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  • Last modified 50 days ago (Feb. 28, 2024)

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Talking about
our hang-ups

Don’t you love calls that begin with a little “bloop” after you answer? A few seconds later, a voice comes on, talking initially about anything BUT whatever he or she is selling. Or maybe it’s a recording, complete with pauses during which you can say anything, but the response always comes back the same. Only after such small talk does the caller, often using a sham caller ID, identify himself or herself, typically as being with some concern that sounds like — but most definitely isn’t — a business or agency you deal with.

Most don’t know your number. They just dial digits at random, hoping someone will answer. They’re so chintzy their recordings and telemarketers don’t connect until after you pick up your phone. That’s what the “bloop” is for. It’s a ring signal for some underpaid, only partially understandable operator hired to cheat you out of something.

Saving more than $130 a month, I recently pulled the plug on my old landline at home and replaced it with an Internet phone, to which I transferred my old number. I also kept a hidden, original number — something in the devil’s own 666 exchange. I’ve never given it to anyone, yet in the few days it’s been connected, it’s received 96 spam calls compared to just four on my “real” number.

If we can devote vast amounts of time and effort to raiding newsrooms then arguing over which political party is more supportive of press freedom, why can’t we spend just a little bit of time banning random-digit dialers, caller ID spoofing, and phone rooms that rudely wait until you answer before connecting you to an operator?

Why can’t we enforce laws we already have that make it illegal to misrepresent yourself as if you were a government agency or a company you regularly deal with? And why can’t we threaten to ban from our phone and online networks any nation or telephone or Internet company allowing such behavior on their equipment?

Social media are just as bad. If you have 5,000 followers and 5,000 friends and post something on Facebook, chances are that less than 50 of them will see what you post, and almost no one other than people who already know whatever it is you’re saying will act on it.

Social media channels are filled with comments and reviews, but a vast number of them are from human trolls or downright fakers. Last week, for example, I received more than a dozen emails from companies offering to post fake positive comments and reviews on social media pages and websites.

“We can post new and high-quality 5-star reviews on your Facebook page at an unbeatable rate,” a typical one suggested. “Beat your competitors, dominate the market, and dominate the local search rankings.”

Not only do social media’s echo chambers feature fake news. They also feature fake ads. It’s no surprise organizations that rely on them for marketing keep wondering why they’re not doing as much business as they might hope.

Personally, I’ve pulled the plug on social media. I still look at it occasionally to see whether there’s anything of interest among the dung hill of other material posted there, but please don’t expect me or the paper to answer any queries left there. We’re all about reporting trustworthy information, and stuff on social media is anything but.

It’s a shame various groups that purport to be supporting their local community appear to have chosen to rely on distant, untrustworthy social media instead of local businesses like ours to promote recent community events.

Some did so because they claimed they couldn’t afford paid advertising, when in fact good advertising — like what we sell — more than pays for itself.

Others did so to behave like characters in the forthcoming remake of “Mean Girls,” shunning us not only by refusing to advertise but also by not inviting any of us at the paper to the event.

We survived being taken on by seven armed men. We can survive being taken on by “Mean Girls” who want to control every topic of discussion in the community and ban all talk they don’t want to engage in.

Rarely do the flames of social media and social ostracism burn because of actual offense. If we, for example, had published a joke about shooting someone with a paintball gun to see him “dye,” we’d be crucified online. The same weak pun ran on Marion’s community sign board for several days with no one making any comment.

Those pushy enough to want to market through robocalls, sell through misrepresentation, post fake ads along with fake news, and socially and economically exclude those they disagree with are bullies. And the only way bullies stop bullying is if their targets speak up and become, as the dwindling signs around town say, stronger together.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified Feb. 28, 2024

 

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