News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

How Facebook changed my circle of friends

Seven-month-old grandson in Denver
keeping in touch by Facebook

I am on Facebook because my spouse put me on,  mostly so I can keep up with family matters.  I can keep close to my daughter, her husband, and my grandchildren in Denver, for example. Leslie posts photos from her mobile phone on what the family is doing, and it's like dropping in for a visit and an update.  

My spouse sends the same kind of messages from our neck of the woods, and they keep the family current and in touch with each other.  

It is also nice to learn what friends are doing.  For the most part.  The lesser part, however, is another matter.  Sometimes  I learn things I'd just as soon not know.

Some people post their every activity, as if their lives are so vital and compelling that they they are role models for the world.  Sometimes they are interesting.  Other times they are presumptuous.  The old social rule is that it is unseemly to talk about yourself all the time, and some folks do find themselves the most and, often, the only interesting things in the world.  They seem not to understand that not everyone shares their glowing admiration for themselves.  It is good to learn of achievements and things that happen to friends, but when their reports surge into self-aggrandizement and become exhibitionism, we see defects of character that we'd prefer not to deal with.

On the other hand, some of my fiends undertake arduous and interesting projects, and it is engaging and informing to track their progress, their frustration, their exchange of experience, and their successes.  Their stories become that part of human experience we call knowledge.

I have many long-time acquaintances whom I have admired and been happy to know.  They are accomplished and noteworthy in many ways.  But some have taken on a form of Donald Trump-like exhibitionism that undercuts their credibility. One example is a couple who advertise their social and cultural activities with an eye toward snobbery which features photos of themselves mugging with an ostentatious cuteness.  A mutual friend asked me recently if I'd noticed their spate of "juvenile showing off" on Facebook.  I had, and it is something I would never have expected of them.  The friend asked if I knew of anything bad that happened in their lives for which they were compensating or covering up.  I didn't,  but the thought occurred to me.  In my eyes and that of the mutual friend,  they are no longer the people we knew, or thought we did.  Their Facebook antics  make us wary.  They project that smell-me attitude.  That causes me to hold my breath.  It is as if someone we knew well passed away or underwent a drastic personality change.

In other cases people post things that reveal themselves in ways that diminish them.    I often come across postings or repostings that betray racist attitudes.  That is disappointing.  Some Facebook friends post memes that are repeatedly proven to be untrue.  In doing so, they show that they like to believe in malevolent lies.    It is hard to be friendly with people who show a malicious ignorance.  Those who endorse lies and misinformation are the ones who have reduced the USA to the status of a banana republic.  They do not merely  have differing opinions.  They are the purveyors of falsehoods intended to do harm.  People who respect truth and honesty disassociate themselves from them.  And so, relationships are fractured.

I edge away from those whose posts reveal traces of bad character that show an underlying malice.   My circle of friends has narrowed.  Facebook reveals some of those things we'd prefer not to know and forces us to make choices about with whom we relate.

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States