Not so many years ago, Mark Zuckerberg figured out how to use a computer to help college kids choose dates.   Seeing potential, he quit college to expand his creation into Facebook of social media fame.  People, mostly young , flocked to Facebook in record numbers.   And now, social media has literally changed the whole wide world.

And Zuckerberg looked upon what he created — and hesitated.  As a commencement speaker at Harvard this spring, he tried a little too hard to convince his audience of all the good, all the wonder, all the lofty goals that Facebook might enhance in just about every little corner of the world.  He used the magic of world-wide connectivity to entice people to meet, greet, and be good to one another.

Like all things that have changed the world — trade routes, electricity, industrialization, cars — there were unintended consequences, the other side of the coin, the good and the bad.  Perhaps social media is scarier than all those earlier miracles because humans are not only good.  They are also mean, vindictive, murderous, and take delight in having an instant audience of millions to watch what they do.

Zuckerberg most likely never imagined anyone using Facebook to video a live murder, a rape, a massacre. When he really looked outside the cocoon of Silicon Valley, he realized that, even if he did not encourage malice and hate,  he could no longer be complacent about having changed the world in unknown ways.

He has since hired many more employees assigned to finding terrible posts that need to be taken down immediately.  He has said he will develop Facebook technology that will find terrorists and foil their plots instead of giving them publicity.  Going “viral” is no longer always a good thing.

The ugly truth that Zuckerberg now sees is that connectivity has different meanings and motives in our complex human society.  Sometimes familiarity does indeed breed contempt.

Good luck, Mark Zuckerberg.  Those who change the world have a heavy burden to carry.

Try as I might, I haven’t yet been able to catch the social networking bug.  Unlike other bugs that I work hard to avoid, I’ve been hoping to catch the fervor for social networking.  Up to now, I’ve been immune.  I am on Facebook, which has allowed me to find some long lost people in my life and to allow some of them to find me.  And it’s a good way to see what two of my granddaughters are doing.  But — I haven’t been bitten by the bug.

I have opened a Twitter account, but only follow President Obama so far.  I  have added people to my Linked-In account and must admit feeling awed at how much some people make use of it.  I briefly Branched Out, but let go of the branch for lack of knowing quite what to do with it.  As for all the others too numerous to name, I haven’t even tried.

I’ve been told over and over and over again that social networking is MANDATORY and THE KEY to becoming known as an author in today’s world.  Most likely true – as many have shown regardless of whether their books are deserving of fame or not.  While “going viral” is much sought after, the very word “viral” gives me an unsavory feeling.

I watched the movie, “The Social Network,” to figure out what I was missing.  The creator of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, according to the movie, only had one real friend in college whom he eventually betrayed.   A genius geek, he was far more fascinated by the computer technology than linking friends.  That actually helped me to understand why I feel mostly alienated from this modern, impersonal way of making connections.  While not exactly fake friends, they are friends you never have to see, speak to, or truly know.  In fact,  “friends” is a misnomer for these relationships.  I’m used to a different kind of friendship.  I don’t even like the image of “networking” or “world wide web” since computers and all the information forever indelibly available therein are also used for nefarious purposes, reminding me of the flailing flies that can’t get away from the spider.

Since I’m old, the drain on the precious time I have left to live looms excessive.  Were I born today, I would most likely not feel intimidated by computers or wary of how they might abuse me.  Would I be a more successful well-networked author, or would I still be inundated by the sheer masses of people screaming “me, me, me” in the pack?

And so I search out “how to’s” for using Linked-In, Facebook, and Twitter and hope I can make them useful before they, too, are obsolete and replaced.

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Mike comments:

I saw your piece on Social Media.
Hmmm . . .
Is it really that much different from penpals – except for the speed and the ease? I had two penpals that I exchanged letters with through my teenage years, and it really was lots of fun. But when we finally met, we discovered that we had absolutely nothing in common, and that was the end of that.
On the other hand, I met two people through social media, and when we finally came face to face with each other, we found that we actually had quite a bit in common, and there was so much to talk about.  Absolutely no lulls in the conversation. . .
Having said that, I’m spending less and less time on Facebook. I read the other day that part of the attraction among users is that they tend to get much more out of it than they put into it. Maybe it’s the voyeurism of catching glimpses of other people’s lives without having to actually interact with them.

