Saturday, December 5, 2009

Asocial Networking

The following event allegedly occurred at a municipal fire department several counties away from mine. The story surfaced at a class, was told to some folks, one of whom told it to one of my crew members who told it to me. It was relayed to me after many beers (both on the telling side and the listening side)and is being told to you while I am suffering from a very minor headache and a slightly sour stomach.

What I am trying to say, is that this is a rumor. Although I am sure parts of it are true, I am sure parts of it may be inaccurate. Regardless, it presents some interesting issues and exemplifies that modern social networking venues do not masque poor behavior.

I must also add that I do not have a facebook page so some of the details may be off a bit as to the way facebook works.

Probationary firefighter Newby opens his laptop and logs into his facebook page. He notices that there is a friend request from Battalion Chief Techno. Newby thinks about the content on his page, the photos and comments from friends and decides to deny B.C. Techno's request.

It's not that there's anything really "Bad" on his facebook page. He's not stupid. Hell, even his mom is one of his "friends". But what would happen if he posted pictures from a ski trip, or party shots from his girlfriends birthday bash which occurred on the weekend before his skills assessment or one of his written tests? Who needs that kind of trouble?

A week passes and Newby forgets about the request and the following denial. Then one day, as he walks past the chief's office, B.C. Techno asks him to step into the office. Words that most boot firefighter do not want to hear.

"Newby, I am a little concerned about you denying my friend request on your facebook page" B.C. Techno states, "I'm worried that you may have inappropriate material on your page that you don't want me to see".

Newby explains that there is nothing inappropriate on his facebook page, it's just that he is a kind of a private person and reserves his friend list to close personal friends.

Whether B.C. Techno believes probationary F.F. Newby or doesn't is not known. The matter is dropped, however it does not go away. It takes on a life of it's own as the tale is passed from agency to agency, person to person and then related to you here.

The consensus of the crowd who heard the tale last night, was that that B.C. Techno was out of line not once, but twice. I must confess that I do not know the etiquette of facebook or twitter. I don't know the etiquette of blogging or even if there is one.

I do feel that poor behavior is poor behavior regardless of the venue. I believe Techno crossed the line of poor behavior when he asked to be Newby's "friend" and crossed it even further when he questioned Newby as to why he was denied.

My advice to Newby would be to be very selective about what he posts on his facebook page and also about whom he accepts as his "friends". I would offer that advice to anyone.

I figure that I am sticking my neck out enough with this blog, I'll just stay away from facebook. Call me paranoid.

Thanks for reading,



  1. This happened to me a couple days ago. A Friend of my Cousin I accepted as a Friend and his language was not the best... Had to pull him off. I get on Facebook maybe once a week which is a non sense because if one wants to stay afloat with it you have to be on it on the hour! Not my concept... So, now I am wondering why I have a page on Facebook? Well, I have some very good Friends on there and it is nice to their news at times... +'s and -'s for sure. The Jury is still out.
    Thanks and be well... Ara & Spirit

  2. Cap,
    As a frequenter of facebook I feel the the BC was not out of line requesting to be friends with one of his FFs. I am friends with two of our 3 Batallion officers and most of our Lts. But he was definately out of line questioning why he was denied.

  3. This is why when I deny people, I don't do it right away. I leave the request there for a week or more. The goal being that by the time I deny it, they've forgotten about it. ;-)

    Oh. And that's a smart Newby. Bad, bad Techno.

  4. Dear Captain Schmoe,
    I got on facebook a year ago, and I hate it. It is such a time-waster.

    This post also shows what a social blackmail it is. If you get off of it, you look antisocial--or try to use it for your profession and not friends--looks freaky in a place where people are sharing pictures of puppies.

    Maybe the answer for this guy is to have a separate page for the boss and other professionals, a separate venue. I don't know.

    Ann T.

  5. Another reason why I don't have a Facebook account. Better to stay somewhat anonymous on the internets. even then, I won't write something that I won't stand behind if it becomes known.

    We have had a couple of guys whose MySpace/Facebook pages caused some embarassment. For example, both had photos of themselves in turnout pants, no shirt and helmet with dept name on the front visible. Once found, they ended up posted all over the station and then the Chief saw them....

    We pointed out to them that by having the Dept name visible, it opens the Dept up to invasion of privacy laws and HIPAA if someone recognizes a comment about a run they went on during one of the "this was so cool stories".

  6. I have a Facebook account under a pseudonym only so I can join a few communities in which I am interested. No one, family, friends, co-workers, non-friends, know what it is or that I even have it. Those whom I want to be able to contact me know how to do so. Those who don't know how to contact me do not know how. No awkwardness, no blackmail, nada.

    Facebook and other social networking can be great in some ways, and, as you illustrated (an as I've heard in countless other stories) they can make you miserable. Bottom line for me, it's something I don't want to be bothered with, save for the occasional blog post.

  7. After much urging from a friend, I made a facebook page, and sure enough people from the past started coming out of the woodwork. It was nice to reconnect with a few, but for the most part it was inane prattle with people who I could happily wait to see at a reunion of some sort. Done. And as far as twitter goes, I cannot think of a single person on the planet, not even Johnny Depp, that I am intersted in enough to want to know their every burp and gurgle.

    The best part about Facebook is when a new person uses it and says something wildly inappropriate in a conversation that they beleive to be private. This is partly why I abstain.

  8. If I were to start a facebook page, it would only be to somehow enhance this blog. As the blog already takes up so much more of my time than I thought it would ever would, I like many of you, am going to pass on this one.

    Thanks for the comments.

  9. I meant in my post above, 2nd to the last sentence, "Those whom I do not want to know how to contact me, do not know how." Blame it on the beer!

    One last thought: A university I recently attended has a policy that says it has the right to suspend or expel students if their behavior documented on social networking sites reflects badly upon it. I'm sure other schools will follow suit. So if you have kids about to go off to college, you might want to share that with them.

  10. When I told a friend I was starting a blog, she asked me if I was going to be on Facebook. I said no then, and I'll continue to not be on Facebook. I understand it's a real time killer. The blogs (I have 2 now) are more than enough.

    The entry is a testimony to some of the hazards of social networking. That's another reason to stay off Facebook.