Facebook went down, and I got my 15 minutes of fame

Facebook went down, and I got my 15 minutes of fame
Andy Warhol (Pixabay Images)

The maxim, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes,” is generally attributed to Andy Warhol. Just like the thousands of aphorisms attributed to Einstein that one can find on the net, there is controversy as to whether Warhol ever uttered the words. Regardless of whether he did or not, the words are prophetic. In the age of cable news and the internet, it appears everyone in the world will get their 15 minutes.

In my life, I’ve had about an hour and a half. I was in my share of scandals in Washington, either as a participant or trying to explain a client or politician’s behavior. I received another 15 minutes last Friday, and quite by accident.

Facebook went down, so I took to Twitter. I quickly wrote the following tweet and went about my business.



Then it happened. For the next couple of hours, my primary occupation was silencing Twitter notifications on my phone. I don’t get messages notifications for re-tweets and likes, but I do get them for personal messages. The tweet went viral, and my followers were writing to let me know it was viral.

In less than an hour, my tweet was at the top of the trending moment on Twitter. Facebook came back online, and I started seeing my tweet in my news feed, and in groups and on pages on Facebook. Within two hours, news outlets in England were publishing the tweet. By the next morning, the tweet was on NBC’s Today Show.

Move over, Donald Trump, make way for someone else’s tweets for a change.

In the tweet, I tried to use an absurd statement as a commentary about how social media is taking over too much of our time. It must have struck a responsive chord with nearly a million people.

Facebook could be a force for good in the World, but it has another use, and that use has a very dark side. We saw that side last week when the service announced it uncovered a new plot to influence America’s mid-term elections. They did not give details, and as an American citizen, that is not right. We have a right to know who is attacking our nation. People are assuming it is the Russians. Connecting the dots is a favorite pastime on social media. Some people have made it careers, like Alex Jones, for instance.

We should not be left to speculate. Whether Facebook wants to admit it or not, they have a social responsibility they are ignoring. In not giving us details, rumors are becoming facts in the minds of many, and people are getting worked up. If that anger is directed at an innocent party, then Facebook bears even more responsibility for harming society.

Facebook tries to keep order with its community standards, but they are very uneven in the way they apply their rules. I saw a man who advocated beating women who disagree with men. I reported the post and received a note back from Facebook informing me the man’s advocacy of hitting women did not violate community standards and was not hate speech.

Virulent antisemitism seems not to be hate speech either. I’m regularly called a Kike by Trump supporters I offend with my articles and posts. For those of you who may not know what the word Kike means, think of it as the N-word for Jews. On Facebook, I’m often told too bad I didn’t land in an oven also, a reference to the poster longing for my having been one of the millions in the Holocaust.

However, in a lighthearted moment among friends, joking about Facebook pokes, a female friend said, “Bob, you poked me, and didn’t even buy me dinner.” I replied, “Men are pigs.” BOOM, the hammer dropped, and I was blocked from Facebook for 30 days for hate speech by a bot that looks for those three words strung together.

Holocaust denial, and calling Jews Kikes, as well as advocating beating women,  are not hate speech, but a standing joke in our culture is hate speech? Within the Facebook rules, they make exceptions for jokes. I guess that exception is part of an internal Facebook joke since their mechanism to appeal a ban won’t function if you are banned.

I mentioned earlier that Facebook could be a force for good, and I use it that way. I have a group on Facebook that helps the poor in my hometown, which is an impoverished community. We support the needy, feed the hungry, help those who are unemployed to find work, reach out to those who are sick, and generally try to help anyone who is in trouble.

Is the tweet right, is there too much social media interference in our lives? The answer to that is an individual response. Some people are on all the time, others are not. Yes, there are a lot of bad things on Facebook, but like my group for my hometown, there are also good things. It is a matter of how we use the service.

How do you use it? If you would like to answer that question, use the comments section below.

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