"I don't know if I can take it anymore, Kid," said Karl, staring at his reflection in the bar mirror. He rubbed his face hard with his hands. "I mean, this constant bickering and nattering and droning on and on and on about how neither person can do anything right."
Your daughter and son-in-law fighting again? I asked.
"I wish. At least I can tell them to shut up." He drained the last of his beer and signaled Kurt the bartender for two more. "No, I'm talking about the presidential campaign."
I thought you didn't pay attention to campaign.
"I don't. I've purposely avoided all the commercials and media stories about who said what or who committed yet another grievous sin against the American people. I already know who I'm voting for, so there's no reason to pay attention to that cluster truck."
Karl plonked his empty mug on the bar just as Kurt set down a couple fresh ones. We were at First Editions, our favorite literary-themed bar for open mic night. Some slam poet from Florida was riffing on Benny Goodman, and the crowd was snapping its fingers in appreciation. Karl and I rolled our eyes.
Karl snorted into his beer. "I wouldn't trust that guy to diagnose the color of orange juice." I laughed so hard, a couple people nearby shushed me.
Then what's the problem? I said, ignoring them.
But you don't like Facebook. You hate all forms of social media.
"I do. Well, I did. I started using Facebook to keep up with my nieces and nephews, and now I get sucked into all these political discussions with people I went to school with."
What? When did this start?
Karl counted on his fingers. "Three months ago, I guess."
I've bugged you for years to get on Facebook, and when you finally do, you still don't friend me? What a jerk!
"Don't you think our little get-togethers are enough? I don't think we could stand that much of each other."
I thought about that. Yeah, you're right, I said. I don't want that much of a look into your private life. I already know too much. I took a drink of my own beer. So what's happening on Facebook that has your panties in a twist?
Karl shot me the side eye and took another drink. "It's just the general nastiness of the campaign," he said. "People are getting angrier and nastier with each other. Even friends are forgetting they're friends and are starting flame wars to roast each other into silence."
How is this different from the early days of the Internet? I asked. We've had flame wars and arguments online since the mid-90s. I mean, epic, scorched-earth flame wars.
"Yeah, but those idiots had the good sense to hide behind an an anonymous screen name, like a proper coward. They made sure no one knew who they were before they insulted other people or accused each other of being worse than Hitler. But the problem really started when they started getting on news media websites and leaving horrible comments to news stories."
I remember all that. Then the media got smart and started tying comments to a person's Facebook account. That way, their friends and family could see what they were spewing. That helped put a stop to it, didn't it?
"No, that's when the real problem started. Now, the a-holes have found they can survive a little public exposure. They're posting anti-religious statements on their Facebook page. Or homophobic slurs. Or racist jokes. Now, I see people openly embracing their racism and sexism. They're not hiding it, they're flaunting it."
I've seen that. There are usually plenty of people calling them out on it, though, so they're starting to slink back under their rocks.
"True. But this year's campaign has made them think they can come out from there in the first place. It's making people to behave badly toward each other more than ever. I'm just tired of it."
The Florida poet finished his Benny Goodman poem, and the audience clapped like normal people. We joined in.
True, I said. But you could just block anyone who disagrees with you. Then your Facebook feed will be peaceful and friendly.
"Yeah, but Thomas Jefferson said, 'I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend,'" said Karl.
So why haven't you friended me yet, you jerk?
You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.