My intention was to offer my Twitter followers a laugh. That's not what happened. You cannot imagine the backlash I received from posting that quote. I wasn't thinking politics when I sent the tweet into the twittersphere. I was thinking it was a Monday, after a holiday weekend, and most of my friends were dreading returning to their regularly scheduled lives. The quote seemed appropriate. However, some Twitter folks were unamused.
In a 140 characters, after I posted the quote, I was told to give up my job for someone who really wants one, that my problems are elitist, and that I am not progressive in my thinking regarding the minimum wage. Woah Twitter Peeps! I was not trying to be offensive, lower your swords.
Since the advent of writing we have learned that written words do not translate sarcasm well. I was foolish and thought since quotation marks were around the post, and it was credited to a comedian, that perhaps those reading would "get" the humor. I was wrong. Either way, the incident got me thinking about my social life offline and the correlation to socialization online.
If I had repeated the same quote to my group of friends in real life, we probably all would have chuckled and clinked our beer bottles that Monday evening. I would have been completely taken aback if any one of them had called me the devil for repeating the humor. The point is, they wouldn't have. When I sit with my friends around a table we read body language, notice if someone is not feeling well, and filter topics according. Most likely, I would not have shared that quote with a friend who, say, recently lost their job.
Therein lies the difference between social media interactions and being socialized. When we remove the context we receive simply by sitting in front of another person, we also remove our filter. No wonder online bullying is so common; it's too easy. There is only a picture looking at us and we can make a screen name into anyone we want them to be.
If someone is angry at their Great Aunt Helen and you have the misfortune to have a profile picture that reminds them of Great Aunt Helen, you might as well have a bullseye tattooed on your forehead. Anything you post, no matter how innocent, could be the spark needed for online war. With a computer screen between us it is very easy to attack for attacking's sake, and also very easy to offend someone based on their unknown filter.
Don't get me wrong, social media can be fun. It connects us to people across the world that we normally wouldn't have access to. I mean come on, prior to Facebook, there is no way I would still be connected to someone from my kindergarten class twelve states away. However, it is incredibly important to learn socialization skills in real life and then apply them, as best as possible, to interactions online. We are not Neanderthals. Although the word social is in the title, social media can not be confused with a great way to learn social skills. We have to have face to face connections and not confuse them with online acquaintanceships. Too many variables go into meetings on line. Sure, you might find some camaraderie in your beliefs, but you also might end up an easy outlet for someone's random frustration.
I'm not leaving social media and I'm not suggesting to filter yourself to the point of censorship. I love discussing ideas with my online folks. However, I've learned to set boundaries with online people the same way I set boundaries with offline people. If someone is abusive, I don't need that in my life online or off. Part of socialization is learning when there is a toxic person in your life it is important to set boundaries, perhaps even let them go. Honor yourself in your posts and if others are offended by you it's okay to not "friend" everyone. Let's appeal to our higher selves when interacting on social media.
For those who are curious, after my incident, I've adopted this quote as my filter:
"Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people."-Eleanor Roosevelt
Let's keep it classy folks.
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