When did the world start taking itself so seriously? When did what other people say or think become justification for taking personal affront? When did a conversation between friends who mutually understand each other’s position, become a place to interrupt with offended abandon? Even if that conversation takes place in a public online platform.
I have always been a big fan of social media, it brings people together in ways that form real community, even amongst folk who’ve never met. For years twitter was my forum for support amongst peers and colleagues, a place where even public stream debates could happen with a freedom that was fresh and edgy. Sadly twitter is no longer such a place, as the always-present trolls have taken more of a hold it’s become a less supportive place. Facebook has always been different, I’m not a huge fan, but broadly there is a bigger connection on Facebook than the tweet stream. For me at least the majority of those I’m ‘friends’ with are people I actually know IRL, or who I know more deeply ‘virtually’ than I would in the other place. That should make it safer. Alas no.
Recently a light-hearted post I made on Facebook gleaned a response from a dear-friend that was in a similar, light-hearted vein. She understood my intent in my post and I understood her comment to be an off-the-cuff oneliner in response. It was funny and sharp. It wasn’t rude, crude or even mildly sweary. So I was shocked when I got back later in the day to discover a storm had been let loose on my friend by other aqauntances from my feed. Claims of offence being taken, accusations that people ‘thought better’ of me for liking my friend’s light-hearted response and deeply unpleasent intent towards someone whose only crime had been to take a joke I set up and run with it.
I find it sad when a jokey, fun post suddenly causes offence. But more than that, when an uncharitable comment on a joke in which all the participants understood the nature and true feelings behind the conversation ends up reducing someone to tears, I want to know what motivated them to comment at all. Seriously what is wrong with people?
It gets me wondering if these people would accost strangers in the coffee shop if they didn’t like or agree with the neighbouring table’s conversation. Or perhaps hang around outside radio studios determined to take to task the chat show host who inadvertently made comments that offended them.
When did people get so self-absorbed that they must assume that every comment is about them or their particular personal situation?
Of course few of us would offend others intentionally, apart from the aforementioned trolls, most people are kind and sensitive. But we are fast approaching a world that takes itself so seriously no-one will be prepared to say anything on or offline for fear of upsetting others and falling foul of society’s self-appointed offence police.
When did we decide that ‘offence’ was the greatest crime, that anything that might trespass on our own situation or lives, even a little, must be deemed off limits or assumed to be a directed, personal attack on ourselves? Surely there is a vast difference between making light of something that might relate to someone elses personal situation and deliberatly attacking or criticising that person or their specific situation?
I am utterly appalled at the abuse hurled at my friend for an inoccuous comment that was meant to amuse. It’s made me seriously reconsider my own social media interaction. I’m just fed up with the environment that leaves people open to the attack received by my friend. And frankly I’m depressed at the state of affairs that has led to this offence-culture I see developing online.