If you’re a fan of the 80s, chances are you remember Rodney Dangerfield. Rodney was around before then (and after), but it seemed he suddenly became hip during the era of Deloreans and “trickle down” theories. He’d appear in many movies, the vast majority comedies (with “Natural Born Killers” being the most notable exception) and was known for his signature line, “I don’t get no respect.”
I believe, thanks to social media and a variety of socio-psych-economic and cultural factors, we are now a national of Rodney Dangerfields, and simultaneously, a nation of gods.
How’s that work?
Well, given that social media platforms encourage narcissism, users feel omnipotent as they type at their keyboards, it’s all about THEM. Of course, that means everyone else who isn’t you thinks it’s all about THEM and not YOU, and typically have little trouble telling you what they think about you, your ideas, your posts, that picture of a kitty you just uploaded. Consequently, you may feel disrespected.
Hence, we are now living in the “Dangerfield Decade.” We all want respect, we all believe we deserve it, but we're communicating in a virtual world where everyone feels they have the right to say whatever they feel like, no matter how rude. And granted, it's easy to do this when you can hide behind a fake name or some strange picture (not of yourself) and don't actually have to look the person in the eye to call them an idiot.
You can’t have a baseball team where everyone bats cleanup, or at least, everyone thinks THEY should be the one batting cleanup and everybody else can go to heck.
Yet, social media platforms like FACEBOOK seem to encourage just that.
I have noted that people will “say” things on FACEBOOK that they would never, EVER say to your face or in any other sort of “public forum.”
Recently, while posting about the importance of people realizing the plight of the nation’s bee population, someone posted that only “an idiot” would not be aware of said plight. I quickly posted, with tongue in cheek, that “idiots” comprise the vast majority of the earth’s current populous, to which this person responded that they “always knew” I was “an idiot.”
Was this playful banter or an insult? It didn’t feel particularly playful. And, of course, that’s another problem with social media.
In the “back and forth conversations” that can suddenly erupt via postings, one can only read the words; we can’t hear them. As we all know (unless we’re bee-hating idiots), inflection can make a world of difference.
WBAL-TV11’s Gerry Sandusky, the voice of the Baltimore Ravens, offers by way of example, the sentence, “I didn’t steal your car.”
Seems simple enough. But change the emphasis here and there and you get…
I didn’t steal your car…somebody else did.
I didn’t steal your car…I just borrowed it.
I didn’t steal your car…I stole someone else’s.
I didn’t steal your car…I stole your wallet.
As a result, there can be misunderstandings that can cause quite a mess (being aware of this, I just let the “idiot” comment go. Besides, as Mark Twain once quipped, “Don’t get into arguments with stupid people, they’ll pull you down to their level and beat you with experience”). Just watch any sitcom, from I LOVE LUCY to BIG BANG THEORY (or to go high-brow, any Shakespeare comedy), misunderstandings cause all manner of havoc.
Which is why, as powerful as mediums like FACEBOOK can be in the communications world, they can never truly replace the power of one-on-one contact.
And it’s important to remember (and this applies to me as well as everyone else) not to take things too personally. However, social media is all about the personal, so it’s hard not to.