The So-Called Column

The names of the individuals in this brief and somewhat disconcerting chronicle are going to remain private, because the focus herein is indeed on privacy and its tenuous existence in the Information Age.

Some years ago, a longtime friend of mine who is a noted guitarist acquired a customized instrument from the fiancé of a fellow band member who had recently passed away. It was one of those “I-think-he-would-have-wanted-you-to-have-this” scenarios; as the musicians had a mutually beneficial, professional relationship when they were working together.

Recently, someone contacted me through the (private) message board of the only online forum on which I participate. The inquiry was soliciting details about another instrument that had been owned by the deceased musician. It was a rare bird, and had been seen in a video of one of their hits.

During the course of our digital conversation, I mentioned the other instrument that the late musician’s fiancé had given to his former bandmate, but I may have stumbled and referred to the “widow” of the player (instead of “fiancé”).

I also advised the person on the other end of the message board that the instrument now owned by the noted guitarist had been photographed to high-resolution print specifications and would be profiled soon in a magazine.

One would think that registration-required message boards on forums—and e-mail, for that matter—would probably not be considered “social media” like Facebook, Twitter, whatever. Nevertheless, it’s communication via computer. I simply thought that the message board dialogue was a private electronic dialogue with an enthusiast who was a fan of the late player, his band, and his instruments.

And perhaps it should also be noted at this juncture that the noted guitarist in this anecdote as well as yours truly do not participate in social media.

Soon after the magazine article appeared, however, a post about the “gift” instrument that referred to the magazine article appeared on a Facebook account. The Facebook post also proffered some erroneous information that was not in the magazine article itself.

And the noted guitarist who had been given the instrument was named.

At the end of the post, the individual with whom I’d had the message board back-and-forth was thanked (apparently for furnishing the information).

At minimum, posting something outside of a one-on-one (electronic) conversation without clearing it with the other individual is rude, as far as I’m concerned. I would have thought I would have been contacted ahead of time to okay posting some info from a message board dialogue on a Facebook page, but I didn’t receive any communication.

And getting such unauthorized info wrong makes it even worse.

TANGENT: I’d had a similar experience some years ago. Some guy took a personal e-mail I’d sent him and posted parts of it on an internet discussion page (not the forum on which I participate), and when I protested (by e-mail) he angrily responded (by e-mail), telling me to lose his e-mail address. Then he noted “I’m sorry I ever met you.”

We’d never “met,” in the traditional in-person manner. Apparently this guy—if indeed it was a male—thinks that exchanging e-mails constitutes a legitimate relationship of sorts, but I prefer to “meet” people using the old-fashioned “handshake, eye contact and grin” approach.

But that earlier incident had happened before the explosion of social media, and this recent Facebook posting of information that was at least partially private was troublesome.

One facet of the erroneous information was particularly egregious, as it stated that the noted guitarist/former bandmate had purchased (!) the customized instrument from the estate of the decedent.

Fake news, pure and simple. But who would know it?

The benevolence of the fiancé hadn’t been pointed out in the magazine article, but such a tidbit hadn’t been essential to the profile. Who owns the instrument and how it was acquired wasn’t really anybody’s business, unless it was important to the storyline, which wasn’t the case in that particular instrument profile.

So the posting of personal information and phony facts on Facebook were unappreciated. The noted guitarist and I both considered it to be a violation of privacy, but owing to the lack of accountability in social media, about all that curmudgeons like he and I can do is grumble.

Accordingly, the deceased musician, his fiancé, the noted guitarist, and the individual on the message board with whom I “conversed” will all remain anonymous—that information’s private.