Believe it or not, I used to be a very walled off and private person. I still am pretty guarded with anything but the superficial. When Facebook came along I had a lot of fun with it, reconnecting with old friends, family I don’t often have the opportunity to see. I still like it, it’s a great way to stay connected when you have friends and family strewn out all over the place. Until today I’d never really been part of its evil underbelly, mostly because I steer clear of debate or controversial topics.
I find it has a lot of teachable moments for my 12-year-old. When he first got an account he once openly said derogatory things about a specific person. I immediately made him delete it. It’s one thing to get into an argument with someone on-line, quite another to start slandering them. So in addition to avoiding spam and hoaxes, we’ve had some good conversations about what is and isn’t appropriate to post.
Unfortunately this lesson has yet to resonate with some adult Facebook users. Yesterday I found myself reading a very uncomfortable thread where several people were bashing a school official who is on a medical leave, by name, blindly speculating about his family and health status, criticizing his job performance, and delighting in kicking someone whose disposition is entirely unknown. I thought it was pretty bush league, and even though it was all going down on someone else’s page, I decided to chime in with my two cents, which was, have some empathy, show some respect, and don’t have such a catty discussion in view of 500 people. I went as far to say that parents expect kids to be accountable for bullying behavior, and that it’s not difficult to see how it starts.
Wow. Did I ever strike a nerve.
Within an hour, replies poured in. People I’ve never met started hurling third-grade insults at me.
High and Mighty Jennifer.
Miss Pissy Pants.
This idiot would have made a great Nazi.
Shut the hell up.
Did someone have a bowl of stupid for breakfast?
Up on her soap box.
I didn’t reply further. You can’t make a point with someone whose best intellectual contribution was to play the Nazi card. That’s pretty much the bellweather of an irrational argument.
But what I did learn from their continued conversation was enlightening. See if you can follow this logic.
- When limited information is provided, wild and open speculation is justified.
- Parents are entitled to the “truth,” even if that is federally protected private information.
- Because someone doesn’t live up to our expectations, it’s okay to not give a flying fuck if he has a problem.
- It’s called freedom of speech. (That one killed me. I never said they didn’t have the right to say these things, just that maybe they should think about whether they should be saying them. Yes, I have the right to stand up in the middle of a graduation ceremony and call the superintendent an ignorant douchebag. But would anyone other than a sociopath consider that a proper forum for such an indictment?)
- It’s not bullying if the person you’re tearing down doesn’t see what people are saying about him.
Ooooooh. Kaaaay. You stay classy, ladies.
© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2012