Maybe it’s appropriate that this week’s column is offered online only. Last week, we were all reminded of just how big of an impact the internet and, specifically, social media has on our lives.
Last Thursday, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed. In-between amped up political commentary and gym-mirror selfies, there are actually a few posts that help me stay connected with home.
Unfortunately, those posts last week were about schools on lockdown, parents picking up their kids early, news reports in front of schools and a general sense of alarm. For me, being 2,000 miles away, that general sense of alarm was elevated to about a 9.8 on my ‘OMG, WTF’-o-meter.
In case you somehow aren’t aware, a local student, or students, created a spoof account on Facebook and threatened to gun down teachers and students at several local schools. Two of those schools contained my oldest two children.
The next few moments felt like weeks as I refreshed, refreshed, refreshed hoping for a conclusion to the ordeal… A conclusion that didn’t include bullets, lives lost and more headlines.
Luckily, the post was found to be a hoax and the people responsible were apprehended. Now, those responsible are learning first hand about the power of social media, themselves. Their post briefly impacted our entire community, and now it will forever impact their own lives.
It’s not my job to pass judgment. Nor will I pretend to know why they did it. But, as a father, I hope they one day understand the magnitude of their epically horrible judgment. I also hope they get punished appropriately and/or get whatever psychiatric or emotional help they might need.
Personally, I’ve been through myriad social media calamities: I’ve had career failures play out for everyone to see, I’ve offended many with numerous jokes taken the wrong way, I’ve had a local talk radio host, who I considered a friend, put my kid on blast, and my kids have had a schoolmate create fake accounts of my kids just to harass them. And that kid lives down the street!
This social media thing can be rough, man. There are some days when I just want to shut it all down and delete all my accounts. When those days come, I take a break. I log out for a day or two.
A little social media sabbatical might be the difference between posting some things that we might not necessarily mean or say normally. And, as we all know, social media posts are forever. Even if you delete it, it lives on in screenshots, or worse, in whatever thought was provoked in the individual that read it.
I often wonder if Zuckerberg or Tom (from MySpace, remember that guy?) had any of this in mind when they created these outlets. I don’t think so. I imagine they just did it for the same reason any guy does anything: to pick up women.
They probably didn’t consider that murderous threats, Russian election meddling or local online yard sale Nazis would be the future of the medium. But, like those poor, common-sense-lacking young girls who created those posts last Thursday, they’re finding out now. We’re all finding out.