Family, friends and Facebook

facebook bag of chips lori welbourne

My cartoonist Jim Hunt says that trying to log off Facebook is like trying to put down a bag of chips. “Okay, just one more post…”

If you’re not on Facebook you won’t be able to relate. And if you’re just a passive user, his sentiment will also have little meaning to you. But for someone like me, who uses it quite frequently, Jim’s words ring true.

Nevertheless, I certainly wouldn’t want to discourage anyone from signing on to the social media site. Least of all my father, grandmother and in-laws.  I’ve been trying to get them to join for years now, and their response has always been the same: no thank you.

“Why not?” I’ll ask. “It’s a great way to stay connected with your friends and family.” But they would rather reach out the old-fashioned way, by telephone or email.

Selfishly, I want them on Facebook so they’ll be able to communicate with their grandchildren more regularly, and exchange pictures and notes. I’ve explained how simple it is to use, and that you can easily choose your degree of privacy based on your individual settings. But so far I’ve been completely unsuccessful at convincing them to try it.

My art of persuasion isn’t completely hopeless though. I have managed to encourage some die-hard Facebook opposers to give it a whirl, and most have enjoyed the benefits and stuck with it.

One of those people was my good friend Steve, who’s been a radio personality for decades, and should have opened an account years ago, but never did.

“Everyone bugs me to join,” he groaned when I mentioned it. “I just can’t. I know I should, but I’m not into it at all.”

Understanding his aversion, since I initially felt the same, I did what one of my friends did for me years ago and refused to take no for an answer. I set him up with a profile picture, and made some friend suggestions to get him started. After that he was off like a little kid on his first bike, zooming down the street with a scared but excited look on his face.

Steve traveled to Vancouver with his family immediately after joining, and soon experienced firsthand the advantages of signing up when he sat down at a restaurant called Smoke’s Poutine, and posted a picture of himself with the restaurant’s name behind him.

“Within a minute of me posting that I got a call from my former boss telling me I was only a block away from his station and to pop by for a visit,” he said. “If it hadn’t been for Facebook, that wouldn’t have happened and I wouldn’t have seen my buddy Drex at his new station.”

Like me, Steve’s going to use this particular social media site in an open all-inclusive kind of way, as it will be helpful to him and his career. And, like me, all sorts of opportunities will present themselves to him in the future that otherwise wouldn’t.

Not wanting to dissuade the more private people like some of my family members, who would be more comfortable keeping their privacy settings tight and their friendship lists exclusive, I will reiterate that both private and public accounts can have tremendous benefits.

“I only like to include my inner circle,” my friend Kari said, explaining why she wouldn’t accept friend requests from anyone outside of that. “I want to connect with the people I’m close to, but not the rest of the world.”

And that’s exactly how I picture my father, grandmother and in-laws enjoying it. I can’t imagine them becoming addicted, but I can see them ultimately being happy they joined. I know I sure am.

If you want to friendship request Steve and welcome him to Facebook, his name on there is Stuntman Stuntman. Not that he’s hiding, but it proves you can if you want to.

Lori Welbourne in a syndicated columnist. She can be reached atLoriWelbourne.com

A second chance at life

welcome home joshua! lori welbourne

David Branigan started off the new year in the worst possible way: with the police at his door telling him his 22-year-old son, Joshua, had fallen off a cliff and was now in the hospital in critical condition.

“Before the officer even finished his sentence I was running down the road in a panic,” he said.

After arriving at the hospital he was told he couldn’t see Josh because they were working on him. Based on the information he was given, he went down in a heap, sobbing in anguish, terrified his firstborn child wouldn’t survive the day.

He waited frantically for hours, praying his son would make it through. Josh remained in a coma for the next 24 days as his family and friends clung to the possibility of a miracle.

If it hadn’t been for Joel and Wendy Black walking their dogs earlier that morning, those three weeks would have been spent grieving his tragic death, rather than praying for his survival.

Josh had been walking home in the dark after celebrating New Year’s Eve when he was caught up in a mudslide off the eroded Kye Bay Cliffs in Comox Valley and fell over 100 feet to the rocks below.

The Blacks, who had decided to go on a longer walk than usual, found him laying unconscious and all twisted up after their dogs picked up Josh’s scent. His breathing had slowed down close to zero since his body had been laying in the freezing cold for up to eight hours. Battling hypothermia, he was rushed to the Victoria General Hospital in a helicopter where his massive contusion and broken wrist were treated.

