There's something between caveman and murder the planet. 

But you can't just burn down the powerplant without having an alternative in place. 

Well, I mean, you could

In point of fact, that's exactly what certain people demanded of me yesterday. Shut it off. Burn it down. Old people were fine before Facebook, they'll be fine without it now. LGBT people found ways to communicate before social media, they'll go back to that. Shut-ins should just get up off the couch and go outside, learn to skydive, make their own candles, tan leather, meet real people! Shut it down. Do better. 

Do better. 

Yeah, that's not better. That's not a plan. That's arson and people die in a fire.  

It's not just old people. 

It's not just disabled people and the shut-ins.

It's not just those who use social media to keep in contact with loved ones deployed overseas and who have family far away. 

It's not just the introverts or those with crippling social anxiety. 

It's not just those who have reason to hide their identity in the real world for fear of violence and hate and who without social media would have no social interaction where they could be themselves. 

It's not just those who find joy in a larger world they would have never known outside of an online global community of people who share their interests -- like birds. 

It's not just people who have built businesses and a living around these platforms. 

It's not just about writing letters or using a phone or reading a book or going outside to meet people. 

It's all of those things and much, much more. 

And if you can't see that, then that says a hell of a lot more about your lack of empathy and imagination than it does about those who use Facebook. 

Can we do better? Can we regulate these companies? Can we limit the power of those like Zuckerberg and Facebook? Can we prevent these platforms from becoming weapons aimed at the head of our Republic? And can we do it without marginalizing those who need it most? 

Of course we can. 

But burning it all down isn't how you do any of that. 

When I described an analogy on Twitter yesterday similar to the power plant metaphor above, this guy showed up:

Sorry about the people, but my principles are more important. 

Collateral damage, someone else said. Dismissing those innocents who might be lost when we bulldoze that big polluting company. We've got to think about the bigger picture, the country, sacrifices have to be made. 

Sorry about the collateral damage, but this is war

It's funny, ironic, that those liberals who are most eager to sacrifice others to their crusade against Facebook are the very same people, almost name for name, who were outraged when the Republican Lt. Governor of Texas, Dan Patrick, suggested those very same old people should be willing to sacrifice themselves for the economy. 

Ironic, indeed. 

I pray to the gods of technology to grant me the confident assurance of every mediocre tech bro on Twitter. 

I am leery of any ideology, left, right, or other, that deals in confident absolutes. 

And I am suspicious of any cause, no matter how noble, that requires others to sacrifice for your principles. 

If you want a better world, be a better human being. 


  1. This.

    My mom refuses to use a cell-phone, but is pretty adept with her Chromebook. She gets to share in her kids grandkids lives through FB and E-mail. I'm not FB's biggest fan either, but I signed her up as soon as I could.
    "Ok, but I'll never use it," she said.
    She comments on stuff every day.

    1. That's wonderful to hear. Good for your mom!

    2. To the guy who thinks its as easy as "teaching seniors technology": My mom will be 90 this year. My siblings and I have tried repeatedly to teach her to use various devices to no avail. She's had three different cell phones and has refused to learn how to use them. One was a Jitterbug made for seniors. She's given away two computers and a Kindle. We've given up! And she's a very smart person. She's just technophobic!

  2. Indeed. I'm a IT guy, this stuff comes easy to me. I live in a metropolitan area, fiber comes to my house at a relative monthly pittance. I also live with two family members with hearing loss, who are effectively shut out of many communications channels that others use as a matter of course - including picking up the telephone and calling someone without a bunch of specialized equipment and connectivity.

    Just because it's not a problem for you doesn't mean it's not a problem.

    1. Perspective is everything. Thank you for sharing.

    2. "Just because it's not a problem for you doesn't mean it's not a problem." Words to remember, applicable in so many contexts.

  3. Agreed. I watched you deal with those folks yesterday and then had one do the same to me today. It's just that some folks cannot see the world past their own nose.

    BTW, my mom loved her birds and critters, too, and feeding them in her yard was a highlight of her day. That and MASH reruns.

    My youngster is a bird fanatic now, and I suspect it would please her so very much.

    1. My old man loved MASH reruns...

      And getting out on his mobility scooter with his pockets full of milk-bones to hand out to the neighbour's dogs.

  4. Yesterdays outage proved one thing I've been thinking about for quite some time: I could delete my FB account and be just fine. Other people in my social circle though? No so much. I have a lot of older people in my circle and like you, I am their guru.

    It was not a good day for them. They have schedules to keep and checking Facebook is on that schedule. Some were angry. Some were worried. All of them who called were grieving in some way. You try to asway their fears by telling them to wait a few hours but after the fifth hour I felt like I was shoveling bullshit.

    Thanks for the commentary. You have a good way of phrasing things that rattle around in my brain.

  5. Thank you, Jim. Despite the fact I have a wonderful life - truly - the lockdown last year triggered my old friend, depression. If I hadn't had social media to stay in touch, I'm not sure how well I would have coped on those days when my major accomplishment was making the bed. Some people just don't get how privileged we are here, and how much we take for granted. I appreciate your ongoing commentary. Cheers!

  6. SO much privilege coming across. Its readily apparent that schools abandoned critical thinking skills in its curriculum. Not sure when, but it's just infuriating to see so many people choose ugly and petty.

    1. Schools were required to teach mandatory lists of facts that could be measured in frequent tests starting in the 90s...and when the teachers complained about not having room to teach or practice reasoning and critical thinking, they were called lazy and when the teachers pointed out that the curriculum, the resources and the tests were all being manufactured by compani s owned by the lawmakers, they were called lazy liars. And when the tests somehow showed that the schools needed to buy more materials and tests from those same companies, the teachers saw their pay cut to make room in the budget....and now here we are

    2. well, here in the US, the evangelicals have been fighting tooth and nail against what they call "secular brainwashing" (and sane people call education) for several decades. In Texas their takeover of state education has been so complete that "critical thinking" was EXPLICITLY forbidden in schools, during the tenure of an "education" head who believed she could "tell" that Creationism was true and the earth only a few thousand years old by looking at a picture of the Grand Canyon. By the way, the state forbids any teacher to impart "critical thinking" in Texas schools under the definition "any skill that would tend to lead to questioning parents about the religious views parents choose for their kids". Teaching actual logic to students will get you fired.

      The truth about history will also get any history textbook dropped like a hot rock-- Texas school districts require not history but a celebratory myth of America the Hero, born of virgin Puritans to spread "christian values". The absolutely absurd belief that the Civil War was fought because the Southern States wanted "states rights" is everywhere accepted, despite the fact that South Carolina seceded not to preserve their own slavery laws but because they were unable to compel north-eastern states like Vermont to obey THEIR laws (on returning escaped "property"). The southern states OBJECTED to the rights of states to pass their own laws and failed to force Vermont and New Hampshire to treat escaped slaves as stolen property. James Loewen's Mississippi history textbook was rejected for school use because, according to one member of the education board, it should not mention things (like lynching) "IN THE PAST".

      These are the people who get elected to RUN education in these states-- people so profoundly uneducated they cannot spot the obvious contradictions in forbidding "past events" from being mentioned in history books. People who believe education is ONLY for reinforcing whatever religious views the parents choose to impart, and who react as though their "religious freedom" is being violated if schools try to impart to students the skills to find out what's actually true in the world. Those skills are viewed as BAD because parents want their kids to be totally unable to ask whether it's true that Jesus rode dinosaurs... and to tell the difference if their parents are raving lunatics.

