Gardeners may occupy one of the more benign sectors of social media. I was thinking of this after seeing headlines citing “indisputable harm,” “rage and misinformation,” and “choosing growth over safety” in today’s Washington Post. It’s all part of the fallout over the recent release of the Facebook Papers. This has been building for a while, but the drumbeat is getting loud enough to suggest something might actually happen. What, I don’t know.
I’ll be sorry if Facebook goes away, for many reasons. For one, it’s an easy way for businesses to establish a presence on the web. Many restaurants that don’t have the expertise, time, or other resources to maintain a robust, updated website can get most of what they want done via Facebook. As a magazine editor, when looking up events and other info, I often trust a business’s Facebook page over its website, because it’s a simpler matter to update. And then there are the benefits we’re all familiar with, like keeping in touch with geographically distant friends and relatives or just a way for busy people to maintain contacts of all sorts.
Our local Facebook gardeners’ group (above), which has close to 9,000 members, was threatened with extinction over a hoe-related brouhaha a few months back, but, as outraged and exasperated as members were, it was mainly because they wanted the group to continue. They appreciated the opportunity it provided to get answers, share successes, or just complain about the weather. A group like this takes some policing, and we, the admins, get disgruntled complaints now and then, but, overall, it’s been a success. We can never forget we’re at the mercy of Facebook, which recently changed its group protocols, but we also know that Facebook does offer tools that allow control—and we use them.
It is maddening that the small, “kinder and gentler” groups who use this network may suffer just as much as the extremists, spammers, clickbaiters, and others who have benefited from poor regulation. Indeed, the bad actors likely won’t suffer; they’ll just move over to another vulnerable arena. I may complain about inaccurate gardening info existing on a level playing field with factual advice, but, over the months, I’ve also seen that most group members seem to be able to weed out the nonsense. I guess I’ve learned to stop worrying and accept the occasional chaos of it all. It may be an evil empire, but I’ve gotten used to it—and so have a lot of other gardeners.