Tag Archives: Facebook

Facebook, What Have You Done Now?

We all remember going to an amusement park or a store and seeing a rack of hats or keyrings emblazoned with people’s names. What a thrill it was for kids to find their own names, and how disappointing when your name didn’t appear or was spelled another way! (Now, of course, parents are wary of putting children’s names on their clothing because of potential kidnappers. But I digress.)

Custom printing can be a wonderful thing. It meant that I was able to order two t-shirts for my husband and me featuring the cover of my new book. (Shameless plug: Bipolar Me, available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and in bookstores.) Friends of mine have ordered multiple copies of shirts with screen prints of albums or book covers or business logos to give or sell as promotional “merch.”

But custom printing is also getting a little bit creepy. I’ve seen ads on my Facebook timeline recently for t-shirts that say: I May Live in Ohio But My Story Began in Kentucky. Now, this is true: I was born in Lexington, KY, and I now live in Ohio. But I can’t believe that some company has t-shirts that feature every combination of states in America and sells them to anyone who finds them appropriate. It would take 99 sets of shirts to account for former or current Ohioans alone. If my math is right (which I don’t guarantee), that would mean nearly 5000 shirts for every combination of possibilities. And I can’t believe that a t-shirt company routinely stocks thousands of differently worded shirts against the hope that someone will buy one.

No, these are targeted t-shirts. I’m guessing that Facebook has sold my birthplace and current address info to some company who has a template they fill in with Ohio and Kentucky, if I should be so inclined to buy one. Until or unless I do, that shirt may never actually exist.

But with all the brou-ha-ha about Facebook selling people’s information, I guess I shouldn’t be that surprised. After all, I was silly enough to tell people where I was actually born and now live, just in case, ya know, someone wanted to make sure that I was the right Janet Coburn they wanted to contact, rather than the one born in Hawaii who now lives in Minnesota.

I don’t really mind when Facebook sends me ads for shirts featuring my favorite singers with a list of all their songs. I can believe that John Prine and Emmylou Harris have enough fans that might want t-shirts but can’t get to concerts. Someone could actually have pre-printed those shirts. But again, the fact that I liked them on Facebook sure seems as though the fact’s been plucked from my favorites listing and sold. I never get ads for shirts featuring Metallica’s greatest hits or songs by Justin Bieber.

So what else does Facebook apparently know about me? That I’m a science and science fiction geek and a literature lover and a word nerd and crazy cat lady. That info could easily be generated by the pass-alongs I pass along. So, of course, I get ads for Star Trek items and book-themed gifts and shirts about the Grammar Police and anything connected with cats.  I’m sure it’s no coincidence that I just saw an ad for cat book shoes. And I guess I’m fine with that too, although I wonder how much such companies pay Facebook for the use of their algorithms.

But the home state/current state shirts have me a little spooked. Am I going to start seeing ads with my high school’s name? My favorite quotations? My political associations (if I had been bold enough to list them)?

Frankly, I’d prefer to remain a little anonymous and just wear nightshirts that say I ❤ My Bed.


Crashing Political Parties

By the time this post is up, President Trump will have been inaugurated and many parties will have held many parties. And a lot of people have a lot to say about that, on both sides.

Because that’s what there are – two sides. Apparently, this is one situation in which there is no middle ground. For or against. Admiring or appalled. People who attempt to take a middle position – wait and see – are derided as “the problem” themselves, or apologists, or pie-in-the-sky dreamers. Any suggestion that we try to understand the other side (whichever that is) and their problems is met with a resounding “No! Why should I?”

I have been steering clear of the fray. I voted, and I have an opinion regarding the outcome. Those who know me well probably have no trouble guessing for whom I voted and what I think of the outcome. But I have avoided posting about it on my Facebook timeline or here (though I did write a few quasi-political posts – http://wp.me/p4e9wS-ol, http://wp.me/p4e9wS-qv, http://wp.me/p4e9wS-o2). I knew that my opinions were not likely to change anyone else’s opinions. I have used sources to refute some misconceptions and fake news, but since the threads went on without anyone noticing my contributions, that hardly counts.

I refused to get involved in the ugliness before the inauguration, and I refuse to now. My decision to stay out of the – I hesitate to call it a discussion –  may have cost me friends. There has certainly been a lot of if-you’re-not-for-us-you’re-against-us thinking, and if I do not declare myself, I become, in some minds, against everyone else.

Many people use the argument that a person’s blog or Facebook page is like a party the person is hosting, and the host is entitled to say anything he or she wants. This is as good an analogy as many others. But its corollary is that I do not have to remain at the party, or accept invitations to future parties. (I do agree that a person who behaves boorishly at a party can or should be ejected, but that tends to lead to really boring parties, with everyone nodding and shouting the same thing.)

When most of the invitations I see are to ad hominem parties (attacking a person instead of her or his relevant behavior, statement, stance, or action) and ones where only one opinion may be shouted, I prefer to play online bingo. I have taken a break from social media (except to post my blogs) a couple of times last year, and I feel another such fit coming on.

