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Friday, September 27, 2013

No offense: Candor on social media lands columnist in hot water

Best not to point out the obvious.
By Annandale humorist Robert Schwaninger

In the world of social media one can express thoughts, ideas, ruminations or simply show pictures of your newest grandchild throttling the neighbor’s cat. With near impunity, people will post stories about their grandfather’s coma or show pictures of a rash and ask “so what do you think this might be?” And everyone can express their opinions.

If you are a provocateur like me, expressing opinions and observations can backfire in acidic responses that one double-checks to find out if they were posted incorrectly and were actually meant for someone else, say, Ted Bundy. Instead, I have found that I have the ability to offend nearly anyone. 

And though it is never my intent to insult or offend anyone by what I write, I am beginning to discover that my crippled contributions to Facebook or any other medium are entirely flawed.  When I compare what I write to other people’s efforts, there are definitely oceans of differences in style and content.

Use with caution.
First, I am weighted down and consumed by the devil known as candor. Candor has me in its evil grip and when I try to wiggle free and escape, it drags me back to my true beliefs and punches me in the stomach until I gaspingly utter the truth. Trust me, social media ain’t no place to tell the truth. 

After receiving a picture of someone’s new baby, best not to note that the baby’s head has a decided point. When someone has changed religions, diplomacy dictates that you do not ask, “is that the one where they handle snakes?” And if responding to a sibling’s post, one does not give up their past by remarking, “oh yeah, that was the night you wet the bed.”

Second, avoid all topics that involve an opinion. Gun rights, abortion, the national debt, or whether Wal-Mart should have a dress code are all out of bounds. It makes no difference what you post, you will insult someone’s sense of reality. Often the responses start with phrases like “how dare you” or “I can’t believe” or my personal favorite, “I have begun hunting you.”

The effect of reading messages from these highly offended folks who have graciously taken their time to detail what a mouth-breathing moron you are is a kind of self-examination that makes you wonder whether you unknowingly devolved from the phylum. Often I have considered crafting a suicide note in response, but I decided not to give them the pleasure.

Lastly, be careful with “me too” statements or the Facebook “like” button. What can happen is that the original post to which you are responding might say something like, “I really enjoyed the weather today.” [Like] Followed by, “The wind was just right for blowing the smell away from the cadaver I just buried in my neighbor’s yard.” Yikes!

You are now linked to and “like” this whack job and now people get to respond not only to the weirdo but to your like. You have now gone from cheerful contributor to co-conspirator with the press of a button.

So here’s my suggestion to avoid offending anyone who participates in social media sites: Only use words found in books read by persons under the age of 6. Everything that anyone posts about family or pets is simply “nice.” And never press the like button. If you do these things, using an alias, you might be able to avoid offending someone. But, I doubt it.

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