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Who needs friends when we’ve got Facebook?


It has become a weekly thing, Facebook announcing that it is doing something to make the Facebook experience less injurious to people and democracy. The bosses at Facebook are now looking for ways to stop people from killing others for the sake of interesting posts and ways to prevent Republicans and other unprincipled sorts from posting fake news.

(Actually, one of the worst fake news sites that gets reposted way too often on Facebook is the Palmer Report, which is as liberal as Breitbart is barbaric, but I shouldn’t mention that because Bill Palmer once threatened to sue me to hell and back if I called him a purveyor of fake news again, so please ignore this paragraph.)

Anyway, what I was getting to is that while I applaud most of Facebook’s attempts to fix things it should have fixed long ago, I do have some other suggestions for other ways to improve the center of the social media universe.

Let’s start with the word “friends.” For reasons of promotion and perhaps insecurity, I am a promiscuous “friender.” I do it because Facebook is the main avenue for promoting the Monterey Bay Partisan, the blog that attempts to cover some of the news that used to be glossed over by something many of you may recall, newspapers.

(Newspapers do still exist, of course, mainly in museums but also in some cities within the sound of my tweets. In Monterey, there is the Herald, also known as the Santa Cruz Sentinel. In Salinas, there is the Californian, which recently announced that it would no longer cover breaking news. I didn’t see the announcement but I understand the editor said everything that could ever happen in Salinas had already happened and so he hoped to make the paper’s archives more easily available.)

Where was I? Oh, yes, Facebook and promiscuity. When I was editor of the Herald years ago, in the relatively early days of Facebook, I wrote a column that said I had amassed something like 65 Facebook “friends,” though it is certainly not true that I have that many actual friends. Well either I have grown immensely popular or the definition of friends should be changed to “people I might have heard of but I doubt it.” I am, in fact, I am on the verge of hitting the 3,000-friend mark, which, at one time, was the limit unless you had some sort of special waiver or your name was Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel.

Clearly the next big change Facebook should make is to replace the word “friends” with something much more encompassing. Maybe “friends and others,” or “contacts,” or “potential customers” or, in my case, “people who should subscribe to the Partisan but can’t find the ‘subscribe’ button on the page.”

Facebook would need to be careful with a new term. “Friends and others” could be problematic because some of your Facebook friends would worry about which category they were in. “Friends and former friends and ex-girlfriends and some of my daughter’s friends and politicians in my area” would just be too long.

The people who run cyberspace have invented quite a few words, including the web, and the internet and tweeting and twittering and skwelping and skwa-toot (you’ll learn more about the last two soon.) So maybe a whole new word to replace friends. Schmiends? Contactos? Sixdegreeants? Oh, I’ve got it. The next new word Sean Spicer invents at a daily briefing.

Lately I have been receiving quite a few friend requests from women who apparently enjoy being photographed with their clothes off. The requests say the women live in Monterey but I doubt it. Maybe the new Facebook term should be “friends and others and hookers.” (It is interesting to see who has said yes to these friendly women.)

To mark the occasion of almost 3,000 whatevers on my page, I took a spin through my list both to renew acquaintances and see whether any useful information could be gleaned. It was sort of a fail.

In most cases, my Facebook page tells me how many friends my friends have, which can be pretty cruel. For instance, that local Republican Party activist you’ve heard so much about has six friends, and most of them are related.

My list of friends also, in some cases, provides an accounting of the number of “friends” we share. For example, Monterey County Supervisor Jane Parker and I have 1,103 mutual Facebook friends, which doesn’t surprise me. She and I are a lot alike. Quiet, pleasant to be around, respectful of others’ opinions, slight of build, etc., etc. When I had hair, it was reddish, like hers. The real reason, though, is that when I get a request to friend someone who is a Facebook friend of Jane’s, I am quick to punch the accept button because I figure he or she is unlikely to carry concealed weapons or attend Trump rallies.

Lest anyone think me incapable of reaching across the aisle for fear of getting swamp water on my Birkenstocks, I am proud to say that I am a Facebook friend of onetime GOP congressional candidate Casey Lucius and that we share a whopping 528 friends. What links us, I suppose, is that neither Casey nor I is likely to be elected to high legislative office unless we make some big changes

Here are some others with whom I share many Facebook friends: Former Monterey City Councilman Jeff Haferman, 997; Salinas Police Chief Kelly McMillin, 469; land use activist Gary Patton, 235; Monterey City Councilman Timothy Barrett, 607; Salinas City Councilman Steve McShane, 563; Marina Mayor Bruce Delgado, 270.

