Are there sticks and stones involved?

Because words can never hurt you.

But what is social media but words (and pictures)? The sticks (and stones) of modern communications?

This gets almost more complicated than it’s worth. Online bullying is the blight of young people’s introduction to the 21st century so far. But it existed offline, prior to there being an online. And family squabbles, well, there’s a certain Biblical squabble between the first 2 sons of the first 2 parents in the Old Testament chapters that Constantine’s 3rd-century committee decided to keep (as an editor, I always wonder what was cut out).

Seeing some family friction first-hand recently, I did a Google search (how many times will I have to delete that damn Bing toolbar before it becomes apparent that I’m the only one in the world using Google anymore, and that Bing is demonstrably better according to some person I respect, but who is as yet unknown to me?) for “Facebook ruins family” (honest, those were my search words) and found an article in Family Circle, which is a publication I used to respect for 20 minutes or so in the dentist’s waiting room. The article was titled “Is Facebook Ruining Your Friendships?” and seemed to offer helpful hints by someone who was humiliated by faux pas that didn’t exist prior to social media.

Or, more accurately, probably, existed in a different form. Sometimes limited to words. Sometimes escalating to hard objects that can be thrown or projected at different speeds, with different physical effects on the target.

So, my first-hand experience remained in the realm of words. But as one who believes in the power of words, I took in the emotion all around, as much as I could comprehend on all sides, given my limited brain capacity. Before going into greater detail, here’s the image in the Wikipedia entry for “words”:

From Wikipedia Commons (photo by Paul Shagamaroo).

From Wikipedia Commons(photo by Paul Shagamaroo).

Good words. Although the blocks could be picked up and thrown at someone.

Here’s what the author of the Family Circle article may or may not have said (as the dentist was ready to see me and I couldn’t finish the article): People use Facebook in a number of ways (ignoring the increased business presence, which is boring). Some people have strong activist feelings, and these activist sentiments are expressed, and sometimes family and friends are asked to sign petitions or do other things they may not be in a position immediately to do, as they may have to go to the bathroom real bad. And by the time they get back to the tablet or PC, they see something else in the whirlwind of things to see–like various old-time salesmen showing up at your door with a horse-drawn wagon, and a beautiful daughter dancing on the porch, selling a liquid that restores hair growth associated with male pattern baldness.

Privacy settings are all over the place. Not everybody reads every post from every friend. And the salesman with the horse-drawn carriage may have ignored a “Do Not Trespass” or “No Solicitors” sign. And then maybe you want to go for the shotgun.

And then there are the social and funny and stupid posts on Facebook, that are just interesting. I’ve seen hundreds of comments because someone posted the status update, “Ugh.”

Some posts mean a lot. Some mean little. There is a chance for anyone to misinterpret (or simply miss) anything.

I’m proud to say my recent situation was resolved because all involved decided “I love you” were not blocks that should be thrown at each other. Come on! Yes, you or I may feel strongly about something. But unless someone hits us with a club, whatever they say or don’t say on Facebook may or may not reflect a real or imagined rift.

A rift is a rift, and it’s a real thing. A bad thing, and something to be avoided. But it’s unlikely to be healed by the same instrument that caused it in the first place. Words are important. But “I love you” isn’t a collection of letters. It’s a hug. It’s the inside of you–the real you.

By the way, here’s what a rift looks like:

Block view of a rift formed of three segments, showing the location of the accommodation zones between them at changes in fault location or polarity (dip direction) (illustration by Mike Norton)

Block view of a rift formed of three segments, showing the location of the accommodation zones between them at changes in fault location or polarity (dip direction) (illustration by Mike Norton)

As an aside, there was a guy named Mike Norton who lived across the road from me in 3rd grade. He used to steal my lunch on a regular basis, and once threw me into a hedge.


About Keith Croes

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Posted on September 22, 2013, in Social media and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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