Facebook fiasco calls for Facebook rehab

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by Michal Ann McArthur
Bend, Oregon
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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.