For the Daily News
Facebook is like dynamite. Both inventions were designed to do good in the world, and, under optimal circumstances, they both succeed.
Facebook is a great way to stay in touch with friends, schedule events, and share photos with long-distance relatives. Dynamite, too, can be positive. Dynamite has played a crucial role in digging tunnels, constructing dams and accelerating the karma of numerous cartoon predators.
Unfortunately, when we think of dynamite, we rarely think of the good things. We usually think of all of its destructive elements. In fact, Alfred Nobel, the Swedish inventor of dynamite, reportedly felt so bad about its violent legacy that he bequeathed the vast majority of his sizable fortune to people he would never meet, much to the chagrin of many relatives.
His last Will and Testament set aside approximately $100 million in today’s money toward the financing of the five annual Nobel prizes in chemistry, literature, medicine, physics and peace-making in an effort to award individuals who make the world a better, less explosive, place to live.
Facebook, too, while perhaps slightly less prone to blowing up in your face, is often associated with its bad elements. When we think of Facebook, we wince at just the thought of the many individuals who abuse the technology.
Let’s consider Mr. Pancakes, for example. The guy who tells everyone, often days in advance, what he’s going to make for breakfast.
We also have Princess Drama Girl, who not only overreacts to everything that ever happens to her, but who also insists we all know about it via cryptic, misspelled, profanity-laced status updates.
And, of course, we mustn’t forget the Vague Grizzly Bear, whose bizarre posts are often just typed growling. “Grrrr....” the Vague Grizzly will lament. That’s it. That is the post. What are we supposed to do with that, exactly? Drop our picnic baskets and run? Put our hands over our heads and back slowly away from the computer? I don’t get it. Seriously, stop growling. You’re not a bear.
Considering all of this boorish behavior, maybe the good folks at Facebook should ponder Mr. Nobel’s legacy. A quality invention is being abused, and, thus, perhaps it’s time to establish the Facebook Code of Conduct Awards.
Facebook could offer annual cash prizes for the following:
n Least Annoying Political Commentary, given to the individual capable of offering consistent and reasoned analysis of a current news event without relying on ideological folderol to make a point.
n Most Welcome Social Invitation, offered to the group who invites you to an event you actually want to attend.
n Most Relevant Status Update, for the rare person who does not even update their status unless something truly life-changing has happened to them, such as they’ve married, reproduced, filed for divorce, earned a promotion, been fired, lost an expensive pet or been kidnapped by actual pirates.
n The Best Link, awarded for, well, the status update with the best link attached.
n Most Impressive Use of Standard English, given to the person who not only knows the difference between “to,” “too” and “two,” but who also has a firm grasp between “there,” “their” and “they’re.”
n Finally, in the spirit of Mr. Nobel’s most famous award, the Peace Prize, Facebook could offer a hefty sum of cash for the individual or group who is capable of successfully ending that most annoying of all Facebook threads: the online domestic dispute. How much money should Facebook be willing to spend in an effort to remind people that every single misspelled cuss word hurled across cyberspace is basically permanent, and could potentially be read by thousands of people?
However much it takes.
All kidding aside, Facebook, like dynamite, is merely a tool. It can raise people up; it can tear people down. It can help organize a garage sale, a class reunion or a revolution. If Facebook can add to someone’s day without taking away from someone else, if it helps people communicate, if it keeps an angry spouse from moving to Canada, then it’s a good thing.
Just keep in mind what you learned in grade school, though. If you’re going to tell 387 people you’re cooking biscuits and gravy on Saturday morning, at the very least you should ask them over for breakfast.
Joshua Robison can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.