02 February 2016

Some Friendships: A Mile Wide and an Inch Deep

There’s a saying about friends, “We have three types of friends in life: Friends for a reason, friends for a season, and friends for a lifetime.”

And as writers in the 21st century we’re supposed to work social media. And it is work, but it’s also fun. You meet people you never would have met otherwise. Sometimes you’ll even meet them in real life, at a conference or convention or even meet up just go out to lunch if you’re in the same town. On occasion it goes the other way, you meet someone in person and then friend them online. Some of these people turn into good friends.

And how does this relate to SleuthSayers? Because this is a crime and writers/writing blog and it deals with the writing side—an aspect of the social media side of being a writer.

Occasionally I notice that I’ve lost a friend or two on Facebook or Twitter. I guess that’s to be expected. People drop off for a variety of reasons. There are programs or apps that will allow you to see who’s dropped you. So far I haven’t installed any of them. Maybe I don’t want to know...

But something interesting happened to me recently. I lost a friend I thought I was pretty good friends with. I knew I lost her and I knew who it was. I also knew why. Here’s what happened:

Generally speaking, I post nothing overtly political or religious on FB. Remember what your mom said about not talking politics or religion in polite company. So I pretty much follow that dictum. I post a lot of articles and pix of La La Land (Los Angeles) and film noir and Raymond Chandler and his ilk. Some animal pix. Some are of my animals, some not. Some funny animal things and some serious ones about abused animals. But that’s about as political as I get, at least in my mind.

But a short time ago I posted a song/video that I thought was funny. It was a satirical song about the holidays and Christmas and such. And it offended someone greatly. She told me so and I apologized in public in a comment on the post. But I didn’t remove the video. We had a little back and forth in the comments and also in private e-mail and it was civil on both sides, though I believe she wanted me to remove the video which I wouldn’t do. Overall I apologized three times, but apparently it wasn’t enough. She defriended me and basically said “farewell” in a private e-mail.

She was upset not so much by the video per se, but that I’d posted it around the holidays. Any other time of year and she wouldn’t have been offended, she said. My whole reason for posting the video around the holidays was that it was a satirical view of the holidays that I thought was funny, related to and that I thought other people would too. And for the most part, it was about the secular/non-religious aspect of the holidays (obnoxious relatives, silly family traditions, etc.) although there may have been a very small reference to religion. To top things off, in a comment, someone else commented on the video and posted another video which was a little offensive by some standards and not something I would have posted and I think I also got blamed for that, which was beyond my control.

I try not to post things that I think will be offensive to others, but there is a point where you have to say enough—I have to be me. I can’t worry about everything I say or do offending someone or I would basically never post anything, including this blog which I’m sure will offend someone, somewhere, at some time. In fact if I was constantly worrying about offending someone I would probably not be a writer, because as writers we are always taking a chance that we will offend someone. In my noir-thriller White Heat, which deals with a lot of racial issues and uses some tough language, I worried about using the ‘N’ word. So much so that I put a disclaimer at the beginning of the book warning people to consider the harsh language in the context of the time and place where the novel takes place. So, I do try to consider people’s feelings and be respectful.

But I guess I committed an unforgiveable offense by posting the video and have now been banished from the island. But I find it rather ironic since this person has asked me on several occasions to write up bios, respond to questionnaires, and other things about myself so she could publish an article and/or interview about me. This has gone on for several years yet no article or interview ever appeared. Yet I spent a lot of time working on this stuff. I wasn’t thrilled that I had spent all this time for nothing but I never said a word. We were friends so I let it slide. But I committed the offensive act and that was the end of a friendship that I now realize was a mile wide but an inch deep.

It’s not the end of the world. And I know she was upset by the video. Personally I don’t see the
problem but I did apologize as I said. I often see things I don’t agree with, political or otherwise, from people I’m friends with but I let them slide. Agree to disagree. I don’t comment. I just move on. I asked her to do that with me, but she wouldn’t or couldn’t. But I guess it’s easy to be friends with someone you agree with 100% and more of a challenge to be friends with someone you don’t agree with on everything.  And as writers I think we need to challenge rather than agree on everything. I’ve been friends in the real world for 30 years, sometimes even longer, with people that I disagree vehemently with and they with me. But we agree to disagree and we’re still good friends. And that’s the way I like it.
5 Ways NOT to Handle a  Nasty Facebook Breakup. Click on link not photo to view video: https://www.facebook.com/YourTango/videos/10152523198102261/?pnref=story


I’m going to be interviewed by Pam Stack on Authors on the Air, Wednesday, February 3rd at 6pm Pacific Time. Hope you’ll join us there: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/authorsontheair/2016/02/04/paul-d-marks-talks-about-writing-and-more-on-authors-on-the-air-live

And I’m also guest blogging on author Sue Ann Jaffarian’s Fan Club page on Facebook this week if you want to stop by and check it out: https://www.facebook.com/groups/sueannjaffarian/ 

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  1. I suspect Facebook ends as many friendships as creates them. It's not a forgiving media!
    Liked your other FB post.

