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Facebook fiasco calls for Facebook rehab

March 12, 2012

by Michal Ann McArthur
Bend, Oregon

On Monday, March 5, 2012, I heard on KTVZ that a 17-year-old La Pine high school student had been arrested for posting this threat on Facebook: “I’m going to shoot up the school tomorrow. You’re all going to die.” He was charged with disorderly conduct and taken to the juvenile detention center. Of course, the authorities had to take a threat like that seriously. In subsequent interviews with people who actually knew him, though, the consensus seemed to be that he was probably only trying to express some dark humor. If that’s the case, then the young man has my sympathy. I’ve had my own little Facebook fiasco.

Let me quickly assure you that I didn’t threaten violence. I’m actually one of those softies who carries bugs out of the house rather than killing them. And just so you understand where I’m coming from, let me also say that I’m technology-averse. I don’t mean just a pinch or a tad or a dribble. I mean I have a case of technophobia even Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz combined couldn’t cure. Only last month did I finally master using our TV remote after five years of tortured bafflement. When my husband bought our first computer back in the 80s, it took me a year before I’d venture close enough to dust it. If technology would just stop advancing for a couple of decades, I think I might have a fighting chance of catching up, but it shows me no mercy. I feel as though I’m on crutches chasing a Red Bull–guzzling cheetah. Do any of the rest of you out there feel that way?

Anyway, back to my story. Motivated by my desire to see the pictures of my grandchildren that my daughter and her husband were regularly posting, I got brave enough to ask my son to help me set up a Facebook account. But little did I realize that Facebook is not just about pictures of first birthdays and lost teeth. Facebook is also about opinions, and as much as I love my daughter, I wasn’t quite prepared for an opinion she expressed one day. Being a logical soul, I thought I ought to enlighten her on her logical fallacy because that’s what mothers do, right? And being a little snarky, I did it with a little . . . snark. I figured she’d chuckle at my fine, dry humor. So I clicked on into her comment box to offer a little motherly wisdom just between the two of us . . . or so I thought. Big mistake. I never, ever figured on what actually happened next.

Not too long afterward, I got “The Call”–the kind mothers hate; the kind where your baby’s crying, and it’s your fault, only you really didn’t mean to!  My poor daughter was embarrassed and humiliated. She actually thought I had intended to mock her publicly.  I was mortified. NEWSFLASH FOR ME: When you comment on someone else’s Facebook post, it’s visible to all their friends, including tons of people who don’t even know you. After an hour of listening to each other, we were able to work it out. She has a very gracious spirit and forgave me. Wow. Lesson learned.

I wasn’t arrested for my indiscretion, but I was traumatized. It took me two full years before I got up the courage to comment on another Facebook post. And believe me, my comment was bursting with innocuousness. All I had the nerve to say was, “Cute pic.”

It might be a good idea for all parents out there to remind their teens that what they post on Facebook gets read by a wide audience and they need to be careful about what they say. Although, maybe I’m the only one on the entire planet who didn’t already know that. With the exception, maybe, of this 17-year-old. Maybe he and I need to go to Facebook rehab together.

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Discuss this article

Carlie March 12, 2012

Ha ha! Facebook Rehab, eh? Great article. I am a similarly sensitive soul who had her own little facebook debacle when an older woman sent me a private message that she thought my current status update with inappropriate. I overreacted and got silent for a while and then got over it but in the long run I think it’s good. People are always talking about how facebook and blogs and email are a new thing….you have to really watch what you say these days…there’s a public record out there now. On the one hand I totally see where they’re coming from, all this stuff is new and it does prompt some new varieties of honesty and communication that we aren’t always prepared to deal with, along with special brands of miscommunication and misinterpretation but the idea that you have to watch what you say isn’t new. The joke that kid posted on facebook would have been no less chilling and serious if it had been overheard in the lunchroom at school by people other than his private macabre crowd, right? And your daughter is likely not shocked that you disagreed with her over the issue she posted on facebook and you could have just as easily hurt her feelings with an offhand bit of verbal snark about the idea, with all the best intentions. I guess all I’m saying…online communication is new…being careful because sometimes the things we say are taken wrong isn’t. Thanks for writing. 🙂

greg March 12, 2012

Facebook is cool, but it really does have a dark side. Everything IS public, I have at least one student who had a job offer on the table that was withdrawn because of what the potential employer saw on his facebook page! My students tell me the proper term is ‘creeper’… I read but don’t usually post in an open forum 😉 nicely done!

