Human nature: The darker side of social media

Francis II
Francis, the YouTube character created by Steven Jay Williams, who uses the screen name Boogie2988.

A bogeyman pushed me Monday night into a time machine.

Why don’t you join me and we’ll go back to 2008 or so? You’ll know we’ve made it there when you begin to find some of the heated debates I used to wage on Facebook. I argued a lot with friends and family — some of whom must have come to view me as the token liberal they tolerated on Facebook.

The arguments were epic, especially those I had with my youngest brother. He lives in Texas and we share some things in common, including a fondness for stirring things up and the belief that we are often right.

We do not share many opinions on political and social issues, though, and that often proved to be a combustible mix — one that entertained at least some of our Facebook  friends. But the one person we did not amuse was our mother, so we’ve mostly stopped arguing on Facebook. We usually stick to topics on which we agree — our fondness for country music and the Iowa Hawkeyes, for example.

In the past year or so, I’ve tried to expand this philosophy to my interactions with many people on Facebook, because what good comes from arguing with someone you maybe haven’t actually seen since junior high?

But then I see something like this video, which had been posted on the Facebook page of someone I know in Idaho, along with his comment:

” … in light of the fact that I’m just about to meet with my accountant to see how much I have to take from my children and put towards supporting people like this – I’ll go ahead and share it with you,” he told his Facebook friends. “Please don’t watch with your children – you don’t want them to hear this person’s language, and you definitely don’t want them to know that part of their college fund will be going towards this guy’s candy crush addiction. So on April 15, please celebrate that your hard work and toil will go towards helping those less fortunate. God bless, America!!!!”

Well, I agree with the criticism about the language used in the video. But two things about my friend’s comments upset me:

  • In the video, the guy, who is identified as Francis, says he doesn’t have a job, but at no point does he say anything about receiving welfare or public assistance of any kind.
  • There is no way to know if the video is legitimate or if it’s even real.

And, from what I have discovered, the video is a skit. Francis is a YouTube character played by a guy in Arkansas named Steven Jay Williams, who uses the screen name Boogie2988. Williams tells his life story in this video. His videos attract millions of viewers. Boogie2988 has a Facebook page with more than 95,000 likes and a Twitter feed with 80,000 followers.

Steven Jay Williams
Steven Jay Williams

My forays into social media are miniscule in comparison, so maybe I’m a bit jealous of Boogie2988. But speaking as another guy whose girth casts a pretty large shadow, it saddens me to see Williams make himself the butt of the joke in his videos. You have to play the cards you’re dealt, I guess, and more power to Williams if he can make a living doing what he knows appeals to a big audience that includes a lot of Internet trolls.

What really saddens me, though, is the way I quickly responded with a snide remark – one that I removed a few minutes later — to my Idaho friend’s Facebook comment. And it’s too bad that someone who is as smart and funny as my Western Republican friend would be so quickly critical of a guy in a video.

We’re both guilty of essentially the same thing: Mouthing off without thinking. It sheds some light on the dark side of social media — namely how easily it can be abused by the human beings who use it.

Stuff like this used to make me angry. Now, I just feel ashamed for allowing myself to be dragged in to this kind of mindless debate. But at least I now know a little bit about Steven Jay Williams. And he seems like a pretty sincere and nice guy — not really a bogeyman at all.

One thought on “Human nature: The darker side of social media

  • Hmmm.  Your blog post for today is “here” — it just didn’t show up on my phone.  Every now and then my yahoo account on my smartphone has a hiccup or two.

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