When we talk about people on Twitter, should we let them know?

Flickr: mfakheri

A few years back a friend and I had one of those, “Yes, we’re a$$hats!” moment. We were hanging out at an event and – as we tend to too easily do – we started talking about a common acquaintance.

We were not being nasty, but our words were certainly not flattering. We were gossiping.

So of course, being out in public and within earshot of other people, someone says tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Excuse me but, X is a friend of mine and . . .”

Craptastic.

No matter how I might have wanted to justify our actions or tell this yahoo to mind his own beeswax, this was just us participating in gossip. We were in public and there is no way that I would say the same things to that person’s face, so in the end, we were totally in the wrong and were called out on it.

And then last month, I starting typing in a tweet about someone else that was not going to be nasty, but it was not going to be flattering. As I did so, I thought to myself, should I include his twitter handle so he knows what I am doing so or am I just going to use his name?

Sidebar — For those of you not on Twitter if someone includes @breyeschow in their tweet, I will be alerted by Twitter, but if it just says “Bruce Reyes-Chow,” unless I specifically search for my last name there is no way that I would ever know that I was mentioned.

For example if someone tweets, “That @breyeschow is an kind of a jerk!” this would show up on my twitter alerts, but if they just tweet, “That Bruce Reyes-Chow is kind of a jerk!” I would be none the wiser and trapse along my merry way believing that everyone loves me ;-)

So here’s the dilemma — Since Twitter, Facebook, etc. are public spaces where people see/hear what we are talking about, is it okay to talk about people without letting them know or has the “Don’t say it online unless you are willing to say it in person” rule lost meaning?

When we talk about people on Twitter, should we let them know?

For my two cents, I think that if you are going to talk about someone in such a public forum, friend or not, you should at least give them a heads up and let them decide how to respond, if at all. I find that this posture helps me to give my words more care AND, even in offering harsh critiques remind myself that every human being is, well . . . a human being.

So what do you think?

And if you plan on tweeting that this is a stupid question, I am @breyeschow on Twitter ;-)

How This Parent Will Strive to Disagree Better

On the way to school this morning, the girls and I had a great interaction about how we treat one another. It began as they were talking about a t-shirt that they often wear to school that has the phrase on the front, “I love Lola” followed by the definition of “Lola” . . . “grandmother ” in Tagalog.

Middle, “When people read my ‘I love Lola’ shirt they think I’m talking about my dog.”

Youngest, “Seriously, don’t people bother to read?”

Eldest, you should totally say, “You know I enjoy careful reading . . . you should try it.”

Laugh, giggle and then Daaaad had to talk . . .

What followed was a great conversation about how some comebacks may seem really funny, and may even be clever, but that using cut downs meant to humiliate or demean was not okay.

“Go ahead, let your inside voice say it, but please don’t actually say it outloud. Deal?”

“Deal.”

No major eye-rolling. Just another teachable moment as they say.

Some of you are reading this and may be thinking this was not the best advice. You may be right, but it did get me thinking about how we parents model interaction in times of conflict and disagreement.

As a person who has the privilege of having a writing and speaking platform from which I can raise issues that are important to me, it’s not a surprise that I get a good deal of nastiness directed my way. Don’t worry, I let most of it roll off of me . . . though don’t let my momma find out who you are ;-) I’m not naive and I know that the big bad evil trolls are out there lurking. Waiting. At the same time, just because they are out there, does not mean that we should now abdicate public discourse to those who seek and reap division; accept this posture as the new normal or resort to the same kind of tactics.

Yes, this is one more post pleading for all of us to rise above the fray and choose to disagree differently. And I will say until I am blue the face that my commitment to remove tactics of humiliation, destruction and dehumanization from our interaction is not one that leads to a weakness in fortitude, devaluation of truth or limited impact. In fact, I would contend that in today’s hyper-snarky, techo-crazy world, I think people who have the discipline to exhibit unexpected humility, excruciating graciousness and passionate love of the other are the architects, curators and builders of a better tomorrow.

With my interaction with the kids and comments from this post and this update fresh in mind mind, I posed this question on my Facebook Page:

I wonder if most parents would be proud if their children interacted the same way at school during passionate disagreements about playground life as the parents do during passionate disagreements about politics?

If you take the time to read through the comments on the above links, I think you get a good sense of where I probably am in my own modeling: most of the time I feel okay about how I respond to others in the heat of the debate, but every so often, I resort to tactics that are patronizing, humiliating and destructive to the body as a whole.

These are not traits I want to pass on to my children.

So for my daughters’ sake and all who may observe me, I will strive to be and do better.

Anyone else?

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