Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Facebook, Again

Facebook, on balance, I guess, is a good thing. It helps us keep in touch with friends and family near and distant. It is great for tracking down classmates or other farflung groups for reunions and events. But like all swords, it is double edged. I have discussed this lively topic before--here, and here. I've even talked about it on tv. But recent events have prompted me to revisit this can of digital worms.

On Sunday, I happened to open my FB page and was greeted by the following status post from my babysitter: "Heading out to do my court-mandated community service. Litter on the highway, here I come!". Needless to say, I was rather curious and desirous of further particulars. This lovely, responsible, and thoroughly pleasant young woman frequently drives my kids around in my car, often uses my credit card for household purchases, and has my house keys and alarm codes. Her revelation of criminal conduct was rather worrisome.

Hubby and I discussed what possible crimes she might have committed, finding it hard to visualize this wholesome and likeable gal doing dastardly deeds. We tried to decide which, if any form of malfeasance required her swift termination--embezzlement? drug-dealing? over-familiarity with a goat? Dark, disastrous visions reeled. We planned to have a serious face to face discussion with her the following day when she reported to work. Within minutes, we knew this was impossible; we were not even sure we wanted her to report given her potentially felonious status and knew that we would be up all night fretting about it. So I called her. No response. Texted her: "Why are you doing community service?". She called back immediately, somewhere between sheepish and amused: "It was a joke. I left my FB page logged into my sister's computer by accident, and she was annoyed so she posted the community service thing to get back at me. Sorry you were worried."

So apparently, this has become the new 'gotcha'--a cyber-wedgie, if you will. Woe to thee who has the ill luck or bad memory to neglect to log out. Adulterous affairs, membership in the Justin Beiber fan club, or owning the complete vintage Dungeons and Dragons game collection may well be posted as your status without your knowledge.

Now, Graces are all for good clean fun, the occasional practical joke, even those of dubious taste if they are funny enough. But posting a fake criminal record? Graceless at best, villainous and vicious at worst. Remember, folks, FB is forever. It's admissible in a court of law, it can be used by potential employers to screen candidates, and schools may check personal pages to decide whether to accept applicants as members of an incoming class. I don't like this whole idea of posting false information as the new 'punk'd' fad, but if you must do so, choose something silly, amusing, and harmless. Don't go for the serious, reputation damaging slander that caused momentary havoc in my household this week.

So, safety first, Graces. Always log out. Better yet, don't use another's computer for your FB check ins--particularly if the owner has the bad taste and ill-will to portray you in ways that compromise you in in public. As Iago said, 'He who steals my purse steals trash....but he who filches me of my good name.....makes me poor indeed." Don't let this happen to you!

And in terms of the slanderous scenario described above, well, with sisters like that, who needs....well, never mind.

Speaking of convicts, check out this riotous clip from the days of yore....Elvis makes jail look downright fun.


Anonymous said...

Looks like it was all just fun & games. I myself have a business, and I have "friended" some of my employees on Facebook. The same type of things happen, it can be deleted. No big deal. Everyone gets a laugh out of it.

Social Grace said...

I agree with you, Anonymous, as long as it *is* just fun and games. But when you start implying criminal records, you have gone beyond fun and games. Even if it can be taken down, once it's out there, the potential for damage exists.