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.