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Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Facebook and Nostalgia Aren't Always A Good Mix


I can’t recall when I first joined Facebook. It was probably about 6 or 7 years ago. At the time my daughter suggested that it might not be my thing and that this type of communication was more viable for younger people who had to be in on the latest gossip.

I quickly discovered that retirees like me who had Facebook pages either had a running patter with a wide variety of friends or they rarely offered any comments on anything whatsoever.

I found reconnecting with someone I knew years ago interesting to a point but those conversations were almost always via e-mail and not through Facebook. Swapping old stories only had a certain shelf life in most cases.

I don’t have the kind of personality that I want to be everyone’s friend. I can’t remember ever “friending” anyone on Facebook. I ignored most friend requests, particularly people I wasn’t familiar with. I got rid of, if that’s the right term, people who were overtly religious or right wing politically. Why would I want to put up with their strong opinions when I totally disagreed with them?

At this point you might be asking yourself why I even bother with Facebook at all? My answer to that is that I like a number of the feeds I get like The Alternet, Huffpost, I Love Vancouver Island, and the Vancouver Canucks. Every now and then I find something interesting that one of my Facebook friends has commented on.

I’m a curious kind of person. I tend to delve into something if I find it interesting. I want to know more. The internet provides that.

On the other hand I get bored with repetition and inane comments like “I never went there.” on Facebook.

So….I’m going to cut to the chase here….

As a person who is about to turn 70 in the next few weeks, I’m as interested in nostalgia as much as the next guy. I’ve written quite a few stories about growing up in Montreal and other places I spent time at years ago. I’ve always tried to be as factual as possible.

A few years ago I discovered a Montreal nostalgia Facebook page called Montreal Memories. At first I found it interesting but after a while it felt like topics were being recycled and recycled and it became boring.

One day a gal from Montreal wrote that she had bought a 1920 Montreal phone book at a used book sale. My grandfather immigrated to Canada around the year 1900 from the UK and I was curious if his name was in the phone book. I went back and forth with the book finder a few times and she told me that my grandfather’s name was indeed in the phone book. It was pretty neat to find that out.

The next thing I knew our conversation was erased from Montreal Memories. I was really pissed. It was an innocent conversation that wouldn’t offend anyone. Why would someone erase it?

If this was the way they ran things I didn’t want to be a member. There was no explanation as to what rule or rules I had broken.

After I quit I did some research on Montreal Memories. The site founder, Barry Zbar, apparently is a retired accountant who has lived in Toronto for the past 30 years. I don’t think I’ve ever met an accountant who wasn’t a bit anal including one I used for years.

It didn’t take me long to discover a number of other people who were once Montreal Memories members that weren’t exactly thrilled with Mr. Zbar’s treatment of them.

I decided to just move on. If I wanted to scroll though old pictures of Montreal every once in a while I could do so without being a member on a number of other Montreal nostalgia Facebook pages like Montreal Then and Now. Montreal Memories wasn’t the only game in town.

A few months ago I started to get feeds from Montreal Memories on my Facebook page. I wasn’t sure why? To be honest all those Montreal Facebook nostalgia sites sounded the same to me. It turned out someone had “sponsored” me without asking if I was interested. It was an honest mistake on his part.

What the hell I thought. I’ll play this out for a while.  Maybe add to the conversations a bit? I started noticing lists of rules and warnings that Mr. Zbar placed frequently on his site. He seemed to have a distain for other Facebook pages like his. It started to sound like his version of remembering Montreal’s past is the only real version. Not so.

The vast majority of Montreal Memories members are older people, mostly over 60 years of age it seems. I get it that most of these people don’t like people fighting over politics or religion on Facebook. That’s quite understandable.

Everything about Montreal back in the day wasn’t always good times for everyone every day. Things were certainly simpler but as kids what did we really know about the world? Fantasy and reality are 2 different things. The real reality is that most of us moved away from Montreal. Personally I didn’t move away because of any French issues. I wanted to travel and once I discovered BC I didn’t want to live anywhere else.

To be honest I think some people who grew up in Montreal are living in a kind of blurred Peter Pan world. Surely the 50s and 60s couldn’t have been the only interesting years in their lives? I for one don’t want to spend my final days on this planet being reminded about where I grew up on a daily basis. It is nice to reminisce once in a while but I don’t see any benefit of being totally fixated on the past

This is the point in my story where it might get touchy but I’m going to take a stab at it anyway. According to Mr. Zbar’s rules, religion or politics are not to be discussed on Montreal Memories. There seems to be an exception if it involves Israel or being Jewish. There is something a little messed up about this. I don’t see other people on Montreal Memories identifying their religious backgrounds.

