How to Offend your Facebook Friends without Really Trying

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You ever find yourself posting something that you thought was an innocuous little comment on Facebook (I.e., “Merry Christmas!) then end up getting a nasty, embarrassing reply about what a low-life scumbag you are, then defriended? Well, I have.

In the Christmas spirit last year, I decided to make a homey little video Yule log for my Facebook friends. I was excited about the project. I had a new digital camera, was teaching myself iMovie and figured what better use than to bring some yuletide cheer. I always loved the Yule logs that came on at Xmas time on my tv screen. I had never had a fireplace and it cheered up my little apartment on those cozy, rainy winter nights. Now that I did have my own fireplace, why not share the warmth with my Facebook buddies? Plus, they could share it with their buddies to wish them a merry whatever they chose to call their holiday greeting.

Have I made enough of a point about my good intentions? It may have been a little self-indulgent. I did take pride in taking the video of the fire, putting it to music in iMovie and even adding the little greeting at the end making sure not to offend anyone, “May the joys of the season be yours.” I made a special point not to mention Christmas, baby Jesus, Bethlehem, wise men, Nazareth, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa in an attempt to honor the many ways families celebrate their holiday traditions.

My Facebook friends are a varied bunch, most left-leaning, creative, granola eating types. I only know a handful well. The others are old classmates (and I mean old), or people I met in jobs, online art groups, or miscellaneous friends of friends who I accidentally confirmed as friends. I’ve never set any of them off, but once I inadvertently ended a long thread when I defined the term “coon” in “coon’s age” as a derogatory term used for black people. Hey, somebody asked and I answered.

That said, I was careful selecting the music sticking to tried and true old standards. Who could be offended by, “Have yourself a merry little Christmas” sung by Judy Garland. She tugs at our heartstrings — the lyrics full of nostalgia, melancholia and hope. Otis redding’s “Merry Christmas, Baby” says it all and can’t help but stir up a little Christmas spirit in even the scroogiest Scrooge. But, i decided to start off with the velvety voice of Nat King Cole, “The Christmas Song.” If that doesn’t conjure up some Christmas spirit nothing will. I decided to make up several Yule logs and put a new one on Facebook everyday leading up to Christmas with a different song everyday.

I made sure to convert my little .mov to a mp3 so that it was mobile, tablet and computer compatible. Finally, it was time for the upload. I was happy to share this my friends and bring some old time nostalgia into their homes. We all know Christmas can be hard on people, especially in these dark times. One of the beautiful things about Christmas is how we can comfort each other, even in the virtual world of Facebook.

I didn’t expect a flood of comments or likes or anything. I just was pretty happy about sharing, bringing joy. No sooner had I posted did I see a post, not a comment on my Yule log, but on a “friends” page about how starving children in Africa wouldn’t be enjoying sleigh bells, and presents all wrapped up like mistletoe and how “we” should watch the video he posted of the dying, starving children with Nat King Cole singing in the background.

Apparently, he took my little yulelog with Nat king Cole as a callous indifference to starving children in Africa. I assume he thought that I was just caught up in my happy little world, paying no attention to the world’s woes and the suffering that is everywhere–war, famine, aids, homelessness, et al. I was shocked and hurt and baffled. I pay attention to the news, I’m involved in causes, I’ve joined in the 99% protests online and one admittedly lazy venture to a rally in Sacramento with a handful of activists and homeless people. I’m always signing petitions and sharing them so other people will sign them. Sure, it’s not like parking myself out in front of the federal building and getting sprayed with pepper spray, but, hey been there done that back in the ’60s.

At least, I don’t just sit on Facebook all day on my computer writing in all caps things like, “GOD GIVEN AND SATAN TAKEN. WORK IT OUT.” What the hell does that mean? I haven’t seen this “friend” since high school where we worked on the same newspaper. Also, Our parents were in the same professional group (social networking pre-Internet) that was supposed to introduce their children to the same ilk that would hopefully connect them as they went on to college, marriage and professional careers.

So much for Christmas cheer, not to mention, all of my good intentions. Instead of maybe a “like”, or “happy holiday”, I get a cruel blow, meant to hurt, meant to rain on my little bit of Christmas cheer. But the gall of it was that he didn’t have the balls to put it directly to me. I would have preferred that because it would have allowed me to respond. We could have agreed to disagree, or set the record straight. I don’t like confrontation, but if faced with it I deal with it–even on Facebook.

I decided not to respond to his rant. I did watch a small part of the video, that was all I needed for the point to be made. It’s unimaginable suffering, it’s beyond heart-wrenching and it’s unconscionable that we spend so much on wars and going to the moon and bailouts and stupidity, but we can’t even begin to address poverty of any kind, let alone starving children in Africa.

But really, a Yuletide log that lasted less than two minutes (as long as “The Christmas Song) merits that kind of a response? I thought about taking the video he posted and setting it to Nat’s Xmas tune. It could be a powerful way to show the vast chasm between the haves and the have nots. But I decided not to respond at all. I decided not to defend or explain or apologize for putting up a little harmless video of a Yule log. I’ve learned to pick my battles carefully. There are way too many serious battles without taking on some Facebook “friend” who’s obviously not a friend and who just wants to pick a fight just for the sake of picking a fight because he’s feeling particularly sanctimonious that day.

The kicker is, in his next post, he apologized to his friends for offending them with his post of the video. He even admitted to being defriended by a few. But he stuck by his post and said that those who defriended him must not know him anyway. At this point, I didn’t even defriend him being the glutton for punishment that I am and just curious to see where our “friendship” would go from here.

So the moral of the story is, if you want to offend your friends post anything. It doesn’t matter what. If you don’t want to be defriended don’t post a word, not even a picture (especially a picture of a kitten, or baby anything, unless it’s your first child or grandchild, but even then your friends could be offended because you’ve exposed the baby to online predators and breached their privacy without their knowledge).

Ah, Facebook, where would we be without our friends?

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