10 August 2018

Why Can't We Be Friends?

by Thomas Pluck

Some say FaceBook is friendly, others say it is dangerous. Those of us old enough to remember "the Bear" commercial that played on TV for Reagan's election campaign will get what I'm saying.

The social media platform we all love has been accused of being complicit with allowing foreign interference in our elections, by selling ad space to Russian operatives. Their CEO says that Holocaust denial is "a viewpoint" and it was only today that they removed Alex Jones for "bullying," which I guess is what they call his conspiracy that the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax, which caused his followers to repeatedly make death threats to the parents of murdered children, who have had to move several times to remain safe.

It is not a place I want to be. Yesterday I unfriended practically everyone who I haven't met in person or interacted with regularly, and I apologize if there was collateral damage. You can friend me again, my bad. I turned my personal profile into a page, and you can follow me there if you 'like.' If not, there's Twitter (which is really no better--they had methods in place to ban anyone who used "elon musk" in their name, after people were making fun of their fellow tech bro billionaire, but they allow hate speech in profiles and names until enough people report it). Twitter is easier to make earplugs for, with Block Lists, muted words, and other ostrich in the sand techniques.

I've met a few readers on Facebook, but I don't consider it a good platform for what I was using it for, which was event promotion. It is good for chatting and making friends, or "promoting your brand" by sharing the parts of your life that fit the writer image you want to project. I watched an excellent dark comedy called Ingrid Goes West about a woman who gets obsessed with Instagram stars and fakes her way into becoming one. It is available on Flintstones-style plastic disc for consumption, but you can't stream it directly into your consciousness just yet. It is worth the trouble. Aubrey Plaza is a rather fantastic comedic actress, best known as April on Parks & Recreation, and despite having a name like a street in a make-believe suburb, she truly inhabits this role, which goes pretty dark. It could be a crime story, a funny one. She's just as good in the delightfully weird The Little Hours, which spoofs the Decameron, and has Nick Offerman as a grumpy lord, and nuns gone bad.

Part of me has been cleaving to the icon of the reclusive writer who appears like a Greek bearing gifts whenever they have a new book out, and disappears in the interim. It's how it used to be, unless you had a column in a magazine, and blogging like this is no different. Social media has many benefits, but it is extremely draining to me, and I have mostly left Facebook except to give updates on sick cats (they are all doing well) or to create an event that reaches few of the people I'm trying to reach anyway.

Everyone has a Writer Dream. Mine, it seems, was partly inspired by one of my all-time favorite writer stories, Romancing the Stone starring Kathleen Turner, which I was reminded of while reading this incredible interview with Ms. Turner. It is highly quotable, and she offers great advice for all artists within. Anyway, she has great adventures in that movie, but she lives a quiet life. I live in a busy suburb, in a 5th floor 2 bedroom where I write with a view of Manhattan. It's as close to a cabin as I'm likely to get for now, but the noise is coming from inside the house. I've let it in, with my addiction to social media. And my health and writing have both suffered.

I recently finished the first draft of Riff Raff, Jay Desmarteaux's second yarn, and I have another novel in edits, a bar story that's light on crime and heavy on humor, and I need to write a dark short story by the end of the month, so I am retreating to my cabin. I'll see you when I get out, hopefully with a story and two more books for you.


  1. Like many things, Facebook and other social media is a two-edged sword, with plus and minus sides. I find I spend a lot of time on it too. But, as someone who works at home, I also see it as my sort of "watercooler," where I can commune with other people about whatever people talk about at the watercooler. And I don't actually live in a cabin, but we did move out of the Big City (L.A.) to a semi-rural area near it and that helps keep the noise level down...most of the time. But we all have to do what works for us and it can also be different things at different times.

  2. I find facebook an odd diversion as people are proud to show their ignorance and/or their intelligence, compassion, insights. The most valuable for me is linking up with people from my past and linking up with fellow writers and other writing professionals. And the kitten and cat pictures. It's fun seeing what my old girlfriends look like now (no additional comment). What is not fun is discovering friends and acquaintances are racists or misogynists or just plain crazy. Not funny. Crazy. Overall - facebook is enlightening and annoying at the same time.

  3. Yikes! I'm a victim of de-friendizination! (That's sort of like defoliation or depilation or deflorination or something that starts with de-.) I bet Leigh put you up to it. He's envious because he's been kicked off facebook more often than Julian Assange.

    That said, facebook definitely had a dark underbelly. Kind of like Leigh again.

  4. In the early part of the new millennium, Patrick Byrne and his company, Overstock.com began a massive campaign educating the public about the huge mistake of deregulating Wall Street. Among other things, he predicted history would repeat itself, that unregulated practices not only destroyed healthy companies, they would result in economic collapse.

    Wall Street and the financial press turned on Overstock and were particularly personally vicious toward Byrne. Huge profits were at stake. The Street didn’t merely opine he was wrong, they felt no less than destroying Byrne would maintain their profits and the public’s confidence in risky investments.

    In 2005, Patrick Byrne and his company, Overstock.com, filed suite against a hedge fund firm Rocker Partners, aka Copper River and it’s pet dogsbody research firm, Gradient. Curiously, Goldman Sachs moved to have documents uncovered in the case kept secret. This is what mystery readers call a crime clue.

    In 2007, Byrne and Overstock filed a number of suits against a number of Wall Street houses, including Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs. While all sides claimed victory in the various settlements, Byrne and Overstock came out $10-million richer, while Rocker / Copper River closed its doors. In 2008, as Byrne predicted, Wall Streets failure to regulate resulted in the great mortgage debacle and the nations economic plunge.

    What does this have to do with Thomas’s article? First, Wall Street and the financial press learned they could use social media to wage war in an effort to convince the public of untruths, in this case that Byrne had set out to bury America, the free market system, their livelihood, and their investments. But there was another aspect.

    Off to one side, Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, took sides against Overstock. Why Wales took this on I’ve never discovered. He engaged in extremely personal attacks against Byrne, using Wikipedia as a weapon of targeted destruction. At one time, Wikipedia banned an entire town to mute criticisms against them.

    In the end, Byrne was proved right. Sadly, weaponizing social media had only just begun.

  5. I'm not on Facebook because an ex-boyfriend whom I have a restraining order against is extremely active on Facebook. I'm well aware that he is legally prohibited from contacting me at all, even after 20+ years, but I don't know if he actually has the sense to not do that! I take a peek over my husband's shoulder now & then when he's visiting Facebook.

  6. Thomas, I certainly identify. Velma's right: I've been kicked off facebook so many times (once for calling out a false story on a racist facebook page), that I eventually turned the experience into an article. It's a strange new world, but perhaps all generations think that. I'm glad you're with us, Thomas.

    Elizabeth, I'm betting against common sense.

    P.S. Maybe it's just me, but pretty much anything Kathleen Turner stars in short-circuits my internal wiring.

  7. I am still on Facebook, for now anyway, though increasingly I wonder why.


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