The Star-News

Getting to know you

Sat, Sep 17 2011 12:00 PM Posted By: Carlos R. Davalos

Thanks to The Union-Tribune's website,, I can get to know my neighbors in ways I hadn't thought possible.

This week the county's largest news publication implemented a policy requiring readers to sign in using their Facebook accounts if they wanted to leave comments on the paper's website.

The move, executives said, was made to facilitate civil discourse and hold people accountable for the remarks they made on the website's comments section.

In the days before Facebook authentication, it wasn't uncommon to find dozens of readers' comments following a story. Depending on the topic, remarks would range from insightful and thought-provoking (rarely) to insipid, hysterical, ignorant, nonsensical, bigoted, sexist and just plain stupid (more often than not). Those same comments were also hilarious because of their outrageous nature.

The ability to express how they really felt without having to sign their real name was empowering to some readers, cowardly and offensive to others.

So the cloak of anonymity was taken away and customers can now see who is saying what.

And they can learn other things too.

For example, somebody calling themselves Bob Cooley, who commented that "vista or escondido/north county seems to be a melting pot for sex problems" has a picture on his profile page of a man holding a rifle. A very large rifle. And he appears to be smiling. I know this because all I had to do was click on Bob's photo and I was redirected from signon to his Facebook page. I'm not sure what to make of Cooley, really. I just know I suddenly feel a little nervous.

Judging by his Facebook page, a Gregory Weir of Oceanside, who left a comment regarding a high speed chase that ended at the U.S.-Mexico border, has a sweet ride, went hiking near Idyllwild and someone named Kathy Carillo (an Evangelical Christian whose favorite teams include the Phoenix Suns and Anaheim Ducks and is listed as one of Gregory's friends) thinks Weir is a hottie.

If I were an enterprising salesman there must be something I could do with this sort of information. Maybe send Greg a targetted ad about hiking boots and car wax? Send Kathy a plea for a donation to the Republican candidate running in her district?

Maybe for now I'll just troll through the other profiles I find through Facebook and the UT and hang onto the information I find. I'm sure they won't mind a stranger peeking into their lives.

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