There’s an old saying that opinions are like assholes: everyone has one. Nothing amplifies the point like a typical day on Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media.
The scenario typically unfolds in five steps:
- Someone posts a status update with emotion. It can be anger over personal situations (they stubbed a toe), sports (their favored team lost), politics, etc. Or it can be something whimsical or nostalgic, like marveling at how fast time moves.
- Someone reads more into said post than what may have been intended. This annoys or angers them.
- They put an annoyed comment under the status update. “Stop whining and accept life,” for example.
- Three or more bystanders see the comment and get upset.
- They make a comment about the comment.
Achievement unlocked: a full-throated Facebook drama.
I’ve received my fair share of emotional comments, negative and positive, over the years. I’m fine with that, because as a writer I know my strong opinion will be met with another strong opinion. I even welcome it, because passionate discussion can make us all wiser.
That is, until people get mean. Telling someone to fuck off or go kill themselves if they don’t like life’s curve balls is a pretty good example of that. Name calling also fall into this category.
When someone goes there, I shut them down. I ignore them and move on, because once someone goes there, nothing good is going to come of it.
But the drama isn’t always that cut-and-dried.
Sometimes, good people misinterpret other people’s posts and say regrettable things before thinking it through. This is usually because you can’t read a person’s intent online the same way you can when face to face. I’ve seen good people who love each other get mean on Facebook for this simple reason.
The online world is not same as the real world. We’ve had thousands of years to learn how to talk to each other in person, and we’re still a long way from mastering the art of personal communication.
We’ve had far less time to learn how to talk to each other online, which means we still pretty much suck at it.
I’m not going to tell people what to post or how to react to someone else’s posts. I’m still far too amateur at this to do that.
I will, however, suggest that we stop and think before diving in to the comments section.
If we pause first or seek clarification of what someone’s status update means, we may avoid some of the online drama that’s become commonplace.
We may all be happier as a result.