Be careful what you put on Facebook.
Just ask Mark Joiner Jr. of Ceres. He knows. Joiner received a ton of disparaging comments and a knock on his door from Ceres police and unwanted media attention after he posted a ranting on Facebook about a dog he was caring for doing a #2 on his bed and indicating he would kill the dog if nobody picked it up by 9 p.m. that night.
Joiner's comment went viral. Pet lovers as far away as Florida went into a panic. The Courier was contacted by a woman in Miami who read Joiner's post which had been reposted by a pet rescue group there. She expressed interest "to help this dog before its owner shot it." The woman also stated that she hoped "it's not too late, but I'm disgusted that someone like this man is serving in our armed forces. This is something you should be writing about. Animal cruelty is yet another epidemic of horrific criminal behavior in this country."
It turns out that Joiner was only kidding about shooting the dog (or that's what he told police who went about their way after ascertaining that the dog was okay). It also turns out that reports of Joiner's service in the Army were great exaggerated.
This was the second time that a local person got in hot water on a national scale over a Facebook post. Remember Denise Helms? She was the 22-year-old Turlock woman who lost her job at Cold Stone ice cream parlor after posting a comment on Facebook about Obama's re-election, saying "And another 4 years of the n------...maybe he will get assassinated this term....!!!"
As my dad says, "Life is tough but it's tougher when you're dumb."
Far worse things can happen as a result of a bad Facebook post. You can actually end up in jail. Justin Carter, a 19-year-old Texas gamer, was jailed for five months awaiting trial for making terrorist charges and was also beat up by other inmates in the Comal County, Texas jail house. His offense? After playing the online game League of Legends, where trash-talking can get quite toxic, court documents indicate he posted this on a Facebook page: "I think Ima shoot up a kindergarten / And watch the blood of the innocent rain down/ And eat the beating heart of one of them."
Carter's dad said the comment was followed by "JK," short for "just kidding," but police took the threat seriously in this day and age of school shootings.
A comment on Facebook also won Remel Newsom, 20, of Queens, N.Y., a trip to jail when on July 17 he posted an illiterate and misspelled but hate gushing rant that called for the killing of all whites in response to the George Zimmerman verdict in the Trayvon Martin case. Never mind that Zimmerman was Hispanic.
While I have concerns about police carrying things too far when somebody makes some brainless, outlandish and reactionary comment, we do live in a society that is panicky about the prospects of the next mass shooting.
I confess to having gotten into heated political discussions on Facebook, but I now try to watch how far I push it. I once grew so angered by a cousin's constant bashing of my last presidential pick that I "unfriended" her. I later felt embarrassed about it, especially after she showed up at a memorial service.
Minutes into this column, however, I learned another lesson when it comes to Facebook. Before I started writing this piece I made a post on my Facebook wall that came to me from another person. It was a piece about how the media portrayed Trayvon Martin as an innocent school boy and continually used a much younger photo of him instead of one taken before his death. I copied and pasted the words as posted as an alleged photo of a tougher looking Martin.
Four paragraphs into this column and this text comes across my iPhone from my son in Texas: "Google a rapper by the name of ‘Game.' " You guessed it: Someone was passing off "Game" as Trayvon.
Red-faced, I navigated through a few clicks and took it down, embarrassed that I was the victim of an internet hoax. A friend of mine posted that "Seems you can't trust the media or random stuff passed around Facebook!"
The best policy is to think before posting. What would your mama think? God? Your wife?
Our words have consequences. Just remember that.
How do you feel? Let Jeff know at firstname.lastname@example.org