Also in the lots-of-mutual-friends category, at 260, is a surprise: Ed Ghandour, the Santa Rosa developer who wants to build a hotel and totally mess up a stretch of Monterey Bay-front property in Sand City. What I surmise from this is that I know quite a few people who think they could make money working on the hotel project.

I’d like to say that people of color are amply represented in the entire batch of 3,000 but that wouldn’t be true. I think that says more about the makeup of this community than it does about me.

Considering how many close and adoring friends I have collected on my Facebook page, there aren’t many celebrities. There’s Janis Ian the singer, of course, and author James Bamford, who was writing about the National Security Agency back when appropriation of the White House seemed to be nothing more than a hopeless Russian fantasy. I’m a Facebook friend of singer-songwriter Mike Beck, who has more than his share of real friends.

For the most part, though, my Facebook friends are, as far as I can tell, a spirited and engaging bunch with only minor criminal records, cute and accomplished children, too many cats and too much time to waste. If you and I are not Facebook friends, act quickly and you could become my No. 3,000.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Christopher Roger Putnam April 19, 2017, 3:28 pm

    Entertaining ruminations, Royal…as always.
    I pride myself as have the fewest number of “Facebook friends” as anyone I know (28) , except for my brother Darien, who treats all social media as something akin to typhoid.

    • Royal Calkins April 19, 2017, 4:46 pm

      Chris:Remember my old college friend, Vern Sullivan. He may have you beat.

      • Christopher Roger Putnam April 19, 2017, 5:18 pm

        Of course — we were classmates at Mt. Whitney, as well.
        I believe Vern preceded me as a ‘cast of thousands’ roommate in our well-worn Mike Conners owned, LA Johnson managed hovel on Shaw Avenue…also home to Penny and Sally, as well as the infamous curmudgeon himself, Herr Becker.
        Sounds like I may have to dump a few friends to maintain my #1 spot.

  • david fairhurst April 19, 2017, 3:54 pm

    I knew I was special, not being on your “Facebook” page, oh well….”Facebook”, Linkiden” and others sure have some strange “do you know?” show up at times. Your right, these sites have gone way beyond just staying in touch with or locating old friends but seem to have become publicity outreaches. I didn’t know that one could be “friends” with a soulless corporation, machinery, or a political organization. Yeah…Exon/Mobil and I are “Facebook Friends”, I invited them to stay with me next time they visit Monterey.
    Royal, when my friends and I were young (and yes I do have friends, and some of them are, dare I say it, democrats) a friend of mine once asked “what do you call a beautiful woman when you see one around here”, the answer is of course “a tourist”.

  • Jerry Speraw April 19, 2017, 5:16 pm

    Congratulations on your 3000th FB friend, Royal, although I guess that just makes the rest of us “also rans.” On the other hand, it all depends on the size of the bandwagon as to how many get to jump on, and how significant or not the first or last may be. Being somewhere in the middle, I am satisfied to maintain my place so that others may achieve the greatness and recognition which they apparently so richly deserve due to their tardiness. 🙂

  • Jean April 19, 2017, 5:41 pm

    I will never have anything to do with Facebook. Four reasons:
    1) I don’t have the time;
    2) I refuse to contribute to the billionaire status of someone who dresses like a slob;
    3) I think that Facebook is the richest data mining source in America; and most importantly,
    4) I think the greatest chunk of Facebook’s IPO was purchased by the NSA dba some funky entity with our tax dollars.
    Paranoid? Not with what our government is doing these days.

  • Trish April 19, 2017, 7:20 pm

    I think the term should be ‘Folks’. Facebook Folks – has a nice ring to it! You and I have many mutual friends, Royal, and though I’ve never met you (at least I don’t think we’ve met) I greatly admire your work and subscribe to The Partisan because the articles are great. Thanks for another one, your Facebook Folk, Trish

  • Lou Panetta April 19, 2017, 8:50 pm

    It was a joke, Julie. Jeesh!

