Years ago, before the internet took over, I would read the editorial sections of newspapers and magazines and think, "Jesus. Who has this much time on their hands to sit down and handwrite a letter to People or Parade about what a nice guy Tom Hanks is?" And even though I still wonder who's doing that (bored grandmothers? depressed military wives? serial killers?), we've entered an era in which contributing comments and opinions on everything from big brands to celebrities to politics to neighborhood gossip has become so fast and easy, it's not a real head-scratcher as to why people do it. Taking the time to lend your voice on a subject no longer requires a pen, paper, typewriter, envelope, and stamp; it takes about 5 seconds and a Wifi connection. And yet, I still don't really get it.
In fairness, I occasionally understand why a person might communicate a request, complaint, or observation on a business's Facebook page. If you had a poor experience, or a wonderful one, or you've got questions about something, no matter what type of business page you're on, there's a good chance someone is responsible for reading your comment. But that's just good business, and there's nothing more awkward than watching retailers, restaurants, product brands, and municipalities kiss their customers' or residents' asses on social media sites like they're real "friends." It can be embarrassing for all parties involved, or at least the customer, because it's like, "Hey there, buddy. You DO realize that you're broadcasting a personal story on the Chili's corporate Facebook page, right?" What is it about preferred brands or local retailers that makes people feel such an intimate connection, to the point that they're compelled to relay stories about themselves or their kids on public pages that are (often) managed and populated by strangers?
I realize many people reading this column right now might be thinking, "Step off my Facebook "friendship" with my favorite shock jock DJ on 102.4 The Jams," or, "If you don't know the joy of interacting with other Ultra Downy® April Fresh fans on Facebook, then you'll never get it," and I'm aware that my feelings on this subject may place me in in the minority. Due to the randomness of Facebook algorithms, I've born witness to several friends commenting on various business pages, so I can only conclude this is common practice for a lot of people who aren't me. I've simply never wanted to bond with other fans of my local Target, or scold a nearby business about its practices (unless those practices involve discrimination, credit card fraud, or serving the worst chicken wings known to man), but that's just me. And I know that people have at times "made a difference" by flooding a business's corporate page with valid criticisms in order to get an important policy changed -- using "social media for good," they call it -- which I suppose can be commendable.
No doubt, there are countless reasons for people to comment on such pages, and for the most part, doing so is just a modern way for a person's thoughts to be heard. My curiosity, though, lies with the folks whose comments go beyond a "casual" interaction to more of a serious vested interest. Some people just don't know how to use business pages right. They never have, and they probably never will. Bless their hearts, each and every one of 'em, for without them, business pages would read like a newspaper op-ed section with comments actually worth printing. These are the people who take advantage of our new digital form of communication and inject bits of their lives as though people on the other end are listening. And who knows, maybe they are. Maybe they care. But I doubt it. Let's check out some examples of ways parents are doing it wrong on Facebook business pages.
1. You Don't Say
Green, must I remind you that you're on the local business page for a car dealership? Planet Honda is just trying to spark a little chit chat about a local activity spot, you know? Drum up some convo on its biz page because they know what's good for them? Unless you're planning to purchase a new car soon -- and it doesn't exactly sound like you are! -- you might want to take those comments over to a mommy forum board. But when it's finally time to strap those four adorable children into a vehicle and daringly leave your house for the first time in several years, give Planet Honda a shout. They might suddenly be interested in your momedy (and credit line).
2. Pizza Craving TMI
You know you're bored as shit when you start commenting on Mellow Mushroom's corporate Facebook page about being "18 hours into labor and progressing slowly." No offense, Ashley, because I hear what you're saying -- a Holy Shiitake or Magical Mystery Tour would really hit the spot (and by "spot" I mean "help your baby exit the birth canal") right about now, but FYI, when Mellow Mushroom asked if people ever crave MM late at night, the social media manager meant, like, with the late night crowd. Party revelers and whatnot. You took that question in a whole other direction, and while no one is mad at you for doing so, can you see how ridiculous it sounds? Good luck with the ice chips and all the pushing. Hoagies and hippie pizzas are awaiting you on the other side.
