Social media reality: Fleeting remarks can evoke lasting winces

To the Editor…

Knee-Jerk Reaction – An immediate unthinking emotional reaction produced by an event or statement to which the reacting person is highly sensitive; – in persons with strong feelings on a topic, it may be very predictable.

– Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary,
published 1913 by
C. & G. Merriam Co.

In an age where the use of social media has skyrocketed, the ability to let our every feeling be known the instant it is felt has never been greater. Surely this technological advancement came with a wave of social growth and maturity, right?

The childhood lesson, “think before you speak” can now be broadcasted thousands of times in the blink of an eye.

Although it shouldn’t even have been an issue, I suppose that rule needs to be modernized: “Think before you type.”

There is an annual event, I’m sure some of you are familiar with it, that brings tourists to the town, and headaches to the townspeople. Every year this for-profit event causes a scenic span of road to be blocked off for a few days. A part of town that is usually quite desolate in these still-slightly-too-cold couple of weeks before Summer, is suddenly bustling with multi-colored tents and contraptions.

Rain, snow, or shine, this fest goes on and, rain, snow, or shine, people share their problems with that.

Recently I was perusing facebook, when I came across a post that had sparked a vehement discussion. Knee-jerk reaction begets knee-jerk reaction and so forth.

At the height of the heated argument, the town getting money for closing the road was equated to sexual assault. That this five-day inconvenience was essentially rape.

Naturally, I had several of my own knee-jerk reactions.

I wanted to scream. I wanted to hit my all caps button and never look back. I was ready to tell the world in my own insignificant way that I was affected by this virtual conversation.

Instead, I took a deep breath, and then took several more.

I’ve seen this so many times. From the lovable RA saying, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels,” to the popular high schooler posting about, “this concentration camp of a school,” the computer screen serves as a splatter shield from the effects of our words.

We shroud our opinionated retorts with smiling emoticons. “I said this thing that may be close-minded, but, look, I did it with a smile.”

There are unseen casualties from what we publicly post. Remarks that, if they simply cannot be held in, would be better whispered behind cupped hands and closed doors.

You never see the tears of the people whose real life problems you unknowingly belittle. From the girl who’s struggled with weight her whole life, to the only Jewish boy in class, and to the girl who, almost two years later, still has nightmares.

I may not have been around this town a long time (hell, I still have enough fingers and toes to count my age), but I know the people here are good. I was raised in a community full of some of the brightest, most caring, respectable people I’ve come across so far. These men and women will no doubt continue to be my idols for years to come.

But every now and then, even heroes might need a gentle refresher of the first rule we learn. Think before you speak.

Town of Webb graduate, current college student [Name withheld by request]

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