Category Archives: Facebook

A Scary Thought…

Author’s Note: This piece is going to publish much later, just in time to let tempers cool for my next grand feat of feet in mouth up to hip, or so it’s been perceived. I believe the best audience is educators, youth ministers, and anyone–lunch lady, bus driver, parent–who works with kids.

I did something lately that I thought was really smart.

In a public gathering, I watched a woman walk away with tears, not big, messy ones, but tears. I was angered; I couldn’t encourage her in the moment, but I sure wasn’t happy with the way no one seemed to notice. Eventually, the wife of one of the leaders did appear to check on her. I didn’t like the way anyone in the crowd handled it, and I didn’t like the way I handled it. Even my daughter with Aspergers knew she was crying and was at a loss for what to do.

So I went home to my trusty nemesis Facebook. I posted to my very close, select group of friends (at the time 144…yes, I have even fewer Friends than trusted blog companions) with Friends Only security, knowing it would only be seen by six or seven at most. Admittedly, it was more rant. But I digress. My hope was my friends would know the best route in the future because country girls like me just don’t have a good fund of experience to work from.

Commence Armageddon.

I had 15 people trying to tell me I was too sensitive and the woman only had allergies. A subset of that tried to intimate that I had spiritual maturity issues. The best response came from a stay-at-home mom who should probably run a business; she validated my perception, presented some other alternatives, and then gave me real solutions…which when I get stuck in valkyrie on a white charger mode is exactly what I need.

I decided to pull the post, and I posted a thanks for all who participated. Even as I pulled the post, I got a voice mail from someone not even on my friend list wanting, in not so gentle a tone, to discuss my post. I had already pulled the post, so I just decided to wait for another, better day when my charger wasn’t foaming at the mouth and my sword wasn’t gleaming red.

I realized that one of my “friends” who didn’t like my tone probably tried to start a lynch mob to protect the image of all involved… despite my argument about the woes of burnout in leadership. Whoever it was probably carried it on a mobile device or took a screen shot or picture with a phone (why I actually support European attitudes and rules toward social media).

I also chortled that when I finally had to deal with that voice message there would be no proof but my own integrity.

Then I got scared. I remembered my days as a bullying survivor in the making. I had the frightening idea of how this could be misused.

I started, as a writer given to paranoia and indulgence in conspiracy theories and flights of fancy, wondering what if…

I’m 14. My grades stink. My parents are always ragging me. I have this beautiful 15-year-old neighbor. She excels at writing and studying; everyone loves her, especially my parents. They love to hold her up as a shining example of all that I fail to do and should.

My rage is seething and my hormones are raging. She’s the same way. The difference is she’s quiet, doesn’t make friends well, and always seems to cry and hate herself every 28 days. She is my competition for my parents’ attention, and I don’t like it very much.

It’s summer. Both our parents work. Like clockwork every day at 7 am all the adults leave. Facebook is our friend, and I friend her.

Around 8 am, I post the nastiest message I can. I tell her she’s fat, she’s ugly, she’s weird, she’s crazy. I can see her sobbing in her bedroom. She doesn’t respond, but all the kids do. By noon, I delete the post. And I do it again and again.

She can’t begin to ask for help because she can’t find the proof. Meanwhile, our parents are continually forcing us to spend time together. I’m getting high on her misery.

I wait a few days, and do it again. And again. By mid-July, I do it for the last time, only I don’t know it. I post my usual rant. I watch her room, and nothing happens. Still nothing by 10, by 11, by noon. I delete the post, thinking I must have missed her sneaking off.

Our parents arrive at 6:30 pm. I hear a shriek from her house. By 6:45, the coroner arrives.

I wonder how many bullies cause the death of their victims by electronic bullying of post then pull, post then pull, resulting in a torture so sadistic suicide appears the only answer. I wonder if the authorities have seen that tactic. I wonder if they’ve even thought to look. I wonder how many of the kids liking (or even seeing) a bullying post think to intervene.

