If You Tell A Lie Big Enough…

Connections and landmines.

Last week, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy did something extraordinary.

He issued an advisory, warning the public that social media is doing “harm to the mental health and well-being of children and adolescents.”

The advisory—19 pages in length–noted the effects of social media on adolescent mental health were not fully understood but there are ample indicators of “profound” risk.

According to Axios:

“Nearly every teenager in America uses social media, and yet we do not have enough evidence to conclude that it is sufficiently safe for them,” Murthy wrote. He argued that kids have “become unknowing participants in a decades-long experiment.”

The surgeon general’s report focuses on the impacts of social media on teens and kids—both positive and negative—and the attendant health risks. The report outlines two types of dangers associated with social networks: content-related problems, such as negative self-image or bullying, and use-related problems, such as poor sleep and addiction.”

My kids are older, but I have friends whose children are teenagers, and they see a difference. Often, moods are dictated by what’s happening online.

Like 3 billion people worldwide, I’m on Facebook. Like 2 billion, I log in every day. I enjoy keeping up with distant family, old friends, former teachers, college classmates and people I used to work with. I try to avoid national and local politics although I do glance at some of the “groups” that post about Delray Beach and Boca Raton. Sometimes, I learn about a new business opening and sometimes I shake my head at the rampant misinformation and relentless negativity I see about all things local.

If you didn’t know better and just relied on Facebook for local “news” you would think that Delray is a hellscape. It’s not.

As for posting, I look at Facebook as an online memory book. I post this blog, pictures of my pets and scenes from our travels. I like looking at them again years later in a memory app I have. I’m reminded that life is more about moments than milestones. Facebook is a good way to capture some of those moments and share them with friends.

But I understand why social media is risky for kids. I also believe it’s a risk for adults and a peril for communities as well.

Because it’s easy to bully people online. It’s also easy to spread misinformation.

I come from the stone age of technology. I served on the Delray Beach City Commission in the years before social media. We did get a ton of e-mail and we did experience a fair amount of misinformation spread via email, pamphlets etc., but the power of social media goes way beyond anything my colleagues and predecessors had to contend with.

Prior to email, if you were angry at a decision, you had to type a letter, print it out, find a stamp and mail it. It took a lot of time and effort. Or you could pick up the phone and vent. But it was hard to misinform a great deal of people easily.

In my era, we had a woman that went door to door in The Set claiming the city was going to use Eminent Domain to “take” their homes when in fact, our Downtown Master Plan outlined strategies to encourage “development without displacement.”
It turns out the spreader of the false info was a realtor, who really wanted people to sell their homes to her quickly before the city came and “took” them. We pushed back with a public information campaign when we heard from scores of people who were frightened about being displaced.

I remember a long-ago Father’s Day when our commission was forced to respond to hundreds of emails because a political opponent claimed—falsely—that we were going to eliminate the words “village by the sea” from our city’s plans and visions. We answered every single email; it was not a fun day.

Today, the ubiquity of social media allows misinformation to flow instantly to thousands of people. It’s a huge challenge for elected officials.

Of course, social media also can inform and present facts, but for some reason as Mark Twain once said: “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.”

Such is human nature.

Social media is here to stay, I believe. Although personally, I’ve noticed my own use diminishing and I hear others tell me the same.  Like many things, it has gotten too divisive and too ugly.

I don’t have any solutions to the Surgeon General’s concerns, other than standards. We need standards. Not government imposed standards, but good old-fashioned standards of decency. We seem to have lost the thread. We seem to reward bullying and vulgarity.

In search of inspiration, I often turn to people I admire.

Last week, I watched a State of the City speech given by a man who many consider to be the best mayor in America—Jim Brainard of Carmel, Indiana.

Mayor Brainard has served 7 terms in office and is widely credited with transforming Carmel into one of the best small cities in America. Look up his record and read up on Carmel, his accomplishments are astonishing.

This will be his last term so I thought I would check out his 2022 State of the City speech to see what he’s learned. I think he might have one more speech scheduled, but this was his latest.

Here’s a link.


If you love cities, you’ll find yourself listening to the whole thing. But if you don’t have the time, fast forward to the 27-minute mark and listen to what he says about civility and compromise. Listen to what he says about sitting down respectfully and working things out with those you disagree with.

That can’t happen on Facebook, which is instantaneous, sometimes anonymous, and always done in a vacuum without having to face the person you differ with.

What Mayor Brainard says isn’t some Eureka concept and he’s a bit of a dry speaker, but his advice is profound. It’s common sense, which come to think of it, isn’t that common these days.

Those with whom we disagree are people, they aren’t enemies. They just see things differently. So why not sit down and compromise? Why not set a standard for your community and make it a safe place to serve and debate?

I’m not naïve enough to believe there is no evil in this world. There is plenty of it. And those people cannot be reasoned with. But most people aren’t evil and that’s where we must start, with those willing to sit and listen.



  1. great article as usual Dad and Fran

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