There is an old phrase uttered by parents pretty universally to their children at some point. It goes something like “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” As a parent, I have even found myself uttering this statement a couple of times at least. Its simplicity still applies in even in this modern age.
I am a very active person in social media circles. I have embraced this as part of communicating with the ever-expanding world I live in. It is great to keep in touch with, or re-establish contact with friends and family you may have lost touch with over time. I am also noticing a very disturbing trend though.
I am noticing that people are making comments that would never be acceptable in normal conversations, at the very least generating a strange look or two. Social media in the 21st century has taken that buffer out of the equation. Rather than worry about what someone might think, it has become common place to make comments like “I wish _____ would die” (where ____ is any person famous or otherwise). There is a real disconnect with what is being said, and how it will be interpreted out there.
What I mean by this is that people throw these things out on to the net without context. In a face-to-face conversation you have context. You understand the reasoning, and the intent behind the statement. In a text, or a post you do not get that same context. Your own mind has to fill in the blanks based on your own personal experiences and interpretations, and that is where the problems can begin.
Gaining insight into the reasoning behind such a statement is very difficult when you are reading the words. As someone pointed out to me in the corporate world some time ago, words on a page (or an email, or a text, or a Facebook post) don’t have any emotion. We add those details to the things we read. It is human nature to fill in those blanks. Many misunderstandings have been created for this very reason.
Misunderstandings aside, I also think that this form of communication offers some anonymity from others and makes people bolder in what they say to the world. Because there is that shield in place where others cannot directly engage the person, social inhibitions seem to often get turned off from time to time. Now this isn’t to say this is an utterly bad thing to say the least. After all, I am making an editorial statement here that would not be possible if blogging (another social media communication tool) had not been invented. However, it is a bit alarming to find how often statements that resemble death threats, or other harmful things are said in the cyber “public” forums.
So what’s your take on the issue?
- The Psychology of Social Media that Fuels Social Change (mprcenter.org)
- Step Away And Step Up: Putting Social Media In Context (blogworld.com)
- The Power Of Social Media – A Blessing Or A Curse? (smedio.com)