I frequently suffer when I peruse social media, which for me basically means Facebook.

If I read a post, I want to know all the details.

Sadly, they are often few and far between. This makes me unhappy.

You see, I was trained at the hands of crusty copy editors, journalism’s equivalent of the drill sergeant. They weren’t interested in fancy phrases or poetic meanderings. They wanted clear, concise news stories that included who, what, where and when. Maybe why, but only if you were writing for the Sunday edition.

So it should not be surprising that I throw up my hands in despair when Facebook friends post pictures of themselves and unidentified people in unidentified locations, with a tag line of “Fun Time!”

I know. I can just scroll on by (and hum a Dionne Warwick hit as I go).


Which I usually do. Even though I am interested in what this jolly occasion was. Or maybe I almost recognize the people in the photo and wouldn’t mind verification.

I can’t understand why people take the time to put out information without giving it some context. Why bother? But I can empathize, because I know not everyone had the privilege of working with Joe, Mel and Pete (editors were always men in those days), who would keep you revising until the 11 p.m. deadline, if they were in the mood.

I know this because, if my Facebook pals had had that advantage, they would write: “Pauline, Christopher and I had a wonderful time at Foxwoods last weekend!”

I would have silently shared their joy and moved on. This is what I’m looking for in my Facebook experience.

Now I realize that I have a gift to share. My training in the art of communicating, which has served me well from the 1980s, before cellphones and personal computers, into the digital age. Perhaps I can spread the, ahem, word.

Let’s start with who. This is an easy one. Tell your friends-slash-readers who they’re looking at. You don’t even have to use names. “With good friends on a steamboat heading down the Mississippi.” Otherwise, the curious will wonder: Are they your cousins? People from Tulsa you just met?


If you do want to name your companions, and they have a Facebook page, you can tag them by simply tapping an icon. Easy-peasy.

Sometimes I find myself wondering what I’m looking at on Facebook. A photo, say, of a dead plant and the mysterious message, “This again.” I admit that I feel a sense of missing out when there are 32 “concerned” and “laughing hysterically” icons in response. What do they know that I don’t?

This reaction is quickly replaced with annoyance. I’m guessing my friend is a plant killer, but I’d really rather not make assumptions. After all, maybe he has an evil co-worker who keeps dumping cold coffee into his office greenery.

“What” can also mean “what’s the story here?” Because the tale of an evil co-worker is a storyline any Facebook poster can run with. Not all of life has drama and plot points, but posts should at least have some news in them, or some point to make. I have posted photos of myself drinking coffee, but there’s always a hook. For example, I didn’t have Dunkin’s for several months during the start of the pandemic. My first iced coffee rated as news on Facebook.

So say I.

We now come to “where,” which is a huge bugaboo for me. A friend, knowing I was writing this column, pointed out the kind of thing that rankles me. Someone had posted what appeared to be a vacation photo. The tourist attraction was identified, but not its location. It was not the Eiffel Tower; some people might know where it is, but others would be in the dark.


Where are you, poster? Please tell us so we can enjoy your photo more.

Speaking of the Eiffel Tower — that landmark does not need to be identified (according to my rules), but if you are standing in front of it, please let us know why. Are you on a trip? Have you moved to Paris? Were you kidnapped?

There is also a handy-dandy location icon that, if tapped, will help allay confusion on the part of your friends-slash-readers.

I have been known to Google sites that are mentioned in posts without a location. I do this begrudgingly and only because I can’t stand unanswered questions. Luckily, on Facebook, “when” can always be ascertained, because everything is time-stamped.

I realize that many Facebookers could care less about all these details. They are scrolling through on their phones, clicking “like” and the occasional “wow.”

Unfortunately, I am beady-eyed, inquisitive and skeptical, due to my journalistic training. I can’t look at at unexplained photograph without having 15 questions about it.


Recently I’ve noticed a few people asking for context — “Where are you?” — which reminds me that I too could go into reporter mode and interrogate my friends. But that seems wrong. I want them to do the right thing on their own.

Sometimes I do respond logically to my angst and take a break from Facebook. But I always come back, because I do like seeing what my friends are up to — even if I only do get half the story.

Sorry, Mel.

Liz Soares welcomes email at [email protected]

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