Dec 13, 2019

A phenomenon that should have come from California

By Ed Goldman

Facebook is one of those 21st century phenomena that make people say, “Only in California,” even though Mark Zuckerberg co-created it when he was a student at Harvard. I guess people tend to think of our state as the undisputed home of products and services you have no need of until they’re ubiquitous and you lament how empty your life was before they arrived. Examples would include email, Netflix and children.

With the exception of this column, I rarely do any Facebook posts. On the occasions that I do, it’s usually when I succumb to the temptation of calling someone out as a jerk for having an opinion about politics that’s clearly the product of muddled thinking or eating too many Kit Kat bars as a child. Invariably, I expect my heroic, witty and devastating riposte to inspire an avalanche of support—you know, from people who feel the same as I do but never had such an articulate champion to state their own feelings so eloquently. Like when a guy’s in high school and he tells someone on whom he has a crush to go listen to a particular song because “That’s me and you.”
Instead, it always turns out that the jerk has armies of supporters (also jerks, obviously) who apparently lie in wait until their hero comes in for a savaging, then storm the barricades, break through the firewalls and soar out of cyber moats to defend his honor—savaging me in the process, needless to add. I then retreat for several weeks from reacting to any posts.
Often, when I look up Facebook posts, I imagine I hear Roy Orbison in the background wailing “Only the Lonely,” the great, tearful tune he co-wrote with Joe Nelson nearly 60 years ago. Once or twice I didn’t imagine it. A couple of people actually used it on their posts. I hope the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers comes after them for copyright violation—though it’s hard to take a group seriously whose acronym, ASCAP, sounds like a medical device I don’t wish to visualize.
Some posters are presumptuous, to say the least, figuring they have thousands of Friends who follow them with a zeal usually demonstrated by people given to sharing a vat of poisoned Kool-Aid. Their posts frequently begin with the phrase, “Well, you all know me, and…” Then the sad follow-up appears under the category titled “Comments”—meaning how many people responded to the post—when the number 2 pops up. And the number 2 remains there no matter how long the post is recycled, meaning not even the passage of time is a help.
When I look up Facebook posts, I imagine I hear Roy Orbison in the background wailing “Only the Lonely”

That recycling of Facebook posts can be the most irksome aspect of the site. I’m thinking of those messages in which someone says, “Please pray for my Uncle Wally, he’s at death’s door.” Sometimes this can provoke an outpouring of sympathetic responses. But when the item appears again, unaltered, as much as six days later, one has to wonder: Is Uncle Wally still at death’s door? And if so, let me be the first to comment that Uncle Wally is one tough bastard.

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Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).