      I personally taught kids in Alabama who arrived IN COLLEGE without ever having read a text that was not pre-chosen to reinforce christian evangelicalism, including the stark prohibition on "disobedient questions". They literally had no idea that Jesus did not speak English. The college I taught at in Texas was more sophisticated, but also extremely oriented towards protection of one particular religious mindset (in this case, Catholicism) and marketed itself as a place where kids were "safe" from the horrible perils of NOT having a religious aspect to every moment of their education. the overwhelming consensus guiding "education" was that if students just learn stuff, not determined at every single point by a curriculum designed to protect their Church, then education would "endanger" them... or their parents' views about their eternal souls.

    3. 100%, Amy.

      Even if teachers bucked the system and *tried* to teach some sort of critical thinking, it was usually swept away with the next year's teacher who didn't want to rock the boat.

      As you noted, the same people calling the teachers, "lazy" and any other similar disparaging remark were the ones who enabled this to happen, and now they're equally as quick to disparage these same undereducated kids as adults, calling them, "lazy, stupid" or the like.

      And I'm pointing my finger directly at people my parents' age range (boomers) who, by and large, don't have a damn clue and refuse to see how their action/inaction caused this adverse trend in education, or anything else that's gone sour in this world.

    4. The rise of evangelical control was foreseen and predicted by several authors with the roots going back into the '70's or beyond. A good book written about ten years ago which is a harbinger of things now here is "Blueprint for Theocracy" by James C. Sanford. He was dead right in seeing this coming.

  7. I'm not sure of the best solution, or even a good solution. Perhaps we need multiple social platforms so if one goes down, we can continue on the other. It's like the redundant external hard drives I maintain for my computers, so a crash or system failure doesn't leave me with nothing. That said, it's still troublesome that one or two media giants can have such control that a failure such as we experienced yesterday can affect the lives of so many people. And you're right that it disproportionately affects those of us who have gotten older. It becomes harder to make new friends when you age, and old friends die, move away or just fade away. Social media lets us stay in touch with the friends we have and even make new ones, particularly for those of us who live in sparsely-populated areas or have mobility issues. (I'm in the former group, but not the latter. Still ride my Harley to get around.)

    1. We do have multiple platforms. That ranting Jim was dealing with was on Twitter. But here's the thing: different platforms have different styles that don't always work for different people (I can't stand Twitter, for example). It's also an issue of not everyone being able to find each other on every platform, and the demands of having to check the different ones all the time because what's posted in one may not be posted in another, so you have so much more time you have to devote to checking. Add to that some people have a lot of trouble with computers/tech in general, and what was already kind of intimidating becomes downright scary to learn and do.

  8. A very fine piece Mr. Stonekettle. I enjoyed reading this.

  9. My mom is 78. With someone else there holding her hand and talking her through it, she managed one Zoom call. That's not a viable solution to "oh shit, Facebook's down".

    My grandfather insisted he didn't want a computer in his house. Our solution was to build him "the magic box", a maple box about the size of a small briefcase, into which we stuck an old busted laptop with a modem and a composite video out, which we hooked to his TV and told him "new cable TV service: channel 3 is now The Grandchildren Channel. Also, don't look in the box." Every morning at 2AM, the box would phone home to a webserver and see if his grandkids had uploaded any new pictures, and the rest of the time, it was just cycling through the slideshow, whether anybody was watching it or not.

    If we were gonna do the same thing today, the Magic Box would have a big button on the top of it that would start a zoom call with whatever grandkids were online. ...but again, that's the kind of thing that requires a dedicated nerd and a bit of planning beforehand, not "oh shit, Facebook's down".

  10. As someone who is staring at that dwindling space approaching, I couldn't agree more. Do I like Facebook? Not really. Is there an alternative? Not really. Will there come a time when I won't be able to learn any alternative? Unless I die first, yes. Thank you for being sensible, even if that means you have to cuss all the idiots.

  11. ~~~~So you you’re saying you don’t believe in batteries. (Dilbert cartoon line)
    ~~~~This post really spoke to me on a fundamental level. It was more personal. I identified with it. It made me LOL in places especially the places about dealing with The Facebook. (I struggle with it daily and I’m the A/V person for our church of oldsters.) It made me think of my dad. He was a WWII vet. He was with the 6th Armored Antifa and earned a bronze star.
    ~~~~I love watching my birds too.
    ~~~~I engage in daily battle with the squirrels. I use a Daisy BB gun. I don’t eat them anymore. I enjoy watching the persevering little bastards figure out ways to defeat my squirrel deterrent feeders.
    ~~~~I’ll bring in my humming bird feeders directly. They’ve headed south and it’s time to empty all the red dye solution. (Sorry, I couldn’t help it. Well, I could but where’s the fun in that.)
    ~~~~And of course it made me a little sad thinking about all those that have already gone on.
    ~~~~Damn good writing Mr. Wordsmith. Damn good writing. Thank you.

  12. I really resonate with this. My mom emailed me about halfway through the outage yesterday. She's in rural PA, doesn't get out much and spends her time on social media. She doesn't usually post a lot but she does like seeing her friends on Facebook. She was worried it wouldn't come back. I understand that it's a real concern for her. There are other ways to communicate but trying to get my mom on a zoom call is challenging when I'm not right there. But on Facebook she can "see everyone."

  13. Excellent! Well said! Unfortunately, so many people do not see the world as it is. They see it as they are.

    1. One excellent "red flag" seems to me when people start dismissing other people's problems with "They should..." in ways which are not actually determined by trying to, you know, *help* anyone actually solve any problem they have. Instead, the "should" is determined by how their ideology defines the people and the difficulty. Twitter was full of people imagining how old people who use Facebook "ought to" do without it in almost the same way Twitter was full of "gun-rights" ideologues popping off about how teachers "ought to" pack heat in classrooms to "solve" school shootings.

      It veers between moral scolding ("they should all get jobs/find Jesus/stop complaining") and pure ignorance of others' actual circumstances... dictating a "solution" derived from their ideology of how things and people "ought to work". No particular solution required, because they don't even have to understand the problems, only map them on their previous categories, which then dictate what people "ought to be doing" other than, you know, expressing their difficulties or problems. Nothing is easier than "solving" a problem you don't even take the trouble to understand, because you already believe you understand it better than the people who HAVE it. (Remember Trump claiming that athletes taking a knee "couldn't explain" why? but still confidently preaching how they "ought to shut up and forget the past"? in other words, not solve their problem, but solve TRUMP's problem, which was not wanting to hear anything about it or see anybody kneeling to express anything he didn't want to know about?)

      "They should have" is an even worse red flag, one that tries to allocate all the causation for anyone's misery in something they "did wrong" and therefore, their misery's their own fault and no one else "should" ever have to care about it.

  14. Thank you! Frequently you express things in the same fashion as what's circulating around in my own two grey cells......with far fewer four-letter words. :)

  15. My mom would have benefited from FB as she got sicker from cancer and the periods of wakefulness became fewer and less predictable. Dad has never seen the value of the interwebz. Teach him Zoom? He hates cell phones…

  16. During the years I looked after my mother (dementia) and my father, just old, Facebook kept me in touch with my kids and my friends. I would have gone nuts without social media. Go outside? Well no unless I sat on the steps beside mother's room. Respite care meant grocery and pharmacy and that was it.
    People are so ableist.

