My friends on Facebook fall into several categories: family, close friends, friends of friends, and virtual friends. Virtual friends are like pen pals; we may never meet each other in real life, but we enjoy each other’s Facebook posts and company.
One of my virtual Facebook friends disappeared around the first of the year. I missed her coffee addiction, and her Southern sense of humor. It surprised me when I learned that she suspended her Facebook account with nary a word to her Facebook pals. As luck would have it, I had her e-mail address, so I sent her a quick note telling her that I missed her and hoped that everything was OK. She responded that her family was experiencing some serious problems and that she was taking a break from Facebook. Ouch! I let her know I cared and hoped we keep in touch. A few months later, she returned to Facebook, still in the throes of family dishevel but back to posting with humor and grace.
Shortly after her return, a Facebook police page showed up in my newsfeed. Facebook encouraged me to like the page and highlighted a story about a member of my friend’s family. Curiosity got the better of me, and I clicked on it. I wish I had curbed my curiosity.
The police Facebook page detailed the arrest of a family member of my friend. The defendant was charged with a criminal offense but had not yet faced judge or jury, at least not in a court of law. Facebook held court in the comment section under the police report.
A few comments were kind, and a few reminded others of those all-important words—”innocent until proven guilty.” However, the majority of the comments assassinated the defendant’s character by claiming that he was an awful person. Other comments suggested shooting him and/or cutting his nuts off. These comments went unmoderated by the police department
Trial by Facebook is beyond wrong; it is unconscionable for a police department to allow hateful and violent comments on their page. Moderating comments is key, and violent comments should not be tolerated. Keeping a community informed of crimes should stop short of allowing the community to play judge and jury.
Can you even imagine being part of this nightmare? The families’ overwhelming feelings of pain, shame, and anger? And then the police department allows the community to dissect their life on a Facebook page, hateful, violent comments included. And to what end? The vast majority of people who leave hateful comments move on to the next police report.
If only it was so easy for the families to move on.
Odd Loves Company.
* I realize that the details around this post are vague. In this case, who, what, when, and where don’t make any difference, and links would only provide traffic to the Facebook page. This post has been on my mind for several months. I tried to tell myself it wasn’t any of my business, but the fact that I couldn’t let it go told me differently. The use of social media must include accountability and responsibility, and we must always remember that what we post in the virtual world impacts someone in the real world. I have sent this post to the police department and the mayor of the community it happened in.