Vail Valley Voices: A Facebook fable
Vail, CO, Colorado
Facebook is a wonderful thing. In the right hands.
In the wrong hands, not so much.
Last weekend, a 24-year-old girl got mad at her father. Reportedly, she was told by her mother certain things about her father that were fairly commonly known to others but apparently not to the daughter until now.
But that is their business and is only relevant because it gives context to the following events. What happened next became everyone’s business … well, everyone who knew any of the family members or friends.
The girl posted the following on her Facebook page: “OH NO!!! MY DAD IS DEAD!!!!!!!!!”
And then she walked away from her computer for two and a half hours.
I was with a friend of the family when this got posted, so I saw it. And thus began a two-and-a-half-hour nightmare for everyone in the girl’s family and for everyone who knew anyone in her family.
Because Facebook is instant and far reaching, word spread like wildfire. Concerned and shocked people replied to the girl’s posting, but there were no replies to the anguished posters. Just the news that the man was dead.
From Gypsum to Vail and all the way to California and Nevada and beyond, phone calls, text messages and emails surged. Everyone wanted to know what had happened and how they could help. People who cared about the man and his family had their lives turned upside down. People genuinely hurt for this girl and her family. I was only peripherally involved, but even I started making arrangements to change work schedules around to accommodate those potentially touched by the tragedy.
To complicate matters even more, the man’s son bears the same name as his father and as word spread that “Joe Schmo” (not the real name, of course) was dead, confusion mounted and many believed the son had died. Including the boy’s father who began a frantic search for his son.
Then, after two and a half hours, the girl finally returned to her computer and posted something else. She said she wanted to “clarify” her last post. She wrote: “My Dad is dead to me.”
Two little words … “to me” … but they were everything. Literally the difference between someone’s life or death in the eyes of everyone who read this girl’s irresponsible posts.
Now, at first, there was a certain amount of the benefit of the doubt being handed out in favor of this girl. The rage and pain she must have been feeling to write something like that might, just might, excuse her behavior.
Some thought that what she meant to say all along was that he was dead to her; she just made a terrible mistake in her choice of words.
Well, I don’t buy it and the more that people who knew them all thought about it, the less they bought it, too.
I viewed it as an incredibly selfish, destructive and, make no mistake, very intentional act. Regardless of the pain she felt, I believe the girl knew exactly what she was writing and exactly how it would be interpreted. I believe she wanted to write the most dramatic, attention-getting thing she could think of. And then she walked away for two and a half hours, giving her reckless handiwork a chance to set in and do its damage.
Even after her “clarification,” her family’s dirty laundry was now out there and there was no taking it back. I believe she wanted to hurt her dad and didn’t care who else she hurt in the process. And that is the central point here.
A couple of days later, I believe I was proven right.
I found myself face to face with this girl for the first time ever. Her anger was still quite apparent, and I told her that I thought that what she had written was very destructive and that it upset a lot of people.
Her response? “I don’t give a f@*#!”
I think it is obvious that when she wrote her first post that she didn’t give a f@*# about anyone other than herself.
Can you imagine how you would feel if you were a family member from another state reading that your relative had died? Can you imagine how you would feel if you were a friend of the father or any other member of the family and read that this man had died? Can you imagine how you would feel if you believed the son had died?
She couldn’t. She didn’t give a f@*#.
It is unforgivable. I’m sorry. Absolutely unforgivable. I do feel for anyone who finds themselves in the situation this girl did. But there is simply no amount of pain that justifies her actions or the pain she caused countless, innocent and caring others.
And so, we’ve learned a lesson about the dangers of something like Facebook.
In the hands of an irresponsible, inconsiderate, angry person without the maturity to handle life’s turmoils in an appropriate fashion, if can wreak absolute, irreversible havoc in a lot of lives.