  17. Thank you. I have several folks in my life who depend on platforms like FB to stay connected. They get a lot of joy out of it and it keeps them connected when otherwise, they'd be alone...and very lonely.

  18. Yesterday, I drove up to my hometown to see my mother likely for the last time as she was lying in her deathbed, unable to speak and barely able to move or acknowledge anything. At one point after she went to sleep, I went out to the living room to wait for my father to get back from the store, and decided that it was the perfect time to "catch up". While not being able to access FB wasn't the end of the world, it still would have made the next half hour much less depressing...

  19. Thank you, Jim, for such a cogent piece. You are correct on every point you make, especially about "ppl" who made their arguments (demands) to you via social media. And your analogy to a coal-fired power plant is perfect, but I'm afraid it might go right over some people's heads.

  20. Thank you, Jim, for such a cogent piece. You are correct on every point you make, especially about "ppl" who made their arguments (demands) to you via social media. And your analogy to a coal-fired power plant is perfect, but I'm afraid it might go right over some people's heads.

  21. Right on! Only the Sith deal in absolutes. (Sorry - that was my first thought reading your first line). My parents & in-laws are all over 75 and some do depend on FB for a lot of social interaction. And I was lucky to have sister-in-law on site to help father-in-law figure out Zoom and YouTube to see my daughter's theater and chorus concerts, and son's graduation last school year. He still calls and won't Zoom. As for me - well i've had friends leave FB, and I could follow, but how do I convince the other 150 friends to follow? A decent number of whom aren't likely to have the mental bandwidth to learn another SN software. It's hard to up and leave.

    1. I absolutely agree. I have MeWe, too, but most if my friends, including several home bound or assisted living residents are comfortable with FB. I’m 67 and am fairly tech-savvy for a non-geek, but I’m pretty sure the day is coming when I won’t want to do something newfangled, either.

  22. All of this. Computers are far beyond my 94-year-old mother's capabilities, but last year I got us both Amazon Echoes and a mi-fi for her. She didn't have cable and I wasn't about to let a cable guy in for 2+ hours to futz around. (I'm in CT, she's in TX.) The mi-fi loses its mind occasionally. Sometimes she can reboot it, sometimes she has to call me to walk her through it. Her use of Alexa is limited to a very tiny sunset of it's capabilities, but it keeps us connected visually. And in the event of an emergency, she can make a hands-free voice call. None of this was possible just a few short years ago.

  23. The older I get the more I seem to become invisible. I have started to slow down and I hurt, intermittently at this point. You don't understand how this happens, how it feels, until it happens to you. We all have 20-yo minds in x-yo bodies. We can't relate to the effects of time. I commend your father for adapting. Everyone else needs educating!

  24. Texting? My Luddite wife insists on keeping her flip phone because she doesn't WANT a smart phone. Hell, she hasn't even figured out how to read the occasional text that someone does send her (and she would have to read on a tiny screen). She does use email and reads (but virtually never posts on) Facebook, precisely to keep up with family and friends scattered around the country/world who DO post on Facebook. (And to snoop on what I've said lately on Facebook, not that I'm paranoid or anything.) Should the social media behemoths be more tightly regulated? Definitely, if for no other reason than they have become monopolies, controlling multiple different platforms through a now-obviously-too-fragile setup of their own creation. 'Nuf said for now...

  25. I ended up blocking quite a few of the people you screenshot, after their sociopathic responses to you (and me) were just too much.

    And so many of their bios were left-leaning.

    You certainly are good at bringing them out of the woodwork, regardless of their politics.

  26. This is brilliant, as always. "Kick 'em while they're down" is fast becoming America's biggest sport. It's so easy. A few keystrokes and whoosh! Some a-wipe can smirk and congratulate him/herself for "owning the libs." Thank you for posting this Jim.

  27. No one thinks they will become fragile or less able to keep up with technology, until they do. I've used a computer since about 1985. I have never been an outstanding user but I have been competent. Thing is, it takes a lot more to be competent now than it did in 1985.
    I am a proponent of people staying in contact with loved ones no matter how that happens. There is no one size fits all in anything. Face Book is a double edged sword, but I want to see it fixed for those who use it as their connection to the outside world.
    Thanks Jim. I know you hate it when someone tells you that you are a good man, but you are. Thanks and see you on the flip side.

  28. You have really touched on the bottom line of this issue, Jim. Bravo. I've been on Facebook since the day they opened it to us older folks, and I have multiple groups of online friends there I interact with on various topics. My church also uses it as our online presence, in addition to our website.

    When I've had surgery, it was a lifeline to friends and family.

    These people just like to knock everything completely over to make their point sometimes, and it's exhausting.

  29. Scott H. GottliebsonOctober 5, 2021 at 2:37 PM

    I hadn't really given people like your dad a thought. I didn't notice the trouble with FB until the memes started to roll in and some were funny but still...
    I've got to work on that being a better person thing more.
    thanks for keeping me grounded.

  30. I went to a small state college in a small town 50 years ago, and when I was tired of my dorm room and didn't have rehearsals, I could go to the Student Union Bldg, and sit and drink coffee and read, knowing that I'd run into someone I knew, and that there was a good chance of meeting new people too. Relaxed, and sociable, and newspapers left out to read.

    Facebook is like that now for me-- a place to see a variety of people and to catch up on news. No scheduling, just opportunity. And in real life and on the Internet, I am selective. No bigots, for instance. It works pretty well for me.

  31. Thank you. As always, you've said what I've been thinking more eloquently than I could ever hope to.

  32. I've gotten really tired of talking to people on the left or right who feel they've got *all* the answers.

    Because nobody has all the answers. The world is complex, and there's no one-size-fits-all solution.

    Here's hoping the people you care for are able to stay in touch with each other, are able to continue interacting.

  33. I watched your Twitter battle yesterday. I am grateful you drew my attention towards the elders who rely on Facebook. International families also rely on WhatsApp. The loud, mean, tech savvy people with no empathy are hopefully in the minority.

  34. Thank you for this insightful piece. It helped me see past my own privilege -- always uncomfortable but always a good thing.

  35. I'm not old, but I do depend on FB as my primary source of social interaction, and I would miss it a lot if it vanished without replacement.
    I prefer interacting with people virtually; plus I have niche interests, which means that the people I most enjoy interacting with are spread out, and usually not near me. If I have to interact only with people I can meet in person, I would have to give up the things I really love

  36. Had not really ever thought of it this way. Very good insights.

  37. Thanks I really appreciate your take on this. I was "lucky" and didn't have to deal with the outage much because I had an out of town doctor's appointment and then grocery shopping. What you wrote about your father really hit home with me. I'm a crazy cat lady that can't have a cat where I live so I get my fix online. I'm disabled and can't get out much and what technology I have is just basic stuff. Facebook sucks, but it helps too. It leaves a lot to be desired but there is a good side to it too. About 5 yrs ago a page I found on FB saved my life. My best friend had OD'd and died suddenly. I was thrown into a deep depression and didn't even want to get out of bed. One day I was scrolling and saw a live FB tour of Blind Cat Rescue and Sanctuary. They were showing this black cat with fangs. I fell in love instantly. I found out they did multiple live tours daily. It gave me something to look forward to and get out of bed for. I made friends with similar interests in the process. I honestly believe that if I hadn't found that live video on Facebook that I would be dead now the way I was going. Since then my passion has become learning about and spreading the word about animals with disabilities. I've met several great friends in the process. So yes, Facebook is horrible but it's also a good thing.

