Peter Tork, Social Networking & Cancer.

I'm not one to beat up on the press. If I could do it better, I would. But there are some areas I do know about because I lived them. And one of them is how social networking on the Internet works, and especially, what it's FOR.

The Washington Post has an online story in it's Health section blog called "The Check-up" about Peter Tork of the Monkees having a rare form of cancer -- and that he's using Facebook as his way of discussing the disease and getting support. At the end of the post, the writer asks if it's "unseemly" to use Facebook in this way.

I actually thought that this was the whole point of Facebook.

Now, to be fair, the author was "friended" by "Peter Tork," which turned out to be his fan club. I guess she thought Peter had been waiting all this time to make her his friend. Maybe from an old fan letter.

But I know if I get "friended" by a celebrity I don't know, I know instinctively that it's not actually Brad Pitt wanting to get to know me better. I can't decide if the writer is clueless about social networking or clueless about how personal this medium is.

But, I guarantee you, when someone is fighting for his or her life, there's no such thing as "unseemly."

A Former Monkee with Cancer


Peter Tork (center) performs with his band members in 2001. (Photo by Rich Lipski)

Set aside, if you can, the initial shock of learning that Peter Tork, a former member of the pop foursome The Monkees, is 67 years old.

Tork and his fellow Monkees live on in my mind as the fresh-faced goofballs whose zany, madcap antics on television and vinyl albums helped define the late 1960s.

Mr. Tork announced in March that he has cancer, a rare form called adenoid cystic carcinoma that usually originates in the head and neck. Tork underwent surgery on his tongue, where the cancer was found, followed by radiation. But two weeks ago he announced that his cancer had returned. He's undergoing more radiation now and is hopeful he'll be back on tour with his current band, Shoe Suede Blues, this summer; he plans a stop in Vienna, Virginia on September 11.

How do I know all this? Because Tork "friended" me (and lots of other people, I later learned) on Facebook. ... is there also something a little unseemly, or unsettling, about going Facebook with your disease?

By Jennifer LaRue Huget | June 22, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
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