Here are a few other comments about some of the stuff I have read and seen on Montreal Memories over the past while.

-An article with death statistics about Viet Nam. Isn’t what happened there and in the US and Canada a divisive political issue?

-An article about how easy kids have it today compared to 50 years ago. At one point the story condones caning kids as way of disciplining them when they were out of order. Weird shit!

-Photos of The Rifleman TV series from the 1950s. To me old TV programs weren’t always great. A lot of them were absolutely terrible. The Rifleman lived on a ranch outside of a small town in the old west with his son Mark. He wasn’t a law officer. Still Chuck Connors managed to kill well over a hundred men with his rifle in the series run. Weird shit! “Hey Dad, are you going to be killing someone tomorrow?” “Good night son.”

-Another article on smoked meat. Really? Montreal has smoked meat? Who knew?

-A photo of some armed Israelis in front of a wall for Israel’s National Memorial Day. Isn’t this a political statement? There are many Canadians who don’t agree with some of Israel’s policies including building settlements on “occupied” land. The chances of having this viewpoint being expressed on Montreal Memories? Zero!

-When you post a photo of BBQ chicken and say Chalet BBQ is still the best....that's called ADVERTISING.

I’m way too old to be going out of my way and picking fights. There are only a few things that get me riled up. I get it that we all don’t think the same.

So….every once in a while I would comment on something I saw on Montreal Memories. I was mindful of coming across as a know it all and totally stayed away from correcting people when they were misinformed.

A few weeks ago I got a friend request on Facebook from a guy named Irving Silverman. I believe he is one of the Montreal Memories administrators. Why he wanted to friend me was a bit of mystery. Maybe he liked some comments I had made?

I decided to accept Mr. Silverman’s request. A week later I sent him a short note about how I have a blog (this one) and that I have written a number of stories about growing up in Montreal in the 50s and 60s.

Mr. Silverman later replied that he had looked at my blog, noticed some Trump bashing stories, and that he didn’t have time to read a whole blog to find a few things about Montreal.

I wrote Mr. Silverman back that I had no apologies for my Trump bashing and that he could easily find my Montreal stories by scrolling through the story titles.

He wrote back that he didn’t have a lot of patience for sifting through stuff but noticed some stories on Montreal trivia and hockey. He sounded a bit dismissive. I wondered why I had bothered to offer a connection to my Montreal stories to him and decided to “unfriend” him. I’m not about chasing readers or being “friends” with people I don’t care for.

Here’s the deal. I’ve written about 35 different stories that relate to growing up in Montreal. By far the most popular story is one I wrote 5 years ago about the Montreal community of NDG. Over 7,000 people have read the story so far and I’m still getting 150 new reads each month. There are 65 comments on the story.

Altogether over 96,000 people have read my stories since I started the blog. These days I kind of write when I want to without any deadlines.

Back to Montreal Memories. A few days ago I posted a paragraph on Montreal Memories about some 1960s rock bands in Montreal. I thought that what I wrote had some interesting details that others might not know about.

There was nothing offensive in any way in what I wrote. Within a few minutes of posting I was getting “likes”. Within an hour there was 12 “likes”. Pretty good I thought, I was entertaining some folks.

I checked back again about 15 minutes later. My little story had been removed. What kind of prick would do that I thought? And why?

So….if the Montreal Memories administrators are reading this, here are a few of my thoughts on the matter.

TWICE now I have had stuff I’ve written deleted from Montreal Memories. Those 2 entries and any comments I’ve made on your site have never been rude, insulting, or negative.

The only conclusion I can make is that you enjoy the power you have to decide on your site what is and what isn’t acceptable even when nothing objectionable has been written. Power sometimes goes to people’s heads. Your list of rules is often contradicted by what you let be posted.

It’s just a damned Facebook page! You may have convinced many that you are about fairness and reason but to me you just come across as bullies. You don’t own Montreal’s history and stories!

You can….kiss my ass!

It is safe to say I won't be buying an overpriced Montreal Memories mug for $20.95 that the administrator is selling.