Sunday, November 9, 2008

The best and the worst of Facebook

During the search for Brandon, the Facebook group "Where is Brandon Crisp" grew to over 20,000 members. Originally started by some of Brandon's friends and classmates, the early wall postings and pictures were from friends, students and family, hoping and praying for Brandon's safe return. Many of these messages, some written "to" Brandon, were deeply touching and filled with emotion.

Later, as the group got bigger, it certainly became less personal. There were questions and theories, ideas and far-flung suggestions, information and mis-information. A darker side also began creeping in as some posters made criticisms of Brandon, his parents, and the police, and some of these posts were upsetting to the family, as they were following many of the threads.

But the darkest was to come after Brandon's body was found. The group's wall, threads and photos starting filling with cruel and insulting postings towards Brandon and his family, cowardly postings from anonymous names.

Facebook had first provided the best of the internet - people sharing their grief, their thoughts, their sympathies and condolences, friends and strangers alike. A forum for thousands to share how their lives were touched by this young man. Then the worst of the internet appeared - trolls from sites of dubious distinction such as 4chan and encyclopediadramitica, sites where the greatest claim is that the hate and insensitivity of their users can easily hide behind the shield of anonymity, bringing their lack of decent civilized behavior to a group that was clearly intended to provide comfort and support.

The main Facebook page was soon shut down, and while schoolmates started a new "In Memory of Brandon Crisp" group, the trolls followed. At the time of this writing there are over 15,000 members of this new group, which is heavily monitored by a number of officers and admins, no longer allows photos, and presently shuts the wall down overnight "in order to keep the wall clean and free from anything but tasteful messages".

It's a stark contrast between the lost hope and promise that Brandon's life has come to represent, and the insensitivity and disrespect that these trolls can bring to his memory.

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