My like-dislike relationship with social media

Facebook is the only social medium in which I participate, unless you count group texts. I suspect that many of these thoughts, though, might apply to other forms of social media. Most do apply to group texts, as well as communication (or attempted communication) in general.

There are things I like about Facebook: being in touch with long-time friends; photos of kids, grandkids, nature, meals; inspirational posts; genuinely educational posts. I also appreciate being able to vent.

Here I want to vent about comments I don’t like to see on Facebook, whether in response to one of my posts or those of others, as well as to others’ responses. These comments fall into two categories: non sequiturs and trolling.

A common cause of a non sequitur is that the person responding didn’t really read the post (or previous comments) first. In this category are those comments that miss the point of the post. The commenter may pick up on a minor element or even a phrase not on-point and change the focus of the conversation. At the extreme are those who hijack the post, making it about them or their own agenda.

While there are “professional” trolls intruding on almost all public pages, I’m bothered more by trolling by friends. Some individuals enjoy playing “gotcha” and engaging in trash talk. At some point, though, “kidding” can become annoying, if not hurtful, because of intensity or frequency. Closely related: making the conversation into a competition and seeking to one-up the poster or another commenter.

Trolling also can include value judgments of another’s personal likes/dislikes, “witty” comments that get only halfway there, feeling a need to explain an implied joke, dedication to “yes-but” responses and proclivity for putting a negative spin on a positive post.

When typos are OK

One day recently, my list of Facebook “memories” included an ironic juxtaposition.

Four years to the day prior, I wrote, “We saw this [production of ‘My Fair Lady’] last night. Many great songs with memorable lyrics, including lines such as ‘But use proper English, you’re regarded as a freak.’ “

On that day nine years ago, I had posted, “Here’s another important anniversary celebrated today: 65 years ago today, Jackie Robinson played in his first game for the Brooklyn Dodgers.”

They may seem unrelated, but stay with me. When I entered the second post, I accidentally typed “payed” rather than “played.” One of my Facebook friends quickly trolled, “People who make fun of their friends typing should be more careful with their own.”

I tried to write it off by saying something to the effect that Robinson did pay a lot of dues for being a trailblazer. I chose not to point out the missing apostrophe — “friends’ typing” rather than “friends typing.”

But, more to the point of the jab, I don’t recall ever making fun of friends for typos or anything else. It is possible that I may have occasionally pointed out the irony created by a typo. If it came across as a personal attack, I should have worded my comment more carefully. You can be sure, though, that I stopped making such observations forthwith.

In fact, I have commented a few times that typos on Facebook — especially if one is sending from their phone — are absolutely excusable, even expected. Social media comments are conversation, not graduate theses or legal documents.

Here’s where the “My Fair Lady” post connects. As I wrote in another blog post, I am one of those freaks who cares about proper English. At the time of the typo dig, I was being called “grammar police” and worse. This is because, even though I never corrected any individual’s grammar, I occasionally posted general comments about common grammatical errors. I stopped that practice some time in 2013.

It was a small leap from grammar to spelling for anyone who enjoys the social media version of trash talking. I, however, get more enjoyment from irony, such as an unintended twist a typo might offer or the two posts cited falling on the same date.