Initial assessments indicated that his brain injury was so severe that he may never come out of his coma, and if he did, he could be unrecognizable.

Not able to keep up with the amount of people asking how Josh was doing, David created a Facebook page called the JHB Recovery where he could share Josh’s journey and keep people informed.

“His writing was so emotional and raw, my heart was completely invested,” my Facebook friend Leisa Howell told me about her old acquaintance. “He quit his job in Comox and put his life on hold to be by his son’s side in Victoria. And then he shared their gripping ordeal with us on Facebook with such honesty and courage, calling in prayer circles and describing a father’s guilt. He gave other people, who have felt the same, a voice.”

Twenty four days after the accident Josh thrilled his family, friends and the thousands that were following online by coming out of his coma, and was soon reminiscing about the Iristani Princess, a big, beautiful boat in Kelowna he once lived and worked on with his dad in 2006 and 2007.

From that recollection, and his wish to be on it again, Leisa and Captain Kirk – David’s previous partner on the boat – came up with the idea to have a Father’s Day fundraiser for Josh.

“After 125 days in the hospital, this horrendous accident has put a huge financial strain on the family,” Leisa said. “Josh now lives with a life-altering brain injury and since this is Brain Injury Awareness Month, we thought it was the perfect timing to help them somehow.”

On Father’s Day the vessel, now called the Lake Lounge, will set sail at 1:00 p.m., 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. in Kelowna, and for as little as $15 each, families can join Josh and his loved ones for some inspiration, karaoke, and fun in the sun as they celebrate the preciousness of life and Josh’s grateful second chance to live it.

Tickets can be purchased, donations can be made, and all of David’s writing can be found at: https://www.facebook.com/JhbRecovery

Partial proceeds will go to Brain Trust Canada.

Lori Welbourne is a syndicated columnist. She can be contacted atLoriWelbourne.com

For the love of Mom

facebook flowers

Last week I saw an interesting post on Facebook titled: “Seeking Kelowna, BC Firefighter named Brent.”

The 300 word post was written by a man named Tom Argall from Brampton, Ontario. He explained that his mother had just been visiting Kelowna and had tripped on a bit of raised sidewalk, falling hard, breaking her arm and bruising her face. Luckily an off-duty firefighter was driving by, stopped and came to her rescue.

Tom ended his post with this:

“I want to thank Brent. I’m over two thousand miles away and I don’t know his last name, but I’m appealing to the six degrees of Facebook to send the message. If you are reading this and you know a Kelowna, B.C. firefighter named Brent, please thank him for me. Shake his hand, hug him, buy him a beer, whatever your preferred expression of gratitude may be. Last Wednesday, wherever he was going, whatever he had planned for the day, whatever was happening in his own life was suddenly irrelevant and secondary to him because a total stranger needed help. We need more people like that in the world.”

He posted his two paragraphs on Facebook a week after the accident on May 1st. Before going to bed that night he was pleasantly surprised it had already been shared by 99 people. When he awoke in the morning he was amazed it had been shared over 250 times. By May 3rd, his request had been shared by a whopping  2400 people, and within an hour of me sharing it, Brent’s last name was revealed as Beselt.

But Tom already knew that, because, by then, he’d received a message from the man he was looking for.

“I’m not on Facebook,” Brent said. “So I sent him a note through my wife’s account after being asked by so many people if it was me. Even friends from Spain and Saskatchewan contacted us about his post. It was crazy. I was just doing what anybody would have done.”

Tom was happy to hear from him. “I read his message to my mom and she cried,” he said. “In a good way.”

The 77 year old, now in a cast and recuperating nicely, was incredibly appreciative and touched by the kindness of a stranger. Not just one stranger, but many.

A nurse had also stopped to help, and then later visited her in the hospital. There were others that offered assistance too.  And now over 2700 people on Facebook have shared a simple request of a son wanting to thank a stranger for helping his beloved mother.

“Brent was a real hero,” Tom said. “ But so was everyone that helped. I’m very grateful to them all.”

Human decency is alive and well in the world, and there are millions of examples of it being displayed every day. Unfortunately It’s the crazy, negative and tragic stories that get most of the press, which can give the impression we shouldn’t expect kindness and compassion from strangers. We should.

