There are dozens of good reasons to buy locally. If offers the personal touch for customer service; it helps keep friends and neighbors employed; it supports the community with tax revenue; and it provides ease and immediacy of purchases and returns that can't be gleaned online.

Here's another one: It bypasses the confusing, and often deceptive, algorithms employed by social media.

More and more, social media platforms are making the foray into hard advertising. Even mom-and-pop businesses see the value: It's comparatively inexpensive, it has the potential to reach a huge audience, and it offers 24/7 ordering opportunities. But it's also annoying to "viewers," whose main interest is interacting with friends and family, and sharing photos, funny memes, important information and opinions. And it suggests an intimacy that simply isn't there.

A few local business owners have mentioned social media as a "necessary evil." A successful small-business owner doesn't really have the time or the resources to be "present" to followers around the clock. The expectation among potential customers exists, though, and they often become frustrated when their private messages aren't answered immediately. We should know; with 30,300 Facebook followers, we get countless messages, and it's tough to answer them all in a timely manner. And we're in the communications field, with some of us doing considerable time at desks all day; an entrepreneur who is repairing transmissions or selling dresses doesn't have that capability.

There are other issues. Sometimes ads are irritatingly repetitive, and when a customer is drawn in, he may learn the product or service is no longer available. And while social media ads from local merchants are more reliable, the ones with a seemingly national dispersal may be just shy of a scam. For instance, a social media user may ban an online clothing store that shows a cute sweater, only to get hit with another ad with the same clothing, but from a different seller. Eventually, the monikers of the sellers become suspect – things like "EKKorRU" or "blathal23" or "whuffelpootr." Does anyone really give a company such names?

The best advice is not to click – because "clickbait" invites other come-ons. And if you do order something, there's a good chance it will never arrive, and you'll spend months working on a refund. By then, you have a few more gray hairs, a shorter temper, and hours of wasted time in your day planner.

So, buy local. Go in person and check it out, even if you must wear a mask. Look on the merchant's website or social media account if you wish, but don't get angry if they don't treat you like their only customer and pop back with an answer to your inquiry. A merchant serious about online sales – or carry-out orders – will have a website presence, but those "manning" it might not be computer savvy. Remember these are your friends and neighbors, and they want to offer the personal touch. Let them do it.

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