|Play Me That Community Standard
February 3, 2020
For the first time in my illustrious 12-year relationship with Facebook, I have had a post rejected because of "community standards." What horrendous thing did I post? A meme showing a political figure in anatomically impossible conditions? No. A froth-inducing rant about the sexual nature of the Super Bowl halftime show? No (and, God, no!) A link to satanic liturgies? Oh, Beezlebub, No, No, No, No, No.
No, my sin was linking to a clip of Billy Joel singing a Warren Zevon song at a concert from October. Yes, the self-named Piano Man was singing the greatest known song of the self-named Piano Fighter: "Werewolves of London." Since I lived and breathed everything Warren Zevon in the late 1970s and 1980s, and since my college roommate one year, Mark, lived and breathed everything Billy Joel, I shared the clip, tagging him, saying "if we only had this when living on Listravia Avenue."
Within 12 hours later, Facebook is telling me the post goes against community standards. What community? Or even worse, what standards?
My community on Listravia Avenue in Morgantown represented, in various combinations, 4 high school buddies and assorted hangers-on. O.k., maybe 2 other guys, one not from our high school (and all of us questioned his judgement)? It was a community of cheap flimsy coffee tables (guaranteed to be broken during a Mountaineer game), California couches, bookshelves made out of cinder blocks and slabs of wood, Hamburger Helper, pizza boxes, and at least one giant, freaking rat. The rat took the pizza out of the box and dragged it to its hole in the wall. It speaks wonders about the standards of our community that we were leaving the pizza out at night.
So what standards do you assign to a community like that? As far as college-aged young men go, we were pretty tame. Women could come into our house and leave unscathed. (There might be a total of three women to attest to that.) The drinking was minimum, the drugs were non-existent, and the damage to the rental was only in the form of holes in the wall created to try and get to said rat, or other vermin, who died in the wall and stunk up the place. (When the stench gets too bad for a group of college-aged young men, that is telling you something.)
In fact, the mere fact that this group of young men listened to Billy Joel or Warren Zevon or The Cars or Dire Straits or The Pretenders is a sign of a community with standards, at least in terms of musical taste.
So, what community did my post potentially offend in the Facebook world? The very Facebook that today allowed my friend/colleague's post about her "green snot" and sickness "getting old" has the audacity to say that my post doesn't meet those kinds of standards?
Facebook cites in their Community Standards' section that they associate the following values with what they restrict from Facebook:
Authenticity - Was that not Billy Joel? It sure looked like Billy Joel. Was that not really "Werewolves of London" he played? He and his band sure howled like it.
Safety -- O.k., "a little old lady" did "get mutilated" late last night, but, not really, Paragons of Facebook Virtue! Sheesh! Will you next not let me post a video of Dire Straits' "The Bug," because "sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug," and every time it's a violent collision?
Privacy -- Mark's privacy? Trust me, there are worst things I can post from our past than our shared love of certain music. A little FF, Markie?
Dignity -- Really? Dignity? About every other post on Facebook is an affront to someone's dignity.
Alas, as one digs deeper and deeper into Facebook's community standards, the "value" of intellectual property rears its ugly head. I suspect Mr. Joel's lawyers asked for the post to be pulled down. I doubt Mr. Zevon's lawyers have much concern about it. Any little thing that might remind the world about what an underrated artist he was can't be bad.
But, let's be honest, Facebook, by that point, this is not about community standards," it is about community sanctions. You can't fool this community; after all, one of us went to law school (ironically, the one who wasn't from Morgantown).