ON THE AVENUES: If you really want to be my friend.


Let’s begin with the acknowledgement that social media is one of the best ways ever devised by mankind to enable anti-social behavior.

Can this statement be doubted? You know it. I know it. The man in the moon knows it, and so do the Russians, because after all, they’re watching every breath we take, and monitoring every keystroke we make.

Certain useful aspects of anti-social media are the exceptions that prove the rule; the medium is a fine way to stay in touch with genuine, real-world friends; to share photographs and memories; and indulge in occasional, purely recreational voyeurism.

Guilty of the latter, your honor.

But the worst angels of our nature have long since discovered anti-social media’s proficiency when it comes to the creation and dissemination of odoriferous bile and sheer disinformation, although it isn’t clear whether a platform like Facebook has become a proxy partisan battleground for reality, or the other way around.

Venom, poison and toxicity; it’s enough to make the Grinch’s three-decker toadstool and sauerkraut sandwich with arsenic sauce look more like a Faberge egg.

Sticking to the Facebook paradigm, it is no longer surprising when a complete stranger parachutes into a conversation, dispensing f-bombs, threats and insults, having watched carefully for the perfect opportunity to be the sort of living human penis that we’d quickly eject from the barroom without a moment’s second thoughts.

As the kids say, trolls and their masturbatory trolling (eyes rolling).

However, what still causes me to scratch my head is when this starring role of ill-tempered instigator, played typically by furious white men, most of them old, who case the joint from the very same vantage point in the bushes where they deposit the urine borne of so many Bud Lights, emanates from one who wishes to be known as one of my “friends.”

This strikes me as strange, not to mention magnificently, mentally unbalanced.

Understanding that 40-odd years of cutthroat, robber baron, end-stage-capitalistic and neoliberal economic doctrine has removed most vestiges of etiquette from human discourse in America, it seems to me that “friend” is one of those words that really should be meaningful. Otherwise, don’t use it.

Perhaps what is ultimately most depressing about anti-social media is the cheapening of this word.

I have almost 3,000 “friends” on Facebook, 60-something of whom are dead; allowing for multiple accounts and other weirdness, as well as “friends” who last posted in 2012, the whole shebeen boils down to a few hundred persons known to me on sight, and if defined properly, are in fact casual acquaintances, along with a few dozen more who truly are close friends in any emotionally quantifiable way.

Now, if you’re eager to troll me on Facebook by hijacking a thread – to refer to me as an idiot, a liar, a commie dupe, or any of many other disparagements, all the while waving your arms like a raving lunatic as the accumulated wisdom of 10,001 barnyard sunrises flows from your aged countenance like raw sewage into yonder gently winding river – well, then it’s difficult for me to view you as a “friend” on Facebook, or anywhere else, for that matter.

It would be relatively easy to apply the universal anti-social media solution to this problem by erasing this “friend’s” very existence, and ceasing a dysfunctional ‘friendship” that obviously isn’t, by blocking and publicly scourging the serial offender.

And yet, to me, this course of action is both tedious and unrewarding.

Blocking might remove a squawking troll who lacks basic manners. But it also eliminates my lingering belief, crazy as it sounds, that any of us can choose to accept rationality and change our way of thinking.

Bizarrely, my viewpoint mirrors that of traditional religious faith, in the sense that anyone can be saved, except I reject the supernatural element and replace it with this: Anyone can choose to save themselves, by opening their eyes and seeing another side of the story.

Returning to Facebook, this means that my generally preferred solution is to unfollow those “friends” who clutter my feed with regurgitations of someone else’s falsehoods via memes and everyday thoughtlessness.

“Friends” who are capable of communicating in their own words merit a step higher in my hierarchy; their continued presence is negotiable. We may not see eye to eye, but we’re capable of communicating. As yet, there are possibilities.

But the “friends” who insist on being cancerous conveyors of pure malice?

It’s still a tough call. I don’t go to their anti-social media feeds and raise a ruckus, just as I don’t walk into anyone’s house or apartment and begin spray painting graffiti on the walls or pelting the cat with garbage.

In fact, I don’t even behave this way with non-friends. Why, then, are some of us unable to grasp this distinction? Be my guest and claim that your insanity stems from a love of country. To me it sounds a good deal more like blind fear and self-loathing.

It’s hardest when the trollish, insulting anti-social media “friend” is someone who you remember as being interesting, which in my world usually implies a person I can recall having beers or coffee with, conversing, and being capable of learning something from.

Now these pleasant memories aren’t jibing with the angry electronic interjections, and I’m left to wonder what went wrong. What changed with them?

After all, a mind surely remains a terrible thing to waste.

Shifting gears, for a great many years I delighted in informing listeners that I could far easier imagine a week-long pleasure trip to then-hermetically sealed, radically communist Tirana, Albania than being compelled to reside for the same length of time in Jeffersonville, just five or so miles away from Nawbany as the crow flies.

Then Albania went and shook off the commie yoke, and no longer could I use it as an example. When Tirana defected, I had no choice but to embrace Pyongyang as the counterweight to Clark County. It wasn’t quite the same.

Consequently I’m prepared to concede that this joke has long since ceased to be relevant. Living and working in Jeffersonville isn’t far-fetched, especially since my grand scheme of 30 years to render New Albany habitable for intelligent human life has proven to have yielded mixed results, if not outright failure.

The very fact that I cannot risk explaining the reasons for this feeling for fear of reprisals from today’s elite New Albanian cadres, whether political or social, perhaps summarizes the depth of the issue. The prevailing mediocrity is like sand storms in the Sahara.

Back when it all started, a (real) friend used to insist to me that I was wasting my time; New Albany simply could not be reformed, as it persisted in being a dirty little river town, and couldn’t/wouldn’t rise above its underachieving history.

In retrospect, yes. Even before Facebook existed, my friend was exactly right.

In two months, we can expect Donald Trump to win the city of New Albany by at least 20 points, and if Trump manages to secure re-election, the first emissary likely to arrive in our bare city will be Ben Carson of HUD, to be welcomed by our Democratic administration and given the ceremonial role of pushing the button to ignite the implosion of low-income housing at Riverview Tower.

Local progressives will say absolutely nothing, because they’re not progressive. The Dixiecrats will chortle with delight, chugging their Lites.

Somewhere, a dog will bark.

Recent columns:

August 27: ON THE AVENUES: Structural racism, white fragility, and my old school.

August 20: ON THE AVENUES: When love and hate collide – or, my father and the governor.

August 13: ON THE AVENUES: In My Merry Oldsmobile.

August 6: ON THE AVENUES: Surrender.