Jennifer Hall March 12, 2012

Facebook can be tricky indeed! Thanks for writing. Great article!

Maria Colon March 12, 2012

I sympathize with your Facebook experience as it can be very intimidating. Technology is advancing quicker than most mere mortals can keep up with and I consider myself a tech savvy person. Your article is very humorous and insightful but most importantly brings up a great point that as parents we must educate our children on the importance of protecting their reputations especially in the virtual world as it will come back to bite them in the real world. We all must learn to think before hitting that send button.

Andrea Parunak March 12, 2012

What a delightful piece! I think we’ve all been there. It’s so easy to get into trouble online. Thanks for the colorful reminder to be careful!

Kay March 12, 2012

I agree Facebook is a bit too out there. I stay on only to see family pics and how everyone is doing. I rarely comment mostly just hit the like button. A very good read for others who should understand how public the Internet is. I love your humor and honesty, hang in there…

Aaron March 12, 2012

Yes. Use Facebook messages to get a private-ish channel.

Jan Andrist March 12, 2012

I really enjoyed reading this article! Very entertaining and yet a great reminder to think about what we are writing and who might read it. Life can be so complicated! Thanks for putting into words what so many of us think and feel.

Dawn March 12, 2012

Great story! I think many of us have had some sort of Facebook fiasco in the past that we can relate to. Many times I find myself sending private messages rather than publicly posting on people’s walls. It seems there are just too many security issues and risks associated with these types of virtual relationships. And your article does a great job of bringing up the point to be conscious of what and where you write your comments so that you don’t end up in FB rehab or jail!

Alpine Dan March 12, 2012

Okay this touches a nerve. Several actually. Not only must I rely on my son to set up computer programs and new-fangled TV’s that can find (!)and display (!!!) my private internet photo albums, I am perpetually paranoid about prying people probing previously posted postulations on private blogs that proved public. Everything posted on the internet survives forever. Your excellent article therefore will live on eternally. That’s good news for you and your readers, but for my own personal perturbations maybe not so much.

Catherine March 12, 2012

Too true too true

Ann McArthur March 12, 2012

Thanks everybody for your comments. I guess I’m not the only one who’s lucky not to have been arrested for a Facebook fiasco. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I have no idea how to post private-ish messages on Facebook. I’ll have to get my tech-savvy son to help me out.

Olivia March 12, 2012

Wow! Makes me glad I decided not to sign up for Facebook!

Judy Traun Renner March 12, 2012

What a great description of a relationally troublesome event that ends well. I am a Facebook subscriber who only knows enough about it to be dangerous. I take heed to your wise advice! Great story told with fun humor.

John March 12, 2012

A lesson well learned. Nicely done.

How expressive! “On crutches chasing a Red Bull-guzzling cheetah” gets the message across with vivid playfulness. Excellent.

Gene March 12, 2012

Good article.

Sigh, Facebook, my nemesis. Why has it taken me so long to realize that:

1. If I wouldn’t say it when visiting friends for dinner, I shouldn’t say it on FB.
2. Contradiction and correction are best done privately, not publicly. On FB, this is called a “message”, not a wall post.

Nancy March 12, 2012

Oh, yes. And as a kindred spirit, you just reinforced my “anxieties” about Facebook.

Kathi March 13, 2012

Great article! I love your sense of humor while dealing with a subject at the forefront of modern communication. I also liked Gene’s comment about “if you wouldn’t say it at the dinner table…” And Alpine Dan…well he should start his own blog using only “p” words; he has a definite gift!

Thanks for sharing so transparently. I certainly identify with you, and I’ll bet oodles of the over 50 set (and probably younger too) do as well!

Kathryn March 13, 2012

This made me laugh… and wince. I think we’ve all been there!

T. Taylor March 13, 2012

Valuable lesson and well written. I enjoy your ability to wrap such practical lessons in humor and with a personal touch.
Thanks. Keep writing!

Sue March 15, 2012

Thanks for sharing your story! I can very much relate to your experience! While I love sharing “pics” and seeing what everyone is up to, I have learned to be careful what I post so that my friends don’t become involved in something they don’t want to be drawn into. Using the message board on Facebook seems to be a bit more private–not involving your other friends–but for the eyes of the page holder only. When all else fails, nothing beats the old fashioned phone call!! (So…I’m guessing you haven’t tried “Pintrest” yet! :)) Love your sense of humor and honesty! Look forward to more articles in the future!

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