And I pray that I’m just too backwater and not creating a scene. I’m praying that authorities have thought of this and are working with Facebook to not have this happen.



Five Rules for Being on My FB Friend List

Author’s Note: This is my “cheeky monkey” attempt at diffusing some of the frustration I’ve seen popping up (in myself and others) regarding FB posts. If you start to get offended, leave immediately. 😉

I’ve found myself really frustrated by FB lately. Overwhelmed and discouraged by some of what I see and hear, I decided to take a humorous look at my friend list, what I believe my friend list represents, and what my issues really are.

If you’re not on my list, review the rules and reach out. I may or may not take you back

If you’re still on my list and made the cut, please play by my rules.

  1. This is my electronic gin joint; sometimes, it caters to the lowest denominator in the spirit of connection (or what passes for connection these days). If you give in to the spirit of offense, you may want to check out. However, sexual harrassment or abusive language directed at a person instead of an idea or action is not tolerated.
  2. FB is not reality; I may sometimes need to drop or add people simply to play with features, bugs, or hacks (it’s just the way I’m wired). If I were you, I would be more worried if you showed up on my doorstep with an obeisance including high-quality coffee and I said no.
  3. No one bashes anyone over differences in idea or expression; we are tolerant in the way we express ourselves and let each other express one’s self. I will not tolerate Christians bashing non-Christians or pagans (and/or Protestants) peeing on the Pope. Tolerance does not mean complete acceptance however.
  4. My legal name is NEVER to be connected with my Facebook name or my blog unless a life is in mortal danger or a soul is in eternal danger. Sometimes, writers just have to do what they have to do; we mustn’t jeopardize day jobs or real-life social constructs when exploring ideas. However, I don’t want anyone to feel like they have to take themselves out of this world just because of something I wrote.
  5. The pattern is there is no pattern: I am a crazy writer with a crazy schedule and sometimes I explore crazy ideas.

The Post-Modern Serenity Prayer

I have always loved “The Serenity Prayer.”

I can remember being very little at my mammy and pappy’s house and reading the prayer on my pappy’s decorative plate; the words were interwoven with hands clasped in prayer; the script was very fancy and reminiscent of the calligraphy in centuries old Bibles.

I know people in recovery who walk day by day trusting that prayer and its simplicity (as well as their Higher Power) to stay on a straight and true path and avoid the things that so easily snare them in futility.

In the spirit of that prayer, I have chosen to give up Facebook for the summer. I did not deactivate my account. I simply left a breadcrumb trail of favorite or meaningful songs ending in an “until we meet again” post.

I appreciate the importance of connection, and I love keeping in contact with family and friends. However, time after time, I would sit at that screen, mostly discouraged and disconnected, over-advertised and marketed into a mind-numbing oblivion, unable to truly train my feed to show me the people and ideas that matter most.

So, for the summer, I am foregoing Facebook. I will connect in real time with my kids and my husband, my dog, my neighbors, and my friends in my new denominational pew. (Don’t worry; the blog stays! =) )

One of the last things I posted before I left was a modernization of “The Serenity Prayer.” I hope I’ve done it justice without violating copyrights. I consider it a reminder of why I need this Facebook vacation.

Jesus, please grant me the serenity to accept that I cannot change social media; the courage to change my own habits and attitudes; and the wisdom to know it will make a difference in me!

On Freedom of Expression, Self-Control, Compromise, and Censorship

I had a break from my usual staid, conservative self last week. In the midst of all my fraud and identity theft crises (discussed in a previous blog post), I was posting to FB periodically on the worst day. I’d been passed from provider to provider, country to country. I’d just had it. So I dropped the F-bomb.

Usually, I don’t do that. I choose to keep things “clean” and “above board,” especially in any written piece that may persist long beyond my natural life. I don’t care if others use the language of the vulgar masses of the populace; if I have too much with it and feel sullied, I walk away or stop reading. But in that moment, that point of time of frustration beyond anything, only the F-bomb would do (since the atom bomb wasn’t an option).