There is a creek near my house that is home to many ducks.  It’s a delight to watch the ducks flying, swimming, quacking.  Committed couples make good parents to the super-adorable fluffy chicks that awkwardly gather around them.  They look happy, and I feel happy looking at them.

When I was asked to say a few words to my local City Council in support of a ban on foie gras, I learned more than I ever wanted to know about the three farms in California and two in New York that produce foie gras.  The translation of foie gras is “fatty liver,” and geese and ducks are quite literally tortured in order to induce the disease “fatty liver.”  Slums are never more squalid than how these caged animals are kept, tightly and unnaturally confined in every way, and force fed about 3 lbs. of food a day.  A normal 50 gram liver becomes a minimum 300 grams until the ordeal of the animals is ended by their throats being slit.  That is, unless the hapless animal first succumbs to myriad other ugly ways to die.

The Animal Protection and Rescue League, which successfully got Proposition 2 passed in California in 2008,  made the lives of California chickens and pigs a bit more bearable.  They have convinced 50 restaurants so far in California to stop selling foie gras and the ban has been approved in 6 California cities so far — San Diego, San Francisco, Berkeley, Solana Beach, West Hollywood, and Carlsbad.  I hope my city of Laguna Woods will join them.  If you want more information and have the stomach for it, you can go to and watch in detail how these animals suffer.

I’ve never eaten foie gras, and I can’t imagine that a diseased liver of any animal would be healthy to eat, but even if it’s a delicious delicacy, it can’t be worth the agony the geese and ducks go through to produce it.

Although the suffering of the animal is particularly gruesome in foie gras and I can certainly forego eating it, I do humbly admit that I eat and enjoy duck, especially when I’m in China, as well as steak, hamburgers, and chicken.   I’m psychologically a vegetarian, but have never been able to give up eating meat.  Any slaughterhouse, even where the animals are so-called “humanely” treated, must be a grim, horrible place of terror and sacrifice.   I read Temple Grandin’s “Animals in Translation” with a combination of fascination and horror as she described how her autism helps her understand the animals and she puts that to use in working with slaughterhouses.

In the course of my travels, I have seen a few animals slaughtered.  One was in the Sinai of Egypt where a goat was slaughtered for the evening’s meal.  On a sunny day by a river in China, a young couple wanted to chat with me while they slit the throat of their chicken and washed it in preparation for the evening meal.  In some places where I did not see the animals being killed, I heard the squeals of pigs and the whine of dogs during slaughter.  I never bought fish in Chinese markets because they beat them to death before handing it to the customer.  I no longer pick out a particular live lobster that will appear before me burned to death.  I have heard that Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Google and rich enough to do anything money can buy, slays his live  food with his own hands so that he will stay aware of just where his non-plant food comes from.

I sadly accept being a hypocrite when it comes to eating animals.  I sometimes wonder what it will take for me to finally deny my gut the meat it wants.  In the meantime, I can fight foie gras farms.  There is no way to make foie gras “humane.”

Comments?? E-mail Suellen at

Nancy comments —

If we could only quit eating meat.  We were born with molars in order to chew meat.  It gives us protein, and , sad to say, some pleasure.  As I attempt to remove my favorite (Fillet Mignon) from my diet, I have tried lots of vegetables as replacements.  I love vegetables, don’t get me wrong, but a tender cut of meat is always a pleasure.

I watched the Foie Gras video and, as always (when it comes to animals), was very shocked.  I personally have never eaten it, but this process is very barbaric.  I wonder how many people that do eat it really know the process (or even care about the process).

As I go through the grocery store and check out the meat counter, I find that there is a lot of meat that has been put on clearance.  Not opposed to buying meat like that, but I feel sad for the poor animal that died and then their meat just sits in the meat counter and is never purchased and eaten.  I find this most with Lamb.

Anyway, good luck on your switch to veganism.  I will try to follow along with you.

Suellen replies —

Thanks for your reply to my post on foie gras.  Since I just went shopping last night and bought meat (although definitely NO foie gras), I don’t seem to be switching to becoming a vegetarian anytime soon.  I do believe that our human bodies were designed to be meat eaters as well as plant eaters.  And, since I’m always fighting to eat less food, I find that meat fills me up better and longer than just vegetarian food.  It’s a quandary to be sure.

Mike comments —

I saw a television show on foie gras recently, and I was disgusted to see how those poor little ducks were force fed.  I’m with you.  I can’t do without meat,  but I do think that animals should be treated humanely.


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