By Tom Ehrich
Some years ago, I made two new friends through Cursillo. Later they transferred to my parents’ church, so I saw them on visits home.
The other day I opened my Facebook newsfeed and found a friend request from one of them. I was happy to oblige, though I did wonder, Aren’t we already friends on Facebook? It’s hard to keep track on social media.
Almost immediately I got a Facebook message from her: “Hello.” I don’t normally respond to Facebook messages. She tried again a day later. This time I said, “Hi.” She asked how I was doing. I said, “Great.” She asked what I planned to do today. I said, “Work.”
I usually rise above the monosyllabic. But this exchange sounded canned. Sure enough, her next message asked, “Have you heard the good news?”
There it was, the “good news” scam. If I kept going, the writer would eventually tell me about a Federal program to give away money, if I would just follow their instructions. I replied that I found it “sordid” that this person had hacked my friend’s account and was trying a scam. No response from the other end.
Same thing happened the other day, when another friend’s Facebook account got hacked by a “good news” scammer. I confronted them, and they backed off.
I don’t mind playing this game. It’s interesting, in an odd way. But I do find it sordid that a promising social medium like Facebook has become such a cesspool of scams, attacks posts, lies, bullying and partisan demagoguery.
I have wanted to use Facebook to disseminate information about my writing and to build my subscriber base. But I wonder. What do I lose by being associated with a cesspool? I work hard on my writing and try to use my words to draw people closer to God and to their own best selves. Does using Facebook implicitly lump me in with the scammers and predators?
It’s confusing. My family is on Facebook. Many longtime friends are there. I see photos of my grandchildren and read updates on lives I care about. But in and around this good stuff come the Oakley ads, the “good news” scams, the attacks and deceit from Breitbart and the right-wing, the outlandish claims about partisan enemies, and the vile nastiness of racists.
It’s like standing on a street corner as a Klan parade goes by. The parade isn’t about me, but it’s there, crowding my field of vision. I can tune it out, but it’s still there, the stench of evil bypassing my filters.
I stay on Facebook, though with diminished expectations of any personal or commercial benefit. I just think it’s important that I not hide from the stench of evil. I think we all need to look evil in the face and say, No.
I think we need to read reports from inside Trump rallies and hear the hatred on display and the threats to kill journalists once their candidate is elected. That is evil, not responsibler partisan polityical expression.
The time to confront evil is right away – early in its rise if possible, the first time you see it, or when the stench becomes overwhelming. Evil doesn’t just evaporate. Evil spreads as far and as fast as we allow it to spread.
Say it early, or say it late, but a resounding NO must be said. Evil won’t stop until decent people push back.