I was rather unprepared for the response. You would have thought I’d recreated the Manson murders in real life. My sanity was questioned. I was asked whether I cared about my image. It was suggested I was just too clean cut.

On the one hand, I was irritated beyond belief. FB is my electronic gin joint. I am the bar keep. I want the freedom for myself and others to express and explore ideas within reason. Language is constantly changing. Words that were frowned on years ago have become common place. I wanted to tell the fifty-something stuffed shirts to take a chill pill. As a matter of fact, I wanted to encourage them to use the unfriend option to their good health and my mental sanity; better yet, I wanted to assist them by using it myself.

And I considered their reasons so shallow… image conscious, out of character, not morally wholesome.

I might have considered a reason based on offense and etymology because I thought I had a foreign language teacher tell our class it came from an old Germanic root meaning “rape.” As a feminist, I would have conceded immediately and changed it right away. In reality, it comes from a Dutch root in the 15th century meaning “to thrust” or “to copulate with.” The Swedes also had a similar root with similar meanings and a one-up-man-ship meaning referring to the male anatomy used in said act.

So I have this great freedom to express myself however I want. Unfortunately, Saul of Tarsus faced the same choices, but he did things a little differently:

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive.  No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.

So, I had to consider that my exercise of my freedom, my choice for my rights, may not have been constructive to these people (notably, all male). So, while getting it off my chest may have been immeasurably satisfying for me, it might not have been good for others.

So I compromised. I edited the post and moved on.

Later on, I stopped. I got concerned.

You see, in this case, people from various denominational pews found my language offensive and I bowed to pressure to change my language. It was okay for a greater good.

But it sets a dangerous precedent. There was truly no physical harm that came from the F-bomb. The only damage was that some people felt emotionally disturbed. By my bending to pressure, I set the precedent of bending to pressure to cause good feelings. I gave away my first amendment rights to freedom of expression through a free press of FB.

Where does it end? If my security weren’t properly set, lots of people would see my compromise. It would give the impression that the groups will cave because they make others cave or that the groups are bullies. With those impressions, more people could get the idea to request other words are removed or we avoid the discussion of volatile ideas.

Cities could demand that pieces, like homilies and sermons, must be reviewed prior to publication to ensure it’s not hate speech; Houston has made that request, and I’ve not seen a recent update. Bloggers could have to go before a review board to ensure that the personal commentary  wasn’t offensive to other religious, political, or social groups. Novelists could find certain topics taboo and not be able to publish.

The reality is, if you want freedom of speech, you have to allow others to have freedom of speech. You can’t contain others with their rough edges from harming you with their words unless you someday want to find yourself boxed in and unable to move freely in the realm of self-expression. When only one idea or point of view or mode of expression is tolerated and others are eschewed and nearly criminalized, you end up with the Inquisition or Salem witch trials or the McCarthy hearings or the Holocaust.

In a free society, you have to tolerate all kinds of ideas. If you find an idea or the way it’s expressed offensive, learn why the person feels that way. Be prepared to explain how you feel and express your ideas.

And sometimes, just walk away.

Fraternal Correction in the Era of Social Media

Christians are called to live a life of purity and righteousness by faith. We know that we aren’t perfect, and we expect to stumble and fall. The faltering and falling flat is sin (whether we like that word or not).

Believers are to unite and work together to help each Christian press on toward the goal of eliminating sin and experiencing the grace necessary to persevere to the end. Part of that working together is fraternal correction.

Jesus Himself encourages fraternal correction. In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus lays out the various stages of correction. I’ve summarized them below:

  1. Approach the brother/sister one-on-one and explain what the issue is.
  2. If the believer again refuses to listen, approach him/her, but this time take two or three people who have witnessed the issue.
  3. If the believer again refuses to listen, you bring the issue before the local body.
  4. If after the church has listened nothing changes, you may disfellowship the person.

