Sometime around 2005 I received an email from a student: “Does the university have a policy about social media?”
My response was, “What are social media?”
She wrote back, “You know, like Myspace.”
But I read up on Myspace and social media and informed the student that no, the university did not have a policy.
A couple of years later, the University of California launched an international travel insurance program. Those of us responsible for administering it had no clue how it worked. Within weeks a Berkeley grad student studying in Egypt accessed a new social medium to type one word into his phone: “Arrested.” Friends in his school saw the message, relayed it to the dean’s office, and the dean’s office relayed it to me. That’s how I learned to use the new travel insurance program — and what Twitter was.
I didn’t take the personal plunge into social media until 2009, when The Fabulous Wife and I were going to New Zealand and thought Facebook might be a useful way to communicate with friends and family while away. Except for this blog site, I’ve never used any social medium besides Facebook — and other than to alert my friends to new posts, I don’t say much on Facebook either.
Let me give you an example why. Last week I got a story in my Facebook feed about Boston Red Sox outfielder Jim Rice saving a child’s life at an August 8, 1982 game. I’d never heard the story before, and from what I’d read, Rice was not a nice guy. Was this for real, or were the Russian bots starting to mess with baseball? (Okay Putin, now you’re making me mad!)
I looked it up. A four year-old boy was hit in the head by a foul ball near the Red Sox dugout the day before the story claimed, and Rice did help him. But Rice didn’t leap over the railing and grab the boy — the child was passed to him on the field. The team doctor, Arthur Pappas, saw the incident from the stands and met Rice and the boy in the clubhouse. Pappas determined the injury looked much worse than it was. He called for an ambulance and had the boy taken to Children’s Hospital, where the boy was stitched up, observed for several hours, and never listed in less than good condition. So yes, Rice did a good deed. But he did not save the boy’s life; the boy’s life was never in danger.
Should I or shouldn’t I share the facts? Normally I’d keep the truth to myself. But for some reason I decided what the hell. Without saying anything negative about Rice or the author of the post, I set the record straight.
And within seconds got a response from a woman in the Oklahoma City area along the lines of “I bet you go to the mall on Christmas Eve and tell the kids Santa Claus isn’t real.”
First of all, no, I don’t.
Second of all, how much more symptomatic of our times can you get than an adult rudely huffing, “How dare you let facts get in the way of a good story?”
The Fabulous Wife has found Facebook depressing for other reasons and has decided to leave it. At first I thought, “Don’t do that, if you go that will take me down to minus five friends!” But then I realized I have no basis to argue her decision.
Basic decency and acknowledgement of empirical fact — are those things really so hard? In the “social media” sphere, evidently so, which is why I think the term is pure euphemism.