John Van Nostrand: Sometimes necessary, sometimes evil

·4 min read

Aug. 16—Work made me do it.

I finally created my own Facebook page. Knowing the CNA has its own Facebook page, having my own account makes it easier for me to monitor the comments on stories. I had been using my wife's account to do that, but she got annoyed by the notifications to the point she wanted me to have my own. That only seemed fair.

My social media presence is limited. I have been on LinkedIn for years. I like their news feed, which is what got me on it. Great stories. And a majority of the time the comments and dialogue are healthy, civil and engaging. Majority of the time. Last winter I was part of an exchange of comments that turned into an argument which made me again think why I do this. I was supportive of the issue explained, but came at it from a different perspective. But since I was not the demographic in the issue, I was quickly discounted by others. My support was not needed. Civility then went out the window.

I have been a part of Twitter for a couple of years. I rarely have original posts as I usually tweet on others'. Last year, I did question the validity of Labor Day having known other people who have lost their jobs because of layoffs. I think it is odd to have a holiday society "celebrates" work when some people don't have a job and it was not their fault. Or when X number of American jobs get sent overseas. Capitalism turns jobs into pawns on the chessboard and it is still addicted to cheap labor. One person was offended by my tweet mainly because he got the day off as a paid holiday. Again, civility then went out of the window.

My kids wanted me to try Snapchat. It's not my favorite. Enough said.

But Facebook for me was like the trip to the dentist. My wife and I shared a page in the late 2000s. I rarely did anything with it. I do wonder if I have a distorted social-media personality. I get so caught up in the moment with myself, or what my wife has done or kids have done, I didn't think about Facebook. That was when I taught my daughter to ride a bicycle. The family had some fun daytrips. I never thought about telling the others on Facebook. Never.

Not long after that, I observed a lengthy, petty argument on Facebook between longtime friends. I then was told of another married couple I knew and respected who had their marriage threatened by what was done on Facebook. I knew of a man who lost his job because of his personal Facebook posts. I think it was a "fishing" effort to get the person out. Facebook wasn't worth it to me anymore. I told my wife the Facebook page was all hers. Call me weak. I just didn't want to be a part of it. I didn't do anything with it either.

Years went by. A decade passed.

I decided I wanted to get out of social media only what I wanted to put into it. But I still question the tendencies on social media. Remember the ice bucket challenge years ago that was used as a Facebook fundraiser to help a medical related charity? Studies show a number of people who did the challenge and put it on Facebook probably did not send the money to the cause. Jokingly, enough money should have received enough to buy Twitter. Turns out those people may have been more about themselves than the purpose. Environmentalists questioned the massive waste of water (just send the money and save the water). I really wonder if being self absorbed is the root cause of all problems and potential on social media.

My high school graduating class has a Facebook page. We planned reunions that way. It helped the connections but I think has hurt attendance. I reconnected with a person I went to grade school with. We have different worldviews, but it doesn't bother the friendship. Honest.

I've since seen some great, short videos about bullying. Read some good advice that can be applied to various situations. Caught up with people I haven't connected with in years.

Social media is a tool at times and a toy at others. I'll leave it at that.