  2. Thanks, Janice. I think it's like when people are in their cars and yelling at or flipping off someone. They feel safe and anonymous. But friendships also come and go in the "real" world. It just might be easier to lose them online.

  3. Never change, Paul. It would ruin your writing style that is totally you.

  4. Thanks, Gayle. I appreciate your thought!

  5. Hi Paul,

    I liked your post about Facebook friends, Paul. It’s something that’s been on my mind. The truth is, for me at least, I think it’s gotten out of hand.

    Friendship matters. In fact, I once began a book (“Dragonfire”): “They were friends once. The kind of special friends the men of the hill tribes call ‘death friends’ to distinguish them from those with whom one merely shares rice and talk.” I started my professional Facebook page because my mainstream publisher insisted I do so. I mostly posted promotional stuff and sometimes, something personal, but never political or religious, aware of those minefields. Sometimes events, like the attack in Paris, a city I had lived in and loved and been to time and again, forced me to write something about it. Among other things, I wrote: “Paris is like your first love. You never forget her as she was and in your heart and mind, always will be.” But I hate the “look at me” aspect of Facebook, even as I do it; especially for the promotional things publishers used to do (they can’t now; really, do much beyond the usual traditional PR and first media blast and events) and that all we writers seem to have to do now, .

    Later, Facebook changed its rules. I was required to get a personal Facebook page as well and link the two. Suddenly, you get all these “Friend” requests. Some from people you know, some from fans, some from others, including aspiring writers, who often want favors. Much of the time you haven’t a clue who they are or why or how they got to you, except via someone you’re already connected to. For a long time I just said, yes, to people who wanted to “Friend” me, thinking (promotion) there was little harm. And something inside me always hesitates at the idea of hurting someone’s feelings. Besides, it just expands the circle, right? Wrong.

    You get inundated. Mostly with stuff your “friends” have picked up on the Internet and re-post, or from their personal lives. On occasion it’s even interesting or funny, if mostly time-wasting. But some people post dozens of things every day. Every thought or thing they or their children or their puppies do. Far more than I ever wanted to know or care about. Also, you get religious stuff and from some people, political posts. Daily. Here’s the thing: even when I agree with them (and often I don’t), I resent them pushing this stuff on me. Once in a blue moon, OK. But all the time? No thank you. So I’ve begun to “unfriend” people. Maybe there are better ways to stop getting all this garbage, this stuff, but I’m not a sophisticated enough user to know how – or possibly even care.

    I believe, as you suggested, you can “meet” people online and then become friends in person, but the truth is, virtual friendship is as real – and as meaningful – as virtual sex. There is a difference, although it’s being lost, the boundaries blurred nowadays to the point where it’s getting harder to tell the difference. “Death friends” are friends you are willing to die for. The problem is, we live virtual lives now. We are losing something important. Real life.

    These days I think more and more of closing down my Facebook pages.
    Thank you for raising this issue.

    Andrew Kaplan

  6. I've lost a few friends on Facebook, too. Not many, and the irony is that the ones I've lost are people who always knew my political/social leanings, but once they saw it on-line, somehow it bothered them. I think the real problem with Facebook (besides it being a HUGE timesuck) is that there is no nuance. When you talk face to face, there's gestures and facial expressions and tones of voice that can make almost anything innocuous - or deadly serious. On Facebook, there's none of that, so people decide to get pissed off, and do. And stay that way.

    And there is an increasing attitude these days that somehow, you should only interact - should only HAVE to interact - with people who agree with you 100%. Which certainly isn't families or real life. But that's what the on-line world seems to devolve into - everyone locked into their own little echo chambers, where all they hear is their own tribe shouting. Sad, because I have always loved a good debate. I don't even mind losing, as long as I learn something. Because how can you learn if you're never wrong?

  7. Facebook has given a whole new meaning to the word "friend". I am certain that the majority of friends on my page, (whom I have never met), would not be a friend in real life. Facebook is a place where people can get noticed and retain their anonymity. They can brag, preach, wave the flag and boast about how they would handle the Muslims, immigrants, gays and so forth. It's (almost) a waste of time. I seldom go there. Like you, Paul, I "friended " a lot of folks at the urging of my publisher. I haven't seen any benefits, but that is hard to measure. I maintain these friends simply because it doesn't make any difference to me. Sticks and stones.

  8. I'm extremely fortunate in that I have two best friends, one I've known for 54 years, the other 42 years. I'd go to the wall any time for either of them & they would do the same for me. I've heard that the Bible says you only need one or two friends in your life, but not being a Biblical scholar, I don't know the quote. ?

    I'm not on Facebook because my ex-boyfriend who stalked me online & against whom I have a restraining order, is a big Facebook user. I know this because I googled his name & that piece of info came up. I sometimes look at Facebook with my husband. For the past 5 years or so, his sister won't communicate with anyone any more except on Facebook!!

  9. Elizabeth, I don't get those who now exclusively use social media to communicate. Worse, it doesn't work at all for people like me who've been kicked off facebook.

