It might be that i turned 47 last week and I’ve turned in to a grumpy old man with a little less tolerance for things. I’m not normally one to post personal rants. This blog is really about technology, HR and recruiting, and many of the great people I meet on-line and on my travels, but sometimes some things just need to be said.
Social media is a great thing.Possibly the best way we have ever had of connecting and seeing the world through others eyes. I don;t always agree with the views that others post, but on the most part I see how they have formed their view, even if I think they are wrong. Other times I might find things a bit silly, occasionally even offensive enough to hit the unfollow button and get people out of my stream. I am rarely offended enough by something to get properly angry. I find most people respectful in their dialogue. Like I am in person, I don’t like everyone or agree with everyone. Sometimes we just don’t get on, but social media has also provided a great opportunity to see how others think and behave. I’m rarely disappointed when I meet people who I have connected with on-line, and I fiercely defend the social channels against any type of censorship. As far as I’m concerned, people have the right to be an idiot and to prove it on Facebook, Twitter, WordPress or anywhere else.
Today though I saw a few things that I need to speak up about. I know a few people who made the comments or produced the content. They are not bad people, but I can’t help but think they have substituted sensibility for social, and are behaving in a way they never would do in person because they are on-line.
A day on from the anniversary of 9/11 I had a bit of spare time and was scrolling back in my stream and looking at the posts relating to the day. There was some very moving posts. Some from people I know quite well who lost friends on that day, others who were recounting what they saw and how they felt, and others expressing their own memories of what happened. It’s not something they talk about every day, but it is a moment in time that has defined many people’s lives as a before and after.Living in the UK it was less personal, but I remember clearly how I felt for mankind. I was personally effected more by 7/7, when someone I had trained was killed by a bomber on an underground train along with many others. I understand how that feels, and I have nothing but sympathy for anyone in the same situation.
I was shocked though to find a few posts making points about US foreign policy, and what is seen as other outrages happening now and in the past, and these were not posts from people I would consider to be extreme in normal circumstances. This time they offended me. Not because I agree or disagree, everyone is entitled to a view and a voice. You can think and say what you like about America provided it is not racist or prejudiced, 364 days a year, but on this one day it is a day for sensibility and silence. I write plenty of content people don’t like, but if I ever wrote anything that I thought had hurt someone emotionally I would be mortified. Content should never be personal.
At the same time, I found posts promoting the sale of “party packs”, T-shirts and other merchandise to celebrate the impending death of former PrimeMinister of the UK Margaret Thatcher. She is old and frail now, and in ill-health. I understand why people have strong views about her and her politics, but party packs available to order and break open when she dies, wit invites, balloons and party poppers?, This is being applauded and shared after they were openly on sale at the TUC Conference. They should be ashamed, and so should the people who share or like the posts relating to them. Whatever your view, celebrating a death with a party and a T-shirt is just wrong. When it happens, and it will soon, a dignified silence for one day rather than posting celebration messages should be the response. By all means attack the politics after the day, but don’t attack the person. Think of their relatives and friends, whoever they may be.
I connect these two topics because I love social media and the freedoms we enjoy. We should use them wisely, and with sensibility, and consider content that might be hurtful at the wrong time to be totally unacceptable. We are fortunate to have the right to say and post what we like, we should use it wisely!