The vast majority of us human beings are more loving than we think. Let’s open our eyes, and hearts, to that.

And if anyone knows the nurse named Kim from Kelowna General Hospital who helped Tom’s mom, please let me know. He’d really  like to say thanks.

Lori Welbourne is a syndicated columnist. She can be reached at LoriWelbourne.com

Think before you type

Years ago, when I first started writing “On a Brighter Note,” a fellow columnist and I were discussing some of the hateful emails he received from people who didn’t like what he wrote. At the time, I couldn’t imagine getting some of the malicious attacks he did and I told him I was glad I wouldn’t have to deal with that since I was writing a positive slice-of-life column and not the kind of controversial articles he penned. He laughed and said it didn’t matter.

“You put yourself out there and some people are going to spew hatred your way,” he said. “I don’t care if you’re writing about sunshine and moonbeams, there are freaks who will hate you because you’re too damn happy.”

Honestly, I thought he was wrong. He was a cynical, edgy journalist who fearlessly stoked the fires over hot topics and did so knowing the responses he’d receive. And while I loved his topics and writing style, my approach was the polar opposite. No one would be taking time out to object to anything I had to share.

Turns out I was the one who was wrong.

Initially I was astonished by some of the venomous emails that were anonymously sent to me. I wasn’t used to attracting such hostility. But John was right, you put yourself out there and you’re going to get some of that no matter what.

I had to decide to accept that fact and learn not to let it upset me, or stop doing what I was doing altogether. As a woman in my forties who was able to grow a thick skin rather quickly, the decision was easy.

But how can we expect a kid who isn’t even making a choice to put themselves out there have that same reaction to cyberbullies? Especially when the attacks are so much worse?

Amanda Todd was a beautiful 15-year-old girl from Port Coquitlam, BC who recently committed suicide due to the relentless and horrific cyberbullying she was subjected to for years. Last week I posted a comment on Facebook that stated I hoped the police would be successful in tracking down her cyberbullies and that their acts would one day be considered a criminal offense.

Within minutes a woman posted her own video under mine with the message that we shouldn’t be bullying the bullies because that only feeds into the problem and doesn’t prevent it. I have to respectfully disagree.

People should be held responsible for spewing hatred over the internet in the same way they would be held responsible for doing so in person. I am not sure how to actually enforce this idea, but in a perfect world, it would happen.

The internet has been a gift to us in so many ways it’s remarkable. But it has also had an extremely negative impact on humanity and it has taken bullying to a frightening new level. The ability to anonymously comment in a vicious or harmful way has given people free license to say whatever horrendous thing they want without consequence. It has sparked a dangerous trend of insensitivity and I wish the people who were doing it would stop and think for a second before hitting that send button.

It’s very likely that these bullies are deeply troubled and may have been a victim of bullying themselves, but it’s important to remember the power of words and their ability to torment and destroy.

To the cyberbullies: If you can’t stand by your words by attaching your own name, you aren’t just being a bully, but a pathetic coward as well.

To the victims: Don’t let your tormentors win. Expose their attacks and stay strong – you have way more supporters than you can imagine.

More columns, blogs, cartoons and videos can be found at LoriWelbourne.com

Mark Zuckergerg, please

Months ago I received a friend request on Facebook from Jennifer Hewitt. When I clicked on the page it had a picture of the famous actress Jennifer Love Hewitt. Knowing full well it wasn’t her, I accepted the request anyway, out of curiosity more than anything else.

I forgot all about it until one day I saw these words in my Facebook news feed: “Heads up my friends from Kristi Gordon – someone has created a fake profile in her name on Facebook – the profile pic. is her, her hubby and the new baby. This is NOT her real profile if you are friended by this person. Working on getting it taken down.”

I immediately went back to the Jennifer Hewitt page that had fewer than 50 friends the last time I looked. I was surprised to see that it had already maxed out at 5000 friends and had hundreds of pictures catalogued. It looked like it could legitimately be the famous actress to anyone seeing it for the first time. Her publicist confirmed it was not.

So how common are impostors on Facebook? And how are these people affecting those they’re pretending to be? For Kristi Gordon, who does the weather on Global BC News, it’s been a pain in the neck.

