Rethinking a tired word

As a business student, I’m forcing myself to get through as much of The Economist as I can stomach. Much of the content is abhorrent to me, but some of it is informative. I’m glad I took time, a little while ago, to read through the publication’s style guidelines and ponder its list of empty words and expressions—words so overused and so thoughtlessly used that they’re little more than verbal garbage.

“Community” is on the list.

On this point, I admit, I’m the world’s worst offender. I think using that word over and over again was a futile attempt to convince myself there was such a thing.

I must have joined Fakebook Facebook some time in 2008; a year or so later I got sick of it and deleted my account. It wasn’t long before I realized that not having Facebook was like not having a phone. I came back, feeling ridiculous, and went through the process of re-adding old contacts.

Recently I left a Facebook group I was very attached to; it was my “community.” For years I praised the “community” and defended it against its detractors. I helped publicize its good work as much as I could.

In the end, it wasn’t a nasty confrontation or a rude troll that put me off participating—it was the utter banality of the discussions. The animal advocates who founded “the community” are mostly absent, scattered on different continents. Vegan discussions are rare, but anti-Korean potshots are not. The hottest controversy I’ve seen in a long time is whether it embarrasses a dog to be seen in a cute outfit.

Recently a woman I’ve never met, whose name I don’t recognize, informed the Facebook group that she was starting a fund to pay vet bills for rescued animals. A few years ago that would have made me very happy. Now it just makes me suspicious and xenophobic. (The dog in the picture isn’t mine; he was a guest at a fundraiser for homeless animals.)

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