  38. I'd say 99% of the comments (from your Twitter post) like the ones you've posted here are from people who write but don't think. I don't mean write without thinking *first*, I mean, they just write. And they don't think, at all. Not about others, not about different perspectives, not about how problems affect various subcultures. They just hop onto the keyboard and spew.

    While I'm not 90 or a shut-in, I found myself very disturbed by the outage, even though I was at work and should have been solely focused on that. But I couldn't focus. I was distracted by the fact that I couldn't pause briefly to reconnect with My People out there in Facebookland. I couldn't take a breather and scroll through Insta.

    It made me think a lot about how I socialize now (mostly on FB). The disconnection I felt during the outage was startling. The growing depression I felt while attempting to assuage myself with Twitter unnerved me. When it was restored, I was so relieved.

    My relationship with FB is love/hate. I love that it connects us to so many people worldwide, who share my interests and mindsets. I hate that there are so many conspiracy theorists misusing the platform, that there is fake news, that there are awful trolls. And I agree with you on your thoughts here today.

    That said, I think the biggest problem with FB or any social media is not the platform itself, but those using it, because so many of them are not Thinkers at all. They like to think they're Thinkers, but mostly they're just Stinkers.

  39. Thank you for that thought provoking and well written opinion, as always.

  40. This is an excellent article Jim. Thank you.

  41. In her 60's after my grandfather died, my grandmother decided to learn to drive. Her plumber talked her into it and offered to teach her. She lasted to the end of her driveway, got out and walked into the house, leaving the plumber scrambling to put the car in neutral. You know what you know at some point. And it's good enough until you lose it.

  42. I know that corporations often do evil things for profit. I totally agree with this post and I understand. Maybe it's just me, but Trump promised to destroy Facebook. And suddenly there's documentaries and lawsuits and all this hate. Who gets to censor Facebook? Who gets to monitor and control the internet? I want it to be people concerned about everyone's well being. But I worry that's it's going to be the opposite. Power is more than money. Ultimate power is the ability to make people believe whatever it is you want them to.

  43. I think I agree with nearly everything you said. The problem with your stance is that it's nuanced and balanced, and you see both pros and cons to social media's existence in modern life. That's bad, you see. We live in a world where - thanks to social media! - everything is reduced to polarized yes/no, love/hate, rave/rage binary emotions. Nuance? Acknowledging the good AND the bad of the SAME topic?

    How dare you sir. How dare you.

    Miss your stuff on FB. I also have moved my longer-form stuff off that shithole and onto my Substack (pathfinding.substack.com). I no longer trust the algo, the company, or pretty much anything about it.

    Great post Jim.

  44. Beautifully said. Facebook is whatever people using it want it to be. The platform isn't evil, it's how people use it that is evil. And sure, change the algorithms or eliminate them so people don't end up down a rabbithole with no one but people like them in it. But it does SO much good otherwise, it would be a terrible thing to just "shut it down." Look at all the charities that benefit from the birthday fundraisers, and all the animals being adopted because of social media. Without it, many more would die. There are so many benefits to this whole network. People who are just anarchists and want to destroy everything are useless. We need people who think.

  45. Agreed. 100. %.
    I'm all over your note. Whatever each sentence conveys, you find me (and my wife) depicted wholly... Being near an octogenarian and living in the country side (not even a suburb) in Texas, just a few months since fiber-optics showed up in our neighborhood, thanks to a Co-op daring to use Obama's grants to provide what ATT, Verizon, or T-Mobile wouldn't touch because, you know, no profit in that... Anyway, I digress, the point being that a lot of good folks, pages, and groups, use FB for good reasons, personal, very personal, to stay in touch with those who we care for... Many businesses use FB for, well, their business, selling or advertising for the benefit of their customers. With the pandemic, as we bunker down, the internet (and Facebook) have become a life-line for local jobs and income. So, yesterday's big event was a clarion call for fixing what's wrong with Facebook and keeping what's working for us...

  46. I agree with every thing you said.

  47. While change is the only constant, it certainly gets harder to adapt as you get older. Social media has been a Godsend during the Covid pandemic, allowing people of all ages, all over the world, to stay connected. Sure it amplifies the voices of the radicals, those who scream the loudest, until it seems like we live in nothing but a polarized world. Seniors, by and large, are a conservative group, but they're also the most vaccinated cohort. Why? When push comes to shove, politics gets pushed aside so that one might live just a little bit longer. Social media amplifies change in the form of information. Information that make us uncomfortable, like global warning and the concentration of wealth in fewer hands. White, conservative politics has been slowly losing power due to changing demographics in this country. Zuckerberg doesn't want that to change, but change always wins. Either Facebook adapts, loses the maladaptive parts of its bloated corporation, or capitalism will pick it apart like the true vulture it is.

  48. Jim, it is astonishing that your comments caused that much of a kerfuffle. I am so sorry you had to deal with all that.

  49. Thank you for saying this. I agree with all your comments.

  50. Outstanding commentary as always.

  51. This is why I always read you and never piss you off - you have a grasp on reality that is experiential and perspective based that many simply don’t have. Thank you as always Jim.

  52. We weren't born in those times, it is unlikely we would survive them.

  53. How do you do it, Jim?
    How do you manage to keep patience with these shitheels?

    Keep being the voice of not-especially-sweet reason.

    "Thank you for your service" (and I don't mean the Navy stuff here).

  54. Thank you. As the misattributed saying goes, "I don't know how to explain to you why you should care about other people" -- but I'm glad you, and others, continue to try.

  55. Jim, thank you for this well thought out article. I followed it on Twitter yesterday. Getting older is the pits. Yes, before Facebook social media we had other things to do. Living to the age of 60 used to be unheard of as well.

    I use social media a lot. I am older. I lost a job/living I loved much earlier than I wanted. I had to trade that paycheck for a disability check. My social life crumbled. Now I am alive, I live in chronic pain and have multiple medical issues. I was a Medic in the back of the truck. Caring for a critical patient. I stood up to get more medication when a careless driver cut us off. As a result, I am no longer able to work. My children have lives/children of their own. My friends still work. I can't go out & am high risk for COVID & other airborn diseases. So I am stuck at home. I find many people to socialize with and it is important. Especially when you are limited to a social life of going to the Doctor/hospital. Fun and games. Also, a disability check doesn't go far when you go out and socialize.

    I appreciate that you thought of your parents and those of us that are shut in. Yes, we are still alive. There is more to life than rocking and knitting.

    ENjoy your shop and woodworking. I enjoy looking at your fishished products. Thank you for giving me this space to communicate with you. Not everyone on Twitter knows I am disabled. They do treat you differently.



  56. Great read chief. Thought it was interesting that every thing you said about Social media could also apply to religion.

    1. Ooh. First time I've found someone else making that point.

      Take the atheist stance, and all the successful religions, certainly the Abrahamic ones, read as attempted patches for failures in human behavior. And sure they aren't perfect, and they usually don't work, but the attempt is right there in the books, for anyone to see.

