My relationship with Facebook has always been amiable and simple. I use it primarily to see photos and videos of my brand new great-nephew, Jack, in his very jazzy onesies with matching caps. And then I go on to photos and videos of baby animals.
A few years ago, when on Facebook, I replied briefly to a comment from a pal and then walked away from the computer for a minute. Glass of water, or something.
When I returned, there it was – a tinted box on my screen containing a message from Facebook, couched as a communiqué from a strict schoolmarm. Here’s the gist: FB was not going to publish my comment because it contained derogatory and/or otherwise unacceptable language. FB suggested I consider amending what I’d written.
Into what hellhole of depravity had I sunk to deserve the censure of Facebook?
Well, during the 2018 election campaigns, I read news about Cindy Hyde-Smith, a GOP senatorial candidate in the deep South, a woman who had openly been exhibiting a distinctly antebellum, um, philosophy.
I’d seen some of a news conference she’d given in which she was questioned about her…uh…political philosophy. I have never seen anyone running for office so bad at communicating with the media. That was a nice way of saying Cindy Hyde-Smith appeared to be substantially stupid. A GOP wrangler stood by her side and answered a lot of the questions directed at her. When she answered questions, she’d say, “I refer to my previous statement about that.” Over and over.
It was mind-boggling, back in the days when I still had a mind available to be boggled.
Although I don’t get my news via social media, some of these Hyde-Smith stories had also appeared on my Facebook page and had stimulated my Facebook cohort to offer comments about this candidate. Here are a few: “old bitch;” “bum bitch;” “skeletal thing;” “the C…nt;” “old cow;” “low-lifer;” “danger to society;” “hang her high!” “A germ.”
Two women friends shared remarks about the candidate’s professed Christian faith and questioned how any Christian could be a racist. Or how any racist could call herself Christian. I think hypocrisy was cited; it usually is in such cases.
So there they were, my Facebook friends, laying out the word string, “hypocrite, racist, Christian,” when I helped by adding the supplemental “white trash.”
BAM. Facebook swatted me.
Was I crushed? Hardly.
In fact, since Facebook had been in the news then — and still is — precisely for not doing to malevolent trolls what it did to me, I felt censored right into the zeitgeist.
No longer a fairly obscure writer, I was part of this huge story. (For a few seconds I worked on a proportionately modest swagger.)
But I was also mystified. Because, on the flip side of this new universe, I’ve never been a victim of Facebook’s inadequacy in censoring or tagging fake news and vile propaganda. Indeed, when I first learned about troll farms, I made a valiant effort to find some of their stuff on Facebook. Never could.
As for privacy, if Facebook has been selling my personal traits in the Marketplace, the Marketplace has not gotten what it paid for. I’ve never clicked on an intrusive ad, never once bit on enticing links to, “Guaranteed to get rid of stomach fat!” I’ve never bought anything advertised on Facebook or through any other internet advertising vehicle.
If my identity has been ripped off, why am I still sitting here fully integrated, my financial doings undiminished, my privacy uninvaded?
So good for me, bad for Mississippi, whose junior senator is now Cindy Hyde-Smith.