What I contend has become the bane of our societal existence has also become the very definition of an oxymoron.
To say the least, we in the community newspaper business have a love-hate relationship with social/unsocial media. Sometimes we hate it as much or more as anonymous letters.
On the one hand it can be an excellent method for breaking news in ways we couldn’t have imagined several years ago.
It can also be a platform for healthy discussion. But sadly, that discussion invariably turns nasty when the subject matter contains anything remotely controversial.
As a result we find ourselves having to referee such back-and-forth, sometimes leading to extreme measures that we would prefer to avoid.
Among the ways people get off the beam are adding unnecessary profanity to comments that otherwise would be acceptable, utter vulgarity that has no place where youngsters might frequent, and personal attacks when none are warranted nor advised.
Whatever happened to disagreeing without being disagreeable?
In recent weeks a controversial topic has been addressed in our news pages and through our social media channel.
Oftentimes the discussions begin in a civilized fashion. But you just have to watch them like a hawk because they can quickly turn ugly.
It’s one thing to be committed and passionate and quite another to bring the discussion down into the mud.
A bit of advice. If your comments can’t be stated without being mean or vulgar or profane, they’re probably not worth making.
You will win no converts with that type of vitriol.
The resulting nastiness can leave us little choice but to hide comments, turn off comments, and in the extreme, block commenters from their participation.
And it’s always completely unnecessary.
Just remain respectful while saying what you have to say. Act like you’re talking to your mother or perhaps your preacher.
Consider carefully what you are saying. Look it over a few times before hitting the send button, and you can’t take it back. And when reading the replies, study them carefully to make sure you are truly understanding what was intended.
One area where those who think they must spend their time commenting on everything is their inability to pick up on sarcasm or tongue-in-cheek comments. It’s amazing how many times responses completely miss the writer’s intent.
There needs to be a requirement that sarcasm have its own dedicated font, and maybe a different color.
It can be discouraging to shut down comments, because we want to encourage healthy debate on all topics.
But as has been noted, while social media can be an excellent platform for spreading information, it is not a very good platform for debate. At least not in the wild, wild west days of its infancy.
Maybe we will get better at this over time. But until then, just know that we are a private business, beholden to no one, and if you can’t keep your comments civilized, we will not support a platform that allows such garbage.
It is my contention that there is a special line at the Pearly Gates for those who think that comments they make on social media truly matter. They have a little explaining to do, I figure.