      And for all those failures and for all the people forever going on about the removal of religion as an idea, in the entirety of human history we've never hit on a better method for establishing close-knit community, or encouraging beneficial behavior over a large group, and all the side benefits that come with those.

      How has Jim put it in other essays? "Not the best system, but the one we've got."

      And you're right in your comparison. Everyone racing desperately to try and exterminate the idea hasn't given any thought at all to how to replace it. They can *only* see the bad, and righteous anger feels so goddamn good.

      Law of Unintended Consequences, and all that.

  57. Well said as always. I would like to share an experience I had a couple weeks ago wherein I realized just how dependent my wife and I are on technology. We got a letter from the power company indicating power would be out on X date for most of the waking hours, which I shrugged off as a no big deal.

    It wasn't until I woke up to a note from my wife, who is a 100% remote worker, saying she had left to find someplace to connect and I looked at my phone to see low battery with virtually no connection. Because, naturally a power outage tanked mobile reception. There I was no wifi, no power, with limited reception and a dying mobile phone battery. Still I thought," no biggie I'll be fine. It's just a day". Two hours later when I went to seek a place with power to charge my phone and wifi to reconnect I realized just how dependent on these things I have become. It was a bit of a clarifying moment

  58. God damn. This moved me to tears. Thank you Jim. Um, for the words, not the tears. And for the common sense, the heart you showed.

  59. Jim, thanks for this. It continually saddens me to see how much we are losing our ability to empathize with those who are not like us. My husband can't get around easily any more and, while he doesn't get on Facebook much, the internet is his social network. Especially now that Covid is limiting so much in-person interaction, I would hate for him to be without it.

  60. There you go again, being all reasonable.

    People are going to read your stuff if you keep this up. :)

  61. I have a dear friend who is disabled and also immunocompromised. Social media has made the difference between her having no social life at all, and her being able to connect with other people - friends like me, for example.

    Is it perfect? Of course not. But did I miss my friend yesterday? I did.

    Thank you for saying what needed to be said.

  62. Brilliant and so very humane! I love the compassion and empathy flowing in this. Thank you Mr. Wright.

  63. Well said. And also enlightening. I don't use Facebook. Never have. And hopefully never will. But, you never know. I now understand better how some people could be thrown for a loop when it disappears for a while. Thanks for the education.

  64. As one of those of the elder generation, not being able to have my entertainment (a game) I was not happy. But, I was able to keep myself busy, and had caregivers here to talk to, but if I had no one to talk to, it would have been a lot harder. Do I think FB is the end all and be all, no I don't but if it had been a day where no one had come in, it would have been a lot harder! As for businesses on FB, there may be MLM's but lots of people have items they produce to sell. BTW, I am a liberal!

  65. The part regarding your Dad really hit me in the heart.

  66. Any more, I'm in Facebook Jail so often that I'm learning to do without. Yesterday I had 2 doctor's appts so I was in Key West most of the day. My phone is fritzing so the fact it wouldn't load some pix wasn't unusual.

    I'd miss it a lot if it went off for more than one day because it does keep me connected to people, many of whom I've "known" for years.

    I understand both sides of the debate. It keeps me interacting with SOMEONE but can take up the entire day of you don't watch yourself.

  67. I post on FB details of my rural life for my nonagenarian aunt and uncle. They never miss an entry. Excellent examination and I shared it there.

  68. Bless you, Jim. You make the world a better place, and you have had a part in making me a better human. I'm glad you're in this world.

    My dad had dementia. The day he sat in front of his beloved computer that had been updated to the new OS and couldn't, for the life of him, figure out how to use it was the most heartbreaking day of my life. I sat with him for hours, trying to help, but it was no-go, and no going back. He didn't even use social media, but he played games and read online articles and looked stuff up on Google that grabbed his interest and he *adored* IMDB. But that day and that change broke him a little bit. That was a decade ago and the thought of it still makes me cry. At least he had my mom, baseball, and the NYT crossword.

    To say this essay reached right in and grabbed me hard by the heart would be understating the case. Thank you for writing it.

  69. I had John Prine's "Hello In There" playing in the background as I read this essay, and by the time I got to the end I was sobbing.

    Elder loneliness is a terrible, crushing tragedy and far too many people don't even notice it. For all of Facebook's faults, I have older relatives who used it as a lifeline.

  70. Just saying I'm one of those liberal people who agree with you 100%. Give 'em hell!

  71. Yeah, my adopted father who was widowed in August. No, he doesn't do FB. He can't. He's stone deaf, and almost blind in his remaining eye. He's dirt poor, and the state he lives in won't help him with these issues. His daughter lives in DC and incurred massive debt to keep him in the house because a facility would kill him. He's 96, a veteran of WWII and a handfull of follow-up wars on the part of the British Empire.

    In a month or so, my brother and I (we're in our 60's) will drive 800 miles to do deferred maintenance on the house. We think he won't last a year. But it damn well should be a year in some comfort. FB might not do him any good, but there are hundreds of thousands similar to him that it might.

    Nuance is lost on some people. Reality is in many shades and colours. And we do our best with what we have.

  72. Whoa, Jim, THIS one hits different.

    I'm 51. Married, no kids. No nieces, nephews, not many friends, not much family. My husband has medical issues; I see my future clearly.

    My mom is 92. Never learned anything techy--the cordless phone befuddled her, even before dementia. Cell phones? Smartphones? a COMPUTER??? fuggeddaboudit. And once our good buddy Mr. D came to stay, it only got worse. Even the cable remote is too much nowadays. Dad passed when I was still in high school, and it's been just Mom and me since then, pretty much. So I stay with her during the week, work from home (and oh, thank god for my bosses, who may very well be living saints for allowing this) and go home to my husband, my house, and my cats on weekends--Mom's long-term-care plan, which she paid into for DECADES, "generously" covers 13 hours a day of care, so we just smush it all to the end of the week. I count myself lucky that we have THAT. Most people aren't even that fortunate.

    I've learned things nobody my age should know about--the "donut hole" of Medicare prescription plans; how much Linzess is too much; "sundowning", and how many different places can be found in one smallish house to abandon a walker. But I'm glad I can be here for her. She's still enough herself that she manages to grant me a little guilt trip when I leave on Friday afternoons; of course, for all she knows I'm never coming back, or calling, ever again.

    I don't think I want to live to 92, though I'm damn sure I don't want to die at 58 like my father did. That's a little too close, you know? But then I think about it: 92. That's 41 years from now.

    41 years ago, I was ten.
    I remember being ten. I remember it WELL.
    And let's not even talk about 30 years ago, or 25 years, or 20....Those weren't years, they were MINUTES. 92 isn't THAT far off, really. Not really.

    I do hope we come up with something better than Facebook by the time my world narrows down to that small window, those bird-feeders, that little screen. Whatever it is, I hope it's a kinder place, not populated by jerks of the sort your Twitter feed seems to be plagued with. I hope by then maybe we ARE better humans, as a whole, and that maybe this constant state of dread I feel whenever I think of growing older will turn out to be unfounded.

    But I kinda doubt it.

    (What I hope for Zuckerfuck and his corporate minions does not mesh with my efforts to be a kinder, more compassionate person, but let's just say if I could find an appropriate carnivore, I would gladly teach it one command: Eat the rich. In teeny, little, gnawy snarly bites.)