  10. Paul, I’m disappointed… nay, I’m offended you didn’t provide a link to the offending video so we could be offended too!

    I like having friends of varying beliefs. It’s good for a person.

    Congratulations on the Pam Stack interview. Love the Facebook Manners video. Very clever.

  11. I can't imagine your not being considerate and courteous, Paul! I too would love to see the offending video! I'm sure I'd love it. And frankly, if I weren't trying to sell books, I'd never dream of signing up for FB and "living out loud." After all, nobody really cares about my cat's surgery, or mine for that matter.
    There's a world full of peculiar people and when you run into someone like that, just write it off -- believe me, I know it wasn't you!

  12. Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for your response. You’ve given us a lot to chew on.

    I didn’t want to get involved in FB initially ‘cause I thought it would all be about pictures of what people had for breakfast, not exactly what I wanted to see. But was talked into it by a friend who also happened to be a publicist. She insisted I do it and after kicking and screaming for some weeks I dipped my toe in. It took me awhile to figure out how to use it but eventually I did and found my place...I think.

    But I agree with you that we now have to do promotional things that we might not have had to do in the past. On the one hand I like having control on the other it’s a pain in the ass.

    And you do get inundated, as you say. I don’t mind the friend requests if they’re legit, but many aren’t and I try to weed those out. I have made some friends via social media that have become more than just social media friends and I like that aspect of it. But there is also a lot of shallowness and self-promotion. Which I do the latter, of course, and maybe some of the former with some silly posts. But we don’t only want to do promotion, people get turned off by that.

    And I’m with you, too, on people pushing things at me. I haven’t defriended them, but I do get tired of it. And, like you, even if I agree with them I don’t like or comment on political things, 99.999% of the time.

    Not that you asked for my two cents’ worth, but I hope you won’t close down your FB pages. There is something to be gotten from them, though it can be frustrating.

    Thanks again for your comment.


  13. Eve, I agree completely about people wanting an echo chamber. But then we miss out on half the world if we’re only listening to our side. And FB is a timesuck. I go on and look up and it’s an hour later – where did the time go? As for nuance, I guess that’s what emojis or emoticons are for, but maybe they don’t always work. Thanks for your comment.


    Thanks, Herschel, I guess there is a difference in real world friends and FB friends. But I’ve found some good friends through FB and also found it helpful in terms of promotion. As I said to Andrew, I went in kicking and screaming, but overall I like it now. Which is not to say there aren’t jerks of all stripes, but I just ignore them.


    Elizabeth, I’m sorry to hear about your stalker-husband. And you are lucky to have two good friends. My mom had a couple friends like that and I think it was one of the joys of her life. Thank you for your comment.



    Why were you kicked off the island, I mean Facebook?

    Actually, I did have a link to the video in my original draft of the post. But I decided to take it out for a specific reason that I won’t go into here.

    And like you, I like having friends of varying beliefs. And, as I said in the piece, I’ve had real-world friends with totally opposite views for decades and we argue and we agree to disagree...and most importantly, we stay friends.

    Yeah, that Facebook Manners vid is hilarious. And thanks about Pam Stack...but we’ll see after it’s done how well I do........


    Hi Connie, I try to be considerate and courteous. At least that’s my starting position. But if people are jerks I can get jerky too. You should have seen me at a bank when I wanted to deposit money and they wouldn’t take it. Long story. And I’m interested your and your cat’s surgery :) . Thanks for your comment.


  14. Okay, for Leigh and Connie and anyone else who's curious, here's a link to the offending video. The Dropkick Murphys, with "The Season's Upon Us":


    Bring it on!


  15. Thanks for the link, Paul. I thought the video innocuous, but it occurs to me almost any little scene could offend someone. As you said, we can't please everyone, else we please no one.

    Paul, here's the painful saga why I was kicked off facebook. (Cue blues harmonica.)

  16. I thought it was innocuous too, Leigh. And your FB saga is one for the ages! :) Thanks.

  17. I just watched the video, and I thought it was hilarious - and I can assure you all the Irish relatives are going to LOVE it when I forward it on to them! Seriously, I don't see why anyone would unfriend anyone over THAT. And your FB saga is unbelievable!

  18. Thanks, Eve. I didn't get it either. But she was upset that it and therefore I was making fun of religion at Christmastime. Oh well.

  19. Well, Paul, I don't get it - I didn't see it at all as making fun of religion; just making fun of the endless "perfect Norman Rockwell Hallmark family gathering" Christmas that's rammed down everyone's throats. At least we all got a good giggle over it.

  20. I thought that video was rather funny myself. I can't remember a single offensive thing shown, sung, spoken, or whatever. Some people are just to uptight and not able to laugh. You don't need fake people anyway. You're a great person with a great talent. Spend your time promoting, interviewing, and writing.

    The girl mentioned in that silly FB post, {we all know are not valid}? She's a girl I grew up with and is now waiting for a kidney to save her life. She has several health issues and her time is getting shorter.


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