Steve Wilson
Steve Wilson

Time passes, locales change, friends come and go. We all experience changes, we graduate high school, some go on to college before joining “the working world” while others set straight in to building a life, and so begins the diaspora of those we knew in our youth. For some years these separations are just part of our lives, and we kept in touch with those closest to us, be they family or friends, by whatever means were available.

When I and my classmates were set loose from the Mustang corral back in the ancient year of 1970, the means of communications over distances were the telephone, a device that could only be utilized from its location, and the U.S. Postal Service; the former a quick connection and the latter taking a couple of days depending upon distances. I know to readers over a certain age the previous sentences read like a child’s primer, so let me interject that I use the examples in the off chance any readers have no tech memory prior to 1995.

My first computer communication, no doubt like most of us, was an email, but because this method of instant letters has now been a part our lives so long, I can’t off the top of my mind recall when I sent that first email. I suppose it was in my return to academia and was part of the network of the college. But I can remember the first connection to old friends and acquaintances from high school was on the website, and my first venture onto that site was in the late ’90s.

Over the years there were a fair number of communications among those of us from the class, one lengthy set of messages as Bob and I planned a presentation for our 40th class reunion. But that site came with a yearly fee and lurking in the background was a site that would charge no money and soon take over the social media world. Back in February 2004, a fellow named Mark and a couple of his Harvard classmates met the need for student-to-student communication with photos of faces and short biographies; it was then extended to other Ivy League colleges and beyond; they called it TheFacebook. By 2005 it was just Facebook and it became available to all colleges, in early 2006 to high school students and late that year to the public.

By the time I joined the site in late 2007 it was just Facebook, when there were at that time around 100 million active users; by late 2023 there were a few millions shy of three billion users. Users, a term whose prior and present usage is applied to those addicted to substances, addiction being the operative word.

For years Facebook allowed for the same communications among friends and work or schoolmates; in fact, with any of the billions of people who are on the site. I enjoyed commenting on posts, I made use of the Message function for the personal stuff, and as time went on my Facebook world expanded. And then a change took place.

I first became aware of this change when my landlord has a visitor back in 2016 who informed that when in a couple exchanges with a lifelong friend where he disagreed that a millionaire businessman and reality TV star would make a good president, that friend cut off all further communications. Well, I have seen that divisive phenomena grow until if became a seething mass of Right versus Left with some of the most outrageous and downright vicious posts attacking everyone from politicians to private citizens. I’ve seen countless posts using celebrity faces and innocent cartoons uttering political crap totally out of character with the subjects whose images appear. There were so many times I fell into posting short responses to issues that require comprehensive research, and of course such communication is as shallow as it gets. Often there are personal attacks to opinion, and opinion is most posts, and because we are users and so addicted to the site, we get dulled into accepting these slings and arrows when in fact we should not.

A short time back there was a response to one of my comments that directly challenged by abilities to discern something that I have been involved with since my youth. Now, because I have always enjoyed my attacker’s company and consider them to be a highly competent person with a good sense of humor, I decided that no response would do anything but erode our acquaintance, so I just opted out of the whole site. And so far, it has proven to be a boon to my morning routine.

I’m an early riser who normally starts my day with caffeine and nicotine while on the computer checking up on what I hear from NPR radio. In the hours I listen, this source will repeat stories three or four times, so I can catch any details I missed in the first reports. I then visit a slew of sources, ranging from CNN to the Wall Street Journal, BBC, MSNBC, Fox News, New York Times, Reuters, Associated Press, Daily Mail, Bloomberg, The Independent, AlterNet, Forbes, Publication, Los Angeles Times, Newsweek and more.

It takes time to filter out fact from fiction, to read full transcripts or watch full videos instead of just accepting the “sound bites” offered by many sources as proof of situations. An example is the repeated verbal faux pas of our president and a candidate for that office, both sides of the argument calling the speaker unfit for office. Horsefeathers. If one gets the full content before and after the verbal gaffs one often finds the speaker is right on subject. The attention is then on content not on a few slips of the tongue. And content is all that matters and Facebook content does not, for me, edify life, so I am out.

Take care. Peace.

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King City and Greenfield columnist Steve Wilson may be reached at [email protected].


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