  73. I have found myself turning into the righteous avenger I don't know how many times over the last few years, and every time I feel the urge I try to stop and insist that I keep myself consistent enough that I can say "I'm not advocating THAT" if it means other people suffer and/or die.

    Like the ones who insist that we should deny treatment to vaccine deniers. Because they are fortunate to live in a world where nobody in their family is one of these people, or none of their friends and/or parents.

    I liken all those people to all the republicans who absolutely (supposedly) loathe gay people until one of their children comes out publicly. Everything is always fine and dandy with them until it hits close to home....

  74. Because we live in a state where plague rats dressed as people stomp around demanding the right to carry disease, and cough and breathe in the faces of people wearing masks, my cystic fibrosis/double lung transplant wife has essentially been isolated at home since March 2020.

    Solitary confinement.

    She has developed a network of friends, mostly of other high-vulnerability humans, transplant recipients, CF’ers, and the like. She has a love-hate relationship with Facebook and social media; similar to the way you learn to hate the wall you’re passing notes through to the next prisoner over, but grateful for the crack that enables you to pass the note. They talk about what’s happening, vent about how much this sucks, and talk about the people who died since yesterday.

    For a few hours, it was like someone had filled in the crack and the entire rest of the prison had gone silent and dark.

  75. Thank you, Jim. FB is something that keeps me in touch with many many friends and family half a globe away. If I decide to talk to talk on the phone or facetime, we have to schedule and break rhythms, put life and job on hold. FB gives me the background, the daily feed, of people I would generally only see once a year or less. It keeps me connected to people I would otherwise lose touch with, in this new spread out world. I choose not to, and until I can find another medium, at the same price, I will continue to choose not to.

  76. Wonderful words, I wish there was a bit more empathy in our world. Please continue to write, your words are manna for us in the desert of humanity.

  77. I live in Nampa,I'd. The city owns two good courses and wants to sell the land to contractors because they can make a cool 10-20 mil a piece. My issue with that is that a little of seniors go to the course just to hang out, play cards and drink coffee. Those that can still play, do. Those that can't socialize with their friends. The city doesn't need the money, if they do bump my taxes up a few dollars. My Friday night bowling team is made up of an 80 yo electrician and a 60 something woman from Cuba. They both bowl in several leagues including the senior league. They both have interests outside of bowling. But as they age those opportunities will shrink along with their circle of friends. Limiting their opportunities to socialize just to make a buck seems cruel.

  78. Perfectly said, I fight cancer an unable to work so I myself, bird watch, read, walk around confused at times.
    Technology is not my strong point at all but yesterday I was going crazy.
    No little videos of birds, dogs and cats.
    Thanks for pointing so much out others may never think about.

  79. Every damn word of this!! My 87 year old mom doesn’t use Facebook, but my sister and I have been trying to teach her how to use a smart phone for texting and sharing photos. She just can’t get it. While she’s had a simple flip cell phone for years, the more technologically advanced stuff is just too much for her. She can even barely use email. To flippantly state that “everyone” will get along without Facebook or other social media is the height of privilege.

  80. I am pretty tech savvy, but all my family lives 800 miles away. I can't just casually hang out with my family like lots of families do. So if I want casual engagement with my family, many of which are older and aren't tech savvy as you noted, Facebook is an amazing platform to do so.

  81. I saw your tweets and thought you were making sense. Wasn't necessarily what I expected to hear from you on the subject, but all that proves is that I can't read your mind! The people who wanted to take the opportunity to scream about Zuckerberg et al, although they're not wrong about him, aren't actually reading very carefully.

  82. "If you want a better world, be a better human being." I've been using pandemic time to do just that. Because the idea that I have extra time to watch even more bad tv, the same tv or continue to rage on social media ad nauseum makes me wither inside.

  83. I am so tired of all the downright meanness of people. If a 90 year old man wants to spend the day of FB, if my friends 15 year old severely disabled daughter talks to her friends via Instagram, or if a middle aged, healthy person uses social media to chat with a friend who has moved across the country, why does anyone care?!?! Why can't we just accept that some people use social media to communicate? Why is that a problem? And instead of criticizing them, or you for standing up for them, maybe they can ask why all these platforms crashed at once. Why there are no controls on these platforms. Why these huge businesses are being allowed to write their own rules. But no. It is easier to criticize and belittle individuals.

  84. Thank you. The privilege in those comments was breathtaking.

  85. I have a son that has been living in China for the past 7+ years. It is sooo easy to keep in touch with him, what with FB, WeChat, texting, email, etc. I am very fortunate. 35-40 years ago I lived in Venezuela, then Europe, and then various states in the US. Mail was slow, if it got there at all, phone calls were very costly, even long distance in the USA. Although we all dealt with it, I know it was tough for my mother.

  86. What those tweets tell me is that these folks are likely between 20-35 or so, their parents are still young and healthy, and they don't know anyone who isn't young, healthy, and active. And folks they don't know, don't exist for them.
    I'm 68, disabled, have mental health issues, and am intensely introverted. Cousins and distant friends function on FB, and it's the only connection I have to them. Yeah, still working full time and have other interests, but I still want to know how those people are doing.
    I've had extended family members die and wouldn't have known without social media.

  87. That line. "That's arson, and people die in a fire." I'm keeping that one.

    And this is specifically the kind of thing I first found pointed out on a tweet you retweeted. For all the accusations of echo chambers on the left? I can go to three different Leftist/Progressive/Liberal/whatever sources and get three different takes on any given issue.

    I can go here, and get the equivalent of smacked in the face by a newspaper with a perspective I absolutely had not thought about at all until reading this.

    More to the point, I'm training myself to do it, because it's becoming very apparent how important that is to do. How necessary it is to be able to disagree with or pick out flaws in the ideas of a group you are a part of. Especially in the case of groups devoted to a cause.

    So thanks again, for that.

  88. Very well said, Jim. Thank you so much.

  89. I'm tech savvy (retired IT professional) but am also old and disabled. Thank you for the elegantly phrased compassion. The older I get, the more important daily connection is to my mental health. Just... thank you.

  90. Thank you as usual for expressing my thoughts better than I can. The "why don't you...you should"s *never* get outside of themselves and consider what anyone else might be experiencing. They are not trying to help. They are trying to make you go away, cease to exist, stop reminding them of their own potential vulnerability.

    Humans often invent good things. Machines, software, concepts... and invariably other humans find ways to use them maliciously. Those of us who are lucky enough to understand and use devices and such should be constantly aware of how fortunate we are and maybe help those who aren't.

    As I become less mobile and more cranky and creaky, I too am planning to take my bird pictures - many from the film days - and all those other things and share them with friends too. I would no doubt have enjoyed seeing your Dad's.

  91. I have also been shaken by the amount if sheer reflexive meanness that seems to be showcased on Twitter. I deleted Facebook myself six years ago when I figured out that the way their platform is built inevitably degrades the spread of knowledge through its methods-- the creation of message silos and algorithmic selections. Youtube's platform creates extremists through a similar selection of materials chosen to glue people to the screen through ever-more-addictive emotional reactions to crazier and crazier materials. But Twitter I didn't get until I started thinking about your column a few years back, about a Twitter thread on your dislike for Republican "veteran thanking" tribal loyalty dances which was interrupted by a random lady telling you to eat a candy bar.