St. Paul does cite a few sins that would permit immediate disfellowship in 1 Corinthians 5:11. However, for argument’s sake as well as simplicity, I’d like to stick to the pattern set by Christ.

Initially, you have to decide what counts as “sin” in a social media context. A man may have to challenge a buddy for visiting certain Facebook pages frequently; a woman may have to challenge her BFF for something that begins to look like an online affair. It may be inappropriate pictures, or it might be a political ideology expressed in language that makes the Inquisition look like a cake walk.

Then, you have to ensure that you are in the right in challenging this behavior. You have to ensure your motives are pure. Otherwise, you yourself might fall into the same behavior.

Once that’s done, you have to follow the steps outlined by Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. I propose the following as suitable social media equivalents (note I focus on FB because that’s the social media I use most):

  1. Send the person a private message outlining the offense. Include related Scripture so it’s not just what you think or say.
  2. If this doesn’t work, use a group message. Include the person who committed the offense as well as two or three other witnesses.
  3. If this doesn’t work, make a post to friends only on your wall. Outline the offense and related Scriptures.
  4. Finally, click the unfriend option.

My Kids and Facebook :/

My ex and I have very different opinions on everything related to parenting from discipline to privileges. This includes Facebook. Consider this post a humorous look at the situation for those not in it, and a word to the wise warning for those in a similar situation.

I have many issues with non-adults holding Facebook accounts. Even as an adult, I find it too easy to have diarrhea of the mouth and spew the wrong thing in the wrong place. The security and features are constantly changing, making it difficult to understand all the intricacies of the technology. When you don’t personally know someone you’re adding to your friend list, it’s too easy to add a wolf in sheep’s clothing or demons masquerading as angels.

I found out some months ago my ex gave his old account to my children (yes, I used my) and started a different one. I was less than pleased. Chagrined and frustrated don’t even begin to cover it. After a few months of listening to me gripe, my current hubby just plain asked me to either stop talking or do something.

What exactly do you do? I paced. I griped with excessive words to my still, small Voice. I stomped.

When I got done, I decided to apply a two-pronged approach. First, you rehab the account. Then, you set some guidelines.

After having the kids log into the account in my presence, I used the following steps to have the kids rehab the account:

  • I had them reset the security globally to Friends only. I can’t review every post (and I have a feeling I would need a warehouse full of the pink, minty liquid if I tried), so the best I can do is make sure only their “friends” see their mistakes (we are still working on that friend definition).
  • We reviewed the friends list friend-by-friend. We started with 160+ friends with images that looked like gypsies, tramps, thieves, and demonic entities were visiting. Each child looked at the friends; if they were personally unknown, they were unfriended. By the end of the hour, we were down to less than 100.
  • We worked to change some of the images to things more appropriate for their natures. I would have liked to get rid of some of the photos, but that might have been a little much.

Next are the guidelines. I am going to write them off the top of my head and print them later. I was just too enervated from the rehab effort (and sickened by the characters my ex left behind with no concern for guidance of the non-adult children in handling said issues).

  1. You must keep your security at Friends at all times. Do not customize the security…unless you want to block someone. This rule stands until you’re 21.
  2. If you do not know the person in real life, do not add them as a friend. This stands under my roof until you are 21.
  3. You do not share your whereabouts and schedule with your friends list. If your account gets hacked (somebody accesses it without your permission), you don’t want to make it easier for them to steal your CDs, nail polish, and stuffed animals (and my computer, jewelry, and sanity).
  4. If you wouldn’t wear it to school or church, you shouldn’t post photos of yourself in it. This includes any portion of your birthday suit that is covered by your bathing suit. Also do not post photos of yourself in a bathing suit.
  5. If you wouldn’t want your mammy or your uncle or me to hear you say it, you probably should just refrain from posting it.
  6. It is okay to block someone if they seem to not take a hint and keep making comments after you’ve asked them to stop.
  7. If something someone says on your posts or something someone does on your posts makes you feel creepy, trust your gut and ask me or another trusted adult for help. This goes for private messages as well.
  8. You will not access the accounts from my home unless I am watching. Sorry, this is non-negotiable.
  9. My rules go with you everywhere you go. I may not be able to control you when you’re with your dad, but I think I’ve shown you enough of who I am that you know I love you enough to give you reasonable boundaries that you should be able to follow in my absence.
  10. If any of the rules are broken by any one individual sharing the account, you all lose privileges at the house to access the account. All for one and one for all, circle the wagons, etc.

