I have no ‘Friends’ …

The Beatles are to blame for society’s downfall, according to my mother. And the Internet is the devil’s thoroughfare, she swears.

Now, I’ve always believed my mom was giving the boys from Liverpool a bit too much credit. Society’s tendency to get off-track dates back to the inception of free will. But her ‘net theory, well, she may be on to something, especially when it comes to Facebook.

Which brings me back to the headline … I have no ‘Friends.’

Before you begin pitying me, let me clarify. I have friends. Great friends. Folks I can count on to drop everything and lend a hand when I’m in a pinch. People I am forever grateful to for being in my life.

But when it comes to Facebook, I’m a loner.

There are a number of Facebook users in my notification box waiting to hear back from me. They call demanding to know, “Why won’t you be my friend!” I thought we were, I remind them. “Then why don’t you trust me on your page?”

And there’s the rub.

It’s not an issue of trust. I’m the Facebooker with no identity. No pictures, no updates, no links of interest. That’s right, nothing to see here folks, move along.

With a Facebook page, however, I’m able to see sites for work. I also get to see how shortsighted others are with their pages. When we were seeking writers earlier this year, I discovered what a challenge the Facebook generation has with expressing their personal freedom versus presenting a professional front. Sure, my generation knows how to party with the best of them. But, generally speaking, there won’t be photos and video marking our most candid moments and F-bomb laced language detailing our indiscretions littering the information highway the next day.

Growing up, I knew if I did something wrong blocks away, my mother would be outside the house, hands on hips, angrily awaiting my arrival home. I quickly learned to be careful; you never know who’s watching. Today’s 18 to 20-somethings have been slow to get that.

Others I know in management use Facebook and Twitter to monitor employees. It’s a touchy subject with me. Employees are expected to be fair and impartial in my business. We should be mindful of the causes we contribute our voice to publicly. But at what point are we employees versus off-duty citizens?

As a newspaper editor, I accept that I am responsible 24/7 for my words and actions. I’ve had acquaintances who’ve forgotten that and found themselves fodder in their own crime blotters or headlines.

A somewhat similar situation – a soldier taking sides against President Barack Obama’s politics on Facebook – that started this dialogue in the Tri-Parish Times’ newsroom this week.

Marine Sgt. Gary Stein launched a Facebook page titled “Armed Forces Tea Party Patriots. On it, he encourages fellow service members to exercise their free speech rights.

Most would agree Stein overstepped when he directed other patriots to disregard “unlawful orders” from the commander in chief.

The Marine Corps is pondering whether Stein violated military policy, which prohibits those in uniform from making political statements. Stein, meanwhile, argues it is his constitutional right to have a say.

Whether the Internet the devil’s interstate, I guess, depends on the user. Clearly, traffic on this highway shows no sign of slowing. But it would behoove users to proceed with caution.