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Ken Magill

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The Other Side of Facebook: A Twisted, Personal Social Media Tale

By Ken Magill


During a recent keynote speech by entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk, I was reminded of how the social-media revolution is not all good—not all good at all.

Vaynerchuk asked the audience three questions:

How many people in the room said they’d never open a Facebook account?

How many now had Facebook accounts?

And how many had been connected with someone they’d lost touch with 10 or more years ago as a result?

Predictably, the vast majority of the room raised their hands to each question—including me.

But as I raised my hand to the third question, a great sadness washed over me.

Facebook had indeed led people to find me with whom I had lost touch. As a result, I haven’t logged into my account for months and probably won’t do so again.

Back in the mid-70s, my parents divorced just as I was headed into middle school. For weeks after my dad gave me the news, I was unable to read the papers handed out in class. I literally could not bring the words into focus.

At some point after the beginning of middle school, I witnessed a kid in a black leather jacket kick the crap out of another kid. As I began to observe how the leather-jacket kids carried themselves, I thought: “They have all the power. I’m going to become one of them.”

And become one of them, I did.

And with becoming one of them came all the trappings of being one of the so-called tough crowd—the dope smoking, the skipping school, and so much more.

I went from being a straight-A student in seventh grade to being thrown out of high school with a perfect 0.0 grade-point average in 10th grade—after already flunking my sophomore year once.

Thirty years later, I’m a reasonably successful writer with a wonderful wife and son, and a house on 2.5 acres. Obviously, something happened in the meantime. That something was I joined the military at 17.

While the other kids my age were going to their senior prom, I was in boot camp.

Best thing I ever did.

I began to get my act together—not immediately, mind you. I was stationed in the Netherlands, the land of Amsterdam and openly consumed hashish, and it was 1979. But gradually I straightened up.

The reason: Pulling the kind of bullshit in the military I pulled in high school could easily result in time in the brig. Nothing like the threat of jail time to foster a little self control.

After the service, I went to college, got my degree in journalism and the rest, as they say, is history.

That is, at least until Facebook.

Somehow in March—and I can’t for the life of me remember how—I ran across an online obituary for one of my old leather-jacket acquaintances. According to the obit, he died “unexpectedly” in his home.

I emailed one of the two people I’ve sporadically kept in touch with from high school with a link to his obit. “Did you see this?” I asked.

“Hi Ken, yes I knew,” she responded.
“It’s funny, I thought of you when I heard. I'm sure you won't be surprised if I told you it was a heroin overdose. … What was truly sad was that Jane Smith [old acquaintance; not her real name] lost a son just a few days later. That was tragic. The boy was only 22.”

Actually, I was surprised my former acquaintance had died of a heroin overdose. “Who the hell does heroin at 48?” I thought.

My, how naïve I’ve apparently become.

I responded saying how much my heart ached for Jane and asked for her contact information so I could send condolences.

“Hi Ken,” my friend answered.

“My heart aches for Jane but not for the reason you'd expect. I should clarify for you. Jane’s poor son passed away as a result of a heroin overdose that he ran to get for Jane.
“It was Jane’s drug problem that contributed to his death. Jane sent him on the run, he got a bad batch, and as any addict will do, pinched before he got home and died in his car. As far as I know Jane continues to use. Probably more than ever at this point.”

After getting that piece of news, I couldn’t bring myself to send the condolences as I had intended.

A few days later in some twisted joke of a coincidence, I received a Facebook friend request from Jane.

I haven’t been back to Facebook since.


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Terms: Feel free to be as big a jerk as you want, but don't attack anyone other than me personally. And don't criticize people or companies other than me anonymously. Got something crappy to say? Say it under your real name. Anonymous potshots and personal attacks aimed at me, however, are fine.

Posted by: Jim Kinlan
Date: 2012-02-07 11:44:06
Subject: Great article