Suppose, like me, you’ve spent — this is embarrassing — eight or nine years making new friends on Facebook. Suppose you’ve re-connected with literally hundreds of old friends. You’ve even found lost members of your own family and established a special tribe of peculiarly like minded individuals in your interest groups. You’ve built your business with the handy “in the feed” advertising tools Facebook developed.

Turn out the lights? The party's over?
Turn out the lights? The party’s over?

The darn thing has become essential.

This much I have to hand to Zuckerberg.  He made it very easy to connect, to have spontaneous exchanges across a non-stop digital, global campfire.  Can’t sleep?  A friend is always there. Wondering how to treat your kid’s pink eye? Someone’s grandmother-nurse is on line. It’s non-stop community on your terms and your schedule. Of course people are checking their phones all the time.  Let’s be honest. They may actually have found an ideological kinship group more sympathetic than their own family and colleagues.

Here’s the problem: you can be kicked out of the club at any time for any reason. You may anxiously need to contact a friend, or a customer;  it could even be an emergency.  Your only point of contact is Facebook itself.  You don’t have your friend’s address or their phone number or their email.  Why would you need that and why would your friend make that public?  (There are very good reasons, of course, not to.)  You’ve always been available to each other on Facebook itself.

But, wait. If, for whatever reason, Facebook decides you have violated their terms of service or their “community standards,” you could be jailed for 30 days or denied service completely.  Suppose you make the “mistake” of advertising a tea party rally and a friend of a friend regards your political activities as “hate speech.” If you or a Facebook friend hasn’t been in jail lately, you’ve got some very cautious friends indeed.  It’s beginning to happen, folks. They are disallowing speech they don’t like.  They don’t have to justify it or explain it.  It’s their company after all.

And yet we provide that company with our entertaining insights, pictures of our family, chronicles of our vacations, and all the jazz that makes their feed entertaining.  Even with the political crackdown, they still need opposing viewpoints to keep the topical discussions entertaining, but only on their terms.  In an era of progressives panicked by President Trump’s direct, and effective communication to the American people, there will need to be some sacrificial scalps.  Some of us will need to go to jail, or be kicked off the stage entirely.

Use the platform as long as you can, but PLEASE, folks, we need to set up our own networks.  Facebook says I have 1700 friends and 800 followers.  As of this morning, I’ve managed to collect 31 of those contacts.  Facebook won’t allow you to back up your friends and contacts.  It should be pretty clear why.  They want “us” together, but only on their terms.

If you don’t want “us” erased, let’s exchange contact information.