3. Multimedia Stalking
I love the way Joanne's comment comes across as though she knows Mike suuuuuper well, is a regular customer or even an old family friend, and she knows it's silly, but can Mike just reply back to her impatient 7-year-old when he gets a chance? And then Obscura Antiques steps in like, "Um, who the fuck are you, what are you talking about, and why would we have replied to your email that may or may not have something to do with antiques?" The use of ellipses emphasizes the lack of caring. Sorry, Joanne, but your son might need to find a new shopkeeper to correspond with via email, Facebook, Snapchat, or whatever other platforms you and he are using.
4. Bumming People Out With Your Subjective Viewpoint
Damn, Michelle. Way to go ahead and bum everyone out with your single comment on "National Singles Week." I hate to be the one to say it, but "National Singles Week" doesn't align with "National Single Mothers Week," which is something else entirely. Celebrating being single means celebrating the fact that you don't put up with anyone else's shit but your own; you aren't responsible for anyone else's happiness but your own; and you know that living and traveling alone can be the most gratifying and independent thing you'll ever do. Do any of those scenarios describe your life as a single mother raising multiple children? I didn't think so. Perhaps it's time to consult a dictionary (and register a profile on OK Cupid). Hang in there, girl. There's more to life than commenting on the business page for C100 FM - Today's Best Music. I know it, you know it, and Maroon 5 knows it.
5. Customer Complaints
This is one of those instances where local patrons of a neighborhood-style restaurant might THINK they're "doing good," but in fact they're telling a restaurant franchise how to make changes that go against its corporate policies. M.'s comment was understandable, to an extent, because she believes that Earls would want to retain her business in this new stage in her life. She doesn't consider that Earls's policies are in place to keep her baby away from the restaurant, because what kind of restaurant would rather have "no customers" than "parents and their children," right? Wrong. Sorry, M., but Earls not only won't cater to your baby, they'll also employ a social media badass who will remind you that "the President of Earls" (not to be confused with the Duke of Earl) is reading and approving of the message that highchairs and changing stations won't be in Earls anytime soon.
But really, this isn't a case of M. using a business page incorrectly. She lodged a complaint and a humble request, and she received her answer. As a paying customer, she deserves that much. The problem is when a person like M. takes it upon herself to declare such a request, and the response is displeasing to other rabid parents who also want to take their babies to Earls. Suddenly, the conversation goes from, "Enjoyed our jalapeño poppers last night at Earls!" to "Fuck you, Earls, and your stupid booster seats, too!" Notice the 500+ Likes on M.'s comment. That doesn't bode well for Earls. Especially when you've got someone like Brenda in the comments section.
Yes, Brenda...everyone is entitled to their opinion, just as you insist. Thank god for Facebook, because otherwise how would hundreds of people have been able to read yours? You seem like a good-time gal with a heart of gold, so just keep on spreading that sunshine of yours around online. You're making a real difference for parents who want to enjoy a family-friendly atmosphere in a restaurant that, by policy, doesn't cater to young families. You're good at making other parent friends, too! And I agree that NOT ALL LITTLE KIDS SCREAM in restaurants -- but what about their parents on Facebook?
6. Mom's Gold Star
Normally I wouldn't issue a Gold Star to a potty picture, but after reading the rest of the submissions in my Business Page Idiots folder, this one stood out to me as genuinely funny and, dare I say, charming? The child's head is cut off, and he's not really "exposed" so much as "comfortably sitting with no pants on whilst reading a horse magazine on the toilet." What could be wrong with that? Even the Hoofbeats crew seemed to appreciate it. I mean, sure, it's their job to be nice to readers online -- I can't imagine Hoofbeats has an excessive amount of activity on its Facebook page -- but I'd like to think they were being sincere here, if only for the sake of Alicia and her son. This "letter to the editor" won't make the final cut for the print version, but hey, that's what Facebook is for. Alicia knows where to send her kid's potty pics, and it's not by snail mail.