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Columns

July 5, 2013

DODD: A powerful weapon called social media

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — I know I am getting a bit too soft when I can almost feel sorry for Paula Deen. Frankly, before the last couple of weeks I gave Paula Deen about as much thought as Kim Kardashian’s pregnancy, who was dancing with the stars, or if there were any real housewives left in America. She was just another sideshow of people who were rich and famous for something that had never affected the Dodd household.

The thing that I noticed is the speed at which someone can be brought to their knees in today’s social media instant communication world.

I guess I am still a bit perplexed at the scope of the hatred and repercussions from one line in a deposition. Hey, she might be the biggest racist and most horrible lady who ever lived. I don’t know that. All I know is she used a racial slur 30 years ago and had some really strange Ante-bellum plans for a wedding reception.

What does concern me is the judge and jury bandwagon hysteria that can instantly exist in the world today. Sometimes that can be an instrument of good. Other times a single line, whether it is true or not, has the potential to become a nightmare to defend or prove.

For me the scariest thing about social media is ignorance has been given a very powerful weapon. And by definition, the truly ignorant don’t use very good judgment.

I remember early on when writing a column I might be really emotional about something and send it in for a column. My editor then on a couple of occasions reminded me that it is not really good judgment to publish something written in the heat of the moment. I then had a general rule about anything written in a highly emotional state. I would let it sit for 24 hours and then re-read the submission. I found that often I might make some pretty significant changes and still more diplomatically say the same thing.

What we have today on sites such as Facebook is regularly some very ignorant people who use very bad judgment in posting things wrought with much emotion and very little forethought. Some of the most unbelievable things I have ever read were on a social media posting.

Some thoughts are meant to remain private thoughts. We all have some dark thoughts upon occasion. Even with people we love and cherish we can have some very unflattering thoughts. That’s where such things should stay. Often after a couple of minutes we return to a state of normalcy and rational thinking. We have all said something in the heat of an argument that hurt or adversely affected the other person which in hindsight we really didn’t mean.

When people who do not filter things allow them to come out they can’t take them back. It’s bad enough when only one or a few people hear them. What happens on social media is that an unfiltered and ill chosen few words can go around the world in a short time.

I have no idea what is to become of such an easy mass communication medium, but I suppose many more ignorant people will post many more ignorant things that will have many unintended consequences.

And it’s a sure bet that ignorance will always run rampant. That has always been true. Unfortunately, the power of the ignorant was usually limited and most of us knew who they were.

There are no longer filters and safeguards that can halt their words or limit their potential damage. As I observe this relatively recent phenomenon that is what amazes me most on a regular basis. I find myself often reading a posting and thinking to myself — did they really just type that and send it for anyone to see?

It will always be best that not everyone knows what we are thinking all of the time. I am 100  percent sure that is the case for me. The biggest thing I have learned about such things is that I know when I have an irrational thought. I know not to publicly share them. Truly ignorant people usually don’t know who they are and that they are.

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