    She busted into a complex conversation on the basis of nothing but "you sound grouchy and my husband gets grouchy when he's hungry!" and curiously (to me) seemed to believe that her total ignorance of what was going on was a DEFENSE, not an indictment, of her extreme rudeness. And I think this is what Twitter builds-- not purposely, but as a by-product of its business model. The idea that you can ALWAYS talk-- your two cents is always something other people should listen to-- but that you have NO reason to know anything about who you're talking to or what you're talking about. Everybody wants to talk about everything that catches their attention-- but there's no requirement at all to know anything about what you're sticking your nose into. This lady got upset because her two cents telling you to "eat a Snickers!" was not well received, because she thought just telling you whatever it made her think about was some sort of good deed... you ought to listen to her and consider her point of view! But that expectation was strictly one way-- she had no need to listen to you or consider who she was talking to, or their situation.

    It's so easy for people to make negative assumptions about strangers, and wave off the consequences they don't know anything about, and imagine it's "fine" for all those strangers to suffer problems you don't know about and that you can easily minimize. Twitter is an *ideal* platform for sounding off about everything you don't know and getting butt-hurt when others don't treat YOUR "contribution" with more consideration than you showed to them. I don't know if Snickers lady ever acknowledged that she'd been magnificently rude... but it seemed at the time that her feeling was that since her initial "intent" was just to give some stranger "good advice" she was profoundly unwilling to re-evaluate whether just sharing "her point of view" on what she (incorrectly) viewed as a mere "grouchy man who needs to be fed" was the generous action she thought it was. Taking the time to be IN FACT ignorantly rude to people seems to be the impulse Twitter enables and rewards. And the fact that we don't need more training in being dismissive of others' situations and problems makes me worry quite a lot about the effect of using Twitter as a "public forum" for national "conversation".

  92. thanx for this, jim. i'm only 60, but i'm severely disabled &'ve been completely homebound for ~11 years. i can't hear well enough to use the phone even longer, nor can i see up clsoe enough for texting (i need bifocals. hard to get when you're trapped at home.)

    literally the only way i can reach my family & friends is via facebook.

    the ableism i saw yesterday was pretty horrific.

    helps a lot to see you call it out.

  93. I notice a distinct similarity among the "burn it all down" advocates, whether it's Facebook or our election process, however flawed, that they want to burn. Common temper tantrums from toddlers masquerading as adults is what they're pulling.

  94. Dr. Cox said it best when he said "People are bastard coated bastards, with a bastard filling."

    That's basically where we are now.

  95. I do understand a lot of situations are much more difficult for elderly, rural,... but throughout the onslaught from virtue-signaling FB haters & the responding explanations from many of why it was more problematic for some people, I kept thinking: SO WHAT?

    Did Jim ask for advice how to transition his relatives to other interests or other SM platforms? NO!
    Did they seriously think anyone on Twitter, with >180K followers to boot, who specified was texting w/relatives needed to be informed that FB isn't the only SM platform or mode of communication? Surely,not! Dang, I hope not.

    If a young,urban,computer geek said they were upset because they can't post about their new brew to their International Beer Tasting Group, or can't get a tee time because their fav. golf course uses only Facebook (in which case the golf course was losing revenue because no one could reserve a tee time), would they have been slammed with sanctimonious lectures about the ills of SM, the evils of FB, told to take a walk, get a dog, mail a letter to the golf course & text a few hundred thousand beer drinkers across the world? I think not!

    One shouldn't have to "justify" why they're troubled about the loss of something they enjoy. If I want a Coke, but the Coke dispenser is out of service for an unknown period of time, I will be disappointed. I don't need to be told there are other beverages in the world and water is healthier - by people chugging a Pepsi!

  96. I needed to read this, and feel shameful for my own privileged thoughts during the outage. Thank you for writing it. I hate to point this out, but you are the only real adult in all of the rooms. :)

  97. And,yet, the bitchy people calling Facebook a wasteland and quagmire of assorted horrors are right here on Facebook doing it. The cognitive dissonance is not to be believed. And, in case, nobody noticed, your data is NOT safe, but you cheerfully give it out anyway. To Amazon, to Google, to the DMV, the phone company, the electric company, to your credit card companies, to UPS, to FedEx, to DHL, to the airlines, cruise lines, car rental companies. . . . Do I need to go on? Frankly, I missed Facebook. I have friends all over the world with whom I am in touch every day. Shall I call them instead? Not practical. And my dog is a FB celebrity. People expect to see a photo of him everyday. Silly? I don't think so if it gives people pleasure. You are completely right Jim. FB is a cesspool in many ways, but there is no other alternative that offers what it does. There are reasons why MySpace and MeWe did not overtake it. People can avoid the politics if they are offended. I want to see pictures of my friends gardens and art and kitties.

  98. My dad was a WWII vet and he loved watching birds too. On every year's calendar we found after he died (he kept a LOT of stuff) he wrote "First Robin" on the day he saw it. He died 25+ years ago from alcoholic DT's after he broke his hip & couldn't drink in the hospital. Everything just shut down without the booze. Anyway, this was long before FB. He did live in an isolated farmhouse alone. His social interaction was to drive several miles into town to hang out in the VFW club. Why he didn't die in a car wreck on his way home was down to Guardian Angels. period. That's what some of the elderly would likely go back to. Or sitting alone with a bottle and a glass until they passed out every night. Facebook is better than (as he would always say) better than a sharp stick in the eye.

  99. "If you want a better world, be a better human being" Thanks Jim. Great essay!

  100. Loved the just text or call comments. I would say about 2/3 of the people I communicate with regularly on messenger are folks whose phone number I don't have. Someone explain to me how I'm supposed to text them? The level of privilege demonstrated on your twitter feed yesterday, Jim, was appalling and depressing. I would love go to out and go walking, but walking stopped happening about two years ago. And while I know how to Zoom, again, most of the people I might invite to a zoom conference are folks I communicate with on Messenger or FB proper. How am I supposed to invite them to a Zoom conference. I'm so done with these sanctimonious asshats. And thank you, Jim, for understand those of us who are old and/or disabled and isolated. You are a breath of fresh air.

  101. It sounded like you were describing my Dad and now his wood shop tools are mine. I deleted my old FB within minutes after the outage, from over four years of non use and the feeling was exhilarating somehow. Naturally they flashed all my family before my eyes but I never used it to communicate. We either are face to face or text sometimes. They only make the drive twice a year though.

    Bravo Zulu for your gleaming insight to an unregulated level of professional precision necessary to control a monetary based algorithm, which is the key to all this. This is truly roadworthy

  102. Lots of "Ding, dong, the Witch is dead" in your mailbox over fb.
    It's funny, a competent military man will try to limit the amount of collateral damage an operation does, but these people in your example are so orgasmic over fb's misfortune that they don't care who might be hurt by it. It's quite similar to those who want to "Own the Libs" at any cost.
    Fanatics at either end of the political spectrum gonna fanatic.


  103. my guy i have been living with ane taking care of The Olds for 22 years, they're as quick to get over inconveniences as they are get baffled/enraged by them; none of this misty eyed bullshit is an accurate description of how materially unimportant the utility of Facebook is.

    the idea that it's analagous to the power plant in terms of utility derived (and not just "how it operates as a monopoly") is some of the silliest shit i've ever read.

    pretty words tho! ideas are stupid, but pretty words.