  • Royal Calkins April 20, 2017, 12:39 am

    Sorry, Julie. It was meant to be nothing more than silly, but I’ll take it out

    • Julie Engell April 20, 2017, 6:34 am

      Thank you.

  • Dan Turner April 20, 2017, 12:52 am

    I never heard of this “liberal” Bill Palmer and his Palmer Report. What sort of fake BS does he pass on?
    Also, FB is bad for ya. Being connected to and with other people is good. Social intercourse is good. But that’s not really what FB is about. Spending time on FB is no better than drinking beer and watching the soaps. Worse, probably, ’cause there’s no beer.

    • Royal Calkins April 20, 2017, 6:58 am

      Palmer takes a piece of a story, like some allegation against Trump, and puts a headline on it to the effect that impeachment proceedings are about to begin, that sort of thing

  • Jeff Baron April 20, 2017, 7:08 am

    It must have taken much time to write all of that. Time very well spent.

  • Julie Engell April 20, 2017, 7:10 am

    Thanks, Alice. I was expecting the “can’t take a joke” response. Seems like I’ve assumed the role of humorless bitch my entire life. The insidious ridicule aimed at women and girls is supposed to be tolerated in silence by us, or we’re supposed to join in the fun and laugh it up. Otherwise, we have no sense of humor. It’s a perpetual high wire act that has always annoyed me, especially when it’s most often expected of me by men who don’t have a clue.

    It’s corrosive humor, a tool in the toolbox of oppression. And right now, in the U.S., on the oppression scale, we’re backsliding a lot.

  • L. Parrish April 20, 2017, 9:08 pm

    Janis Ian? Nice! I knew you had taste. And Mike Beck (no relation to Glenn) – a local favorite. Yes, you do have some taste. As for FB, I don’t know if I ‘friended’ you or not because I try like hell to avoid FB, mainly because it’s time-consuming with little to show for your time; and I’m not real fond of giving information to creepy Mark Zuckerberg; or confirming associations with questionable types of folks (some who appear on your blog); and more than anything else – do I really need Facebook to justify or authenticate a friendship of any kind with another human being? Really?
    So, I have no idea how many FB “friends” I might have, but I do know that there is a list of folks who have requested “friend” status with me and those requests have mostly gone unanswered. But, I must confess – at times when I’m lonely or depressed, I go back to that list and respond favorably to a request or two. Just to make me feel more legitimate as a human being. (:<)
    And if you happen to be one of those who I have not responded to, don't feel neglected – I'm sure I'll get back to you someday. Probably when you need a "friend" most.

    • Dan Turner April 21, 2017, 8:29 am

      I wouldn’t want to be friends w/anyone who wanted someone like me for a friend.

  • bill leone April 21, 2017, 8:21 am

    There have been a few studies that show a positive correlation between time spent on FB & Depression. I would suspect that goes for Instagram & other Social Media as well.

    True Confessions: I Do have a FB account, but I only check it about once every six months.
    I prefer learning how to speak Spanish, raising organic veggies, or walking my dogs on or in one of the many beautiful beaches or forests near our home. We only have so much time.

  • jim guy April 21, 2017, 1:25 pm

    I suppose it would cost Facebook too much money to actually employ live humans to ensure that someone is not being shot to death, raped or tortured in real time, so we will have to wait until the robots can figure that out.
    If someone told the CIA, FBI and local cops 30 years ago that they could gain use of a machine where criminals would confess to crimes, provide a list of their associates and show off their firearms and dope, the cops would have paid a bazillion dollars.

  • david fairhurst April 21, 2017, 1:58 pm

    “De-Face Book” (Zuckerberg) is left wing hypocrite too. Rants about being “anti gun” and removing that content (they claim it is offensive) and they do, if it is a small mom and pop store or has a “conservative mantra”. However the Nation’s largest GunBroker.com, a web site for gun, ammo and other related items connects sellers and buyers (for a commission) gets a full pass on “FarceBook”. People like Zukerberg rant and rave about a non existence “gun show loophole”, donate huge sums to pass the most Draconian of laws and then on their own site encourage and reward the biggest “seller” of guns in the County. Are you sure Eric Holder’s operation shouldn’t have been called “Fast N Facebook” instead? Just a pro gun guy sharing things that bewilder me and to think about.