Not knowing who was responsible or how to stop them, Kristi did what any reasonable person would do, she tried to contact Facebook.

“But I couldn’t report the impostor myself like you’re supposed to since this person blocked me,” she said. “Hundreds of friends have reported them and so far no one’s heard a reply.”

Apart from informing people on Facebook and asking others to do the same, she’s felt the limitations of her options. “I contacted everyone on this person’s friend list to let them know about the fraud,” she explained. “Their number of friends decreased after that, but the account is still active.”

It’s been active for almost six months and the unknown person seems focused on posting obnoxious comments and corresponding with others in an overtly sexual manner, and at least in one case, with an eleven year old child. Doing damage to Kristi’s reputation seems their obvious motive.

She has now closed her own Facebook account of 5000 friends and has retained a lawyer.

I’ve never met Kristi Gordon and only called her because I want to see a better system of communicating with these social media giants in general. Innocent people’s accounts get shut down all the time, leaving them guessing as to what they did wrong from the list of possible violations they are sent. In many cases this is a direct hit to their business and their livelihood.

Sadly, when people are targeted by impostors, bullies and hackers, quite often nothing is done.

Facebook is in the business of connecting people and helping them communicate. It’s a brilliant system in many ways, but its failure to communicate effectively with its users will eventually hurt them as well. If that seems hard to believe, think back to how big My Space used to be.

If you know Mark Zuckerberg, please send him this column. I’d like to see Facebook thrive and survive, but not if it’s hurting people in the process.

To hear what others think of this subject, please click the video link below:

Mark Zuckerberg, please – On a Brighter Note

Two faces of Facebook

Last year I wrote a column called “Confessions of a Facebook slacker.” In it, I confessed my initial fear of joining Facebook because of the extra time I thought it would steal from me. But after signing up, I admitted to reaping huge benefits from my free membership despite putting very little time into it.

Not much has changed.

Now, almost a year and a half after joining, I’m still a Facebook slacker and I’m still doing none of the things that have been recommended to me by the experts.

According to what I’ve heard, I’m supposed to update my status with an interesting quote about four times a day.

Currently I update my status about twice a week: once when I have posted a new comedy skit on my website and again when I’ve posted a new column.

Apparently that’s not interesting or interactive enough.

“You need to pose a question,” advised a marketing guru that I’m friends with. “All you do is announce things. That’s not very engaging, and, frankly, it’s boring.”

“You need to stay top of mind,” another social media savvy friend instructed. “A dull posting a couple times a week won’t cut it.”

“But isn’t it enough that I was creative with the articles and skits I posted?” I asked.

“No,” was their answer. “In order to get more benefits, you need to put in more effort.”

I’ve been meaning to do that. Really I have.

Recently I requested the friendship of my dad’s dance instructor even though I’ve only met him once. His response was to decline. “For me, an email connection does not qualify as a friendship,” he replied via email. “I prefer quality versus quantity.”

Apparently he had an experience with Facebook that he didn’t like when a new Facebook friend suggested all of his friends for him. My guess was that his new friend was suggesting friends for him in an effort to help him and his business get more exposure. But my dad’s dance instructor was reluctant, not knowing the individuals or their motives.

And that’s where the usage of Facebook can differ a great deal.

Some people are very exclusive with it and only like to include their close-knit group of family and friends for sharing on a more private level. Others, like me, prefer to use it as an all inclusive way of communicating.

And while more and more people seem to be utilizing it the way I am, there are still many others who like to use it in the more exclusive way in which it was initially intended.

Dad’s dance instructor is a very nice man and wanted me to know his reason for not confirming my Facebook friend request. He felt a non- reply or a ‘no’ seemed cold and icy. But with me he needn’t have worried.

I learned a long time ago that there are two faces within this Facebook phenomenon: the ‘exclusives’ and the ‘inclusives’. So if you’re one of the ‘inclusives’ like me and you’re feeling insulted that someone hasn’t confirmed you as a friend like my pal was the other day: please stop. There’s no reason to be offended. They’re probably just using Facebook in a different way.

Naturally, if you’d like to be my friend on Facebook I’ll happily accept you. I just can’t promise I’ll get any more interesting with my status updates. Right now, being a Facebook slacker seems to suit me just fine.

To read other columns by Lori visit her at loriwelbourne.com

To view her comedy skits visit loriandlisa.com