I think these are some very simple rules. Let me know what you’ve done with your kids.

A rose by any other name…

Kittie Phoenix is not my legal name. I’m sure anyone with even half a brain would realize that. So how did I come up with that name? Like any writer, I have a story to tell.

It started on Facebook. I had joined before meeting the man who would rock my world and love me gently into becoming his wife. I went by my legal name. Scores of people were sending friend requests. I would graciously accept. Then I met my hubby, and we married.

Part of the pre-marriage agreement was I would legally hyphenate to include his name and socially just use his name. I updated my Facebook name to the hyphenated version. I got a few fewer friend requests, but all was still right with the electronic gin joint of Facebook.

You meet all kinds of people on Facebook. One of the people I met was from Germany. She’s got the most awesome green eyes (I think), and the fairies loved her as a child because the pixie dust of freckles is all over her cheeks. Sadly, she went through a really rough time. A friend of hers (not mutual) gave her an unusual name in a foreign tongue that embodied all my German friend could be. As a lover of language, I was mesmerized, intrigued, and veritably sucked in.

I started to think about Native Americans. They have a test they face in their teenage years to prove they are ready for all the responsibilities of adulthood. At the end, if successful, they take a new name that reflects who they are and who they will become. So rather than wait for someone to give me a new name, I picked one.

Kittie Phoenix—  Adventure, excitement, with a hint of playfulness… Unique…

So at the beginning, it was just meant to signal to the universe that I was finally on the road to becoming who I was meant to be, I was finally accepting my own skin and getting comfortable in it. In essence, I would no longer pretend to be something I wasn’t; the grand charade was over.

Kittie had two meanings. One related to how cats act. They come and go as they please. They choose whether to express and accept affection. They are bold in expressing displeasure. The only thing they answer to is their internal computer telling them what needs they were created to have. Kittie was also a private joke with my husband. *blushing and not going there, wouldn’t be prudent*

Phoenix had to do with the mythological being. Just as my choices earlier in my life had left me in a ridiculous pile of rubble that seemed endless, my choices within the past few years had fueled a rise from ashes that I pray lands me far better off than I ever was before.

Over time, I found I rather enjoyed using the new name. It confused everyone who had ever had a set image of me in their heads and never thought I would change. I don’t like mind games, but it is nice to challenge the status quo once in a while. People started connecting to me for me not for who was connected to me by genes or society. I got more ideas than I ever could have imagined. My friend requests went down; I started exercising more control over my Facebook image.

So when my friend in Germany went back to her name, I chose to keep mine. And as time went on, the connections became even more meaningful. I got fewer uninvited friend requests, and I was freer to choose who I wanted to follow because the choices were somewhat more limited. I read about lives that were so devastating compared to mine. I could hear, in people’s own words, the uncertainty, pain, and fear that they lived with day in and day out. Although they only had words and some of those words were the hardened rocks of real life and the school of hard knocks, they powerfully used those words to get help and give help through simple support. And I found that I could share their joys and pains, even if by just saying, “I don’t know, but I can listen.”

In effect, each Facebook connection involved voices–giving a voice to those who have none or who don’t know how to use what they’ve got and hearing the voices of those teetering on the edge of a slippery-sloped precipice trying to give a primal scream to tell the world it needs to stop for them to catch their breath.

So, I apologize to the fellow blogger who already took the name “Kittie Phoenix.” I didn’t want to steal your identity when I was on Facebook, and I don’t think I did. I just chose to be a different flower in the garden of life, and I am still a flower, just calling myself by a different name.