    1. I am very much not your guy.

      You don't decide what is of utility to others. As to age, your math doesn't check out and I pity anyone, young or old, in your obviously crass and callous care.

      Your shitty lack of compassion and absence of empathy are what's wrong with this world.

  104. I'm 51, so not a dinosaur yet. And reasonably tech savvy, and I run a small business with artsy stuff.

    I'm also a cripple whose second spinal surgery was something of a mixed blessing and my mobility is for shit these days and...well, yeah.

    Facebook for all its cesspitiness and inconvenience and everything else, is often the only social outlet I have beyond the pets and only the husky is a conversationalist and she doesn't like the same books I do. FB is a bad tool but it's what we've got for now. And honestly, I fight against the nightsoil pit atmosphere of it by sharing art and dog pictures with like-minded people there. And I missed it yesterday.

    So thank you.

  105. And then there's this: https://www.conversocial.com/blog/what-countries-are-the-biggest-whatsapp-users

    And the amount of ecommerce conducted on the platform: "There are more than 200 million small businesses around the world using Facebook’s tools (Facebook, 2021)." https://www.oberlo.com/blog/facebook-statistics

    It's not all about cute cat videos!

  106. I compliment you on your overall theme as well as the fact that "facebook sucks." But, when you say you don't like to deal in absolutes after blaming all of the hoopla regarding destroying facebook on "liberals" makes me wonder if you have a mirror in your house. Donald Trump bad-mouthed facebook.

    1. I did no such thing. I said it was primarily liberals responding to my original post on Twitter. And it was. Because that's how they self-identified and because it is primarily liberals who follow me. And that is something you could go check for yourself, I specifically included examples so that you might do so.

      I did not say all liberals.

      Also putting "liberals" in quotes because you think I've misidentified something that you didn't even bother check doesn't make your comment any less wrong.

      It is always interesting to me how liberals such as yourself suggest I look in the mirror, yet get your nose out of join at even the mildest criticism of the Left.


  107. This isn't even getting onto the impact with WhatsApp.

    It's the de facto messaging platform in a lot of places outside of the USA, and I suspect the main international calling service. I'm in the UK, costs me 20p to text family in France, or 65p a minute to call them. WhatsApp saves me that.

    Not a scientific measure, but I think it's interesting to look at the engagement on Twitter for each of the three Facebook properties Tweets on the outage. Facebook's is about twice that of Instagram, but WhatsApp's is about twice that of Facebook itself.

  108. Blumenthal seems to know more than you do: https://www.npr.org/2021/10/04/1043150167/sen-blumenthals-finsta-flub-renews-questions-about-congress-grasp-of-big-tech

  109. I was a member of a slightly famous leftwing blog, Firedoglake. I even worked as a moderator for a while. When FDL went down FB started at about the same time. Most of us made the transitioned to FB. I was already addicted to my computer. I have been doing this since 2005. I had stopped reading books and making art years ago. I have taken advantage of the fact that FB went down about the same time that the whistleblower was testifying and stopped going online there for a whole 24 hours now. Can I really quit? I think so. I hope so.

  110. You make an excellent point on how Facebook can (and should) be enjoyed. For whatever reason my experience has been the opposite where posts on FB have convinced him of ridiculous things. Political, conspiracies. He is a strong 92, goes to the gym 5 days a week bless him.

  111. As I sit here staring at my keyboard trying to come up with a witty rejoinder to Jiminek, I am listening to Ray Lynch's Celestial Soda Pop, and it occurs to me that I don't need to say anything to that person. Jim said it best already. I get my best ideas listening to "Deep Breakfast".

  112. Your analysis is spot-on, Jim. I use FB to keep in touch with distant friends, former co-workers, people I know with whom I have common interests and hobbies. I am alert for trolls and scams. I do not get my news from FB sources, but vet my sources and go to trusted sites, several when I can. But yes, it helps a lot of older people have social interaction, and humor, in their lives, especially during the pandemic and it's attendent restrictions and shutdowns.

  113. I work with seniors, have for more than 25yrs. This last two years have been so hard for them. The fb knockout caused fear for some that one of the few Safe ways of connecting was gone. They have list sooo much in the last two years. Two years of parties and connections and kisses and hugs with family and friends missed do not mean the same thing at 20, 25, 30, 40 or even 50, as they do at 85 and 90.

    Thank you for seeing them and speaking for them.

  114. I work with seniors, have for more than 25yrs. This last two years have been so hard for them. The fb knockout caused fear for some that one of the few Safe ways of connecting was gone. They have list sooo much in the last two years. Two years of parties and connections and kisses and hugs with family and friends missed do not mean the same thing at 20, 25, 30, 40 or even 50, as they do at 85 and 90.

    Thank you for seeing them and speaking for them.

  115. Thank you. Well said!

  116. This is why it was a tragedy when we lost e-groups, listservs, whatever one should call them. Yahoo! bought up most of the services, ran them shittily, crippled them in an "upgrade" and then shut them down. Competitors had folded long ago, partly because people's relatives had been sucked or pushed onto Facebook instead. E-mail groups are a lot easier to handle, can be pseudonymous more easily than a service that exists to monetize users' identity, require far less tech knowhow or bandwidth, and they were popular precisely with older people; you can see it on Nextdoor (I understand from the Twitter BestofNextdoor account), where people demand to be unsubscribed from the list, etc.

  117. It probably doesn't get as many eyeballs as short social media posts but I very much enjoy your essays. Essays and short stories are two of my favorite formats and both are increasingly rare. Well, good ones are. Thanks for contributing to the supply side of that equation on both counts.

  118. My husband had heart surgery that day, and I was depending on using the same facebook messenger group to communicate his status to a couple dozen or so family and friends. They just had to wait, as the messages sat in limbo for hours, and I had no idea facebook was hosed. Used to be someone might have sat with me then shared the news, but, well, covid.

  119. So eloquently put. My Dad had lupus and had just started with Compuserve in 1990 when he took a cardiac and died. He survived the Tenerife crash,

  120. Oh yeah! "Start a zoom party" I admit I am not a technological wizard and I am also hampered by the fact that I seem to be a natural jammer (which is why all of our keyboards and mice have cords rather than are wireless). I do have a built in IT guy (my husband Jim). Even with that, it is pretty much impossible for me to zoom in order to participate in on line classes. We have one computer that does not support the comment section for some arcane reason, and the other one has no sound. Our ipad refuses to connect to zoom at all. I can only imagine the sorts of problems people who don't have the advantage of high speed internet or a built in IT person experience. We are in Missouri, and I have friends who live in cell phone black areas, so they have to have a land line at home, and there is no cable out there so they don't get the advantage of the cable internet service we get here in town. There are certainly a whole BUNCH of assumptions being made by the twitterverse denizens.

  121. Facebook tripping over its d--k was a fine little schadenfreude parfait for me, cool and crisp.

    For. Me.

    That doesn't equate to wishing it on everyone else. Sacrifice is easy to talk about when it doesn't affect the skin on YOUR back.

  122. Thank you so much, Jim, for continuing to share your thoughts with us.

  123. I’m coming to this late, but I truly appreciate your take in this. I work as tech support for a cable company, which means I spend the majority of my day explaining to (mostly) elderly people how to turn on and off their tv and cable box at the same time, and why the source/input their tv is set on is not correct and how to fix it. I can’t even IMAGINE explaining how to log into Zoom….


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