I don’t have a problem with online “parties” that involve sharing verifiable information or organizing to oppose a perceived injustice by legal means. But have you noticed how many suggestions are of the “hang ’em high” variety? I’m not talking about just one end of the political spectrum, either. One may be more likely to invoke firearms as a solution, but both are “sharing” in the gloating and finger-pointing and obscene memes and vulgar nicknames. I refuse to engage in dialogue with anyone who says either “rethuglicans” or “libtards.”

I understand the need to vent when one is disillusioned, outraged, insulted, ignored, or otherwise upset. Doing that venting in public, or even at one’s own party (which the virtual neighbors can “hear”) is no doubt satisfying, especially if one is particularly clever at inventing epithets. But it does no good, and only makes the divisions wider.

Yes, yes, I know I can just keep scrolling, but not without seeing hateful memes and pictures at the very least. I feel the same way about them as I do about photos of abused animals: I don’t want to see the carnage even if I support the cause. But I digress.

Blogger Jim Wright (www.stonekettle.com) often says,”If you want better government, be better citizens.”

I would add, “If you want better parties, be a better host. Or guest.”

What I Hate About Facebook

We all complain about Facebook – from privacy issues to the lack of a “dislike” button to strange-acting news feeds. But there are a few other things I see all the time on Facebook that bother me even more.

Chain letters. You remember chain letters that came in the mail. You had to mail out a certain number of copies by a certain date or risk dire consequences. Or maybe you were supposed to send $1 to the next person on the list and eventually receive thousands in return. Some of them even required saying of a certain number of prayers in exchange for blessings from God (or more specific payoffs).

(God and angels are not fairy godmothers. They’re not in the business of granting wishes.)

I never liked these when they came in the mailbox and I like them even less online. In addition to those standard types are ones requiring the reader to cut and paste a paragraph into his or her own timeline and see how many people respond. (For some reason simple sharing is not allowed.)

I don’t see the point of these, especially when they say “I know who will pass this on and who will not.” If you already know, why bother posting the thing at all?

Ridiculous pass-alongs. Somehow the most annoying of these are the pass-alongs that say if you have a granddaughter/niece/dog /service member/victim of cancer in your family you love with all your heart, share this picture of a candle or a ribbon or a flag. Nearly everyone qualifies for one or more of those, but passing around the images is kind of pointless. An actual picture of said granddaughter/niece. etc. would make more sense. One or two. Not thousands.

Also pointless are the ones that say share if you hate cancer or pass this on if you disapprove of animal abuse. Who’s going to admit they like cancer or heartily approve of animal abuse?

If you look closely at some of these memes – as well as the humorous ones – you will find that they originate at radio stations. You can tell by the call letters. Why do radio stations care about cancer or animal abuse? They don’t. They are doing what is called “like-farming.”

Since online music streaming, iTunes and iPods, internet radio stations and podcasts, and services like SiriusXM, radio stations have fallen on hard times. In order to charge more to advertisers, the stations must prove that they have listeners – responsive listeners at that. By putting a meme online that everyone will want to like and share, they are proving that their station gets attention – not for its music, however.

Famous characters. Nowadays we see beloved icons of our childhood – primarily cartoon characters – being used to support assorted social and political causes, or just to deliver some lame-ass joke. The creators of Kermit the Frog, Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang, and Calvin and Hobbes certainly never intended their characters to be used as vehicles for assorted, sometimes controversial, opinions. (Charles Schulz would probably have been okay with the religious memes.)

If a company like MetLife wants to use Peanuts characters in its advertising, they have to – and do – pay large amounts of money. Not so for the people who create Facebook memes. And they largely get away with it. Internet memes are so anonymous that it can take forever to figure out whom to sue.

And while we’re on the subject, I am so bloody tired of the Minions. These repulsive blobs appear everywhere, commenting on everything, joking about any topic. They are this millennium’s Smurfs, only yellow. The jokes or sayings aren’t even that funny usually, but apparently someone thinks that having a Minion presenting it will improve the humor.

Click bait. Ever since Ye Olde days of newspapers and magazines, headlines have been meant to draw readers into an article. But at least they gave some idea what the article was going to be about. Not so anymore. Headlines of the variety “A person did this and you won’t believe what happened next” appear on news feeds with stunning regularity.

Again, as with like-farming, this is simply meant to raise the number of click-throughs and generate excess interest for a story that’s not really all that fascinating.

I particularly dislike headlines of the sort that say “You’ve been doing X wrong for years” (eating sushi, flossing) or “What’s the best time of day to x?” (drink water, take vitamins). Someone somewhere thinks they know better than we do. What’s the best time to drink water? How about when you’re thirsty?

But if you really don’t want me to read your article, your meme, your opinion, or your joke, there’s a really easy way to do that – make it unreadable. Professional graphic designers and typographers make mistakes that render their efforts futile. Imagine what can be done in the way of illegibility by someone with no training at all.

So I beg of you – if you want to put an inspirational saying atop a lovely nature picture, by all means do so. But check out the color of the picture and the color of the type you’re using. White type on a light blue or pink background is not suitable even for those whose eyes aren’t failing. Screen captures are also notoriously hard to read. I know you can blow them up but it’s a real pain and most of the time I don’t find it worth the effort. I scroll right by.

Sometimes I don’t know why I bother with Facebook at all. Probably for the videos of kittens and pandas.