Fighting Fair on the Internet: Part 3 | Opinions are Like…

OPINIONS ARE LIKE…

So we all know that old saying “Opinions are like a**holes, everybody has one.”  What they forgot to add to that sentence is “but that doesn’t mean that everyone wants to, or should, see it…or what comes from it.”  Let’s face it…we all have read something online and thought that whatever opinion was proffered was probably best reserved for the proverbial toilet and then flushed. Yes, everyone forms opinion about things, situations, people, etc.  I totally get that and I think that everyone is entitled to their opinions – positive or negative!  The thing is…no one really gets upset or annoyed by opinions that are positive (“I love this idea!  I’m going to try it!”) so let’s talk poop (“How can you think like that?!  You are such a moron and I hope people like you die!”).  If any of you read Part 2 of this blog series you will understand a portion of my theory on why people would even say something like that; they have lost the human connection and consequently manners and respect right with it.

NEGATIVE OPINIONS ARE LIKE POOP:  Where this introduction fits into the whole “Fighting Fair on the Internet” topic is the discussion on what one does after forming a negative opinion about something.  Do you flush it to the turd Gods where the stench of it can never be seen or smelt where only you really know about it (a courtesy flush, if you will) or do you pull that turd out of the can, place it on a silver platter on your front lawn, take pictures of it, and send it to all of your friends, and their friends, and their friends’ friends to see the massive heap of fly attracting dung pile that it is (i.e., post it somewhere on the internet)?  At this point you are wondering if I am talking about negative opinions or poop and the answer is both.  We can all use a little humor and relatability when discussing topics like this.  Surely there are some instances where they are both useful and serve a purpose, but generally speaking, when spread around too much and too thick…the usefulness is overshadowed by the stink and flies that are attracted to it.  Ewww!

POOP CAN BE USED AS FERTILIZER:  I’m not suggesting that a certain degree of conflict and disagreement is bad.  Not all negative/differing opinions are unuseful.  Like the benefits of applying fertilizer to growing plants and crops, a certain amount of negative/differing opinions, if used properly, can help create and contribute to the free flow of worthwhile ideas and debate.  There is no value in stifling free speech and I think the First Amendment definitely has its place.  People should have the freedom of expression without oppression from government BUT that does not mean that people should use that as a license to be a “Richard”.  No offense to anyone named Richard.  If you consider that each person’s opinions is formed based upon their personal education, their experiences, their beliefs/faith and feelings you will then begin to understand, and perhaps appreciate, why opinions can vary so much.  Consider the stark difference in view points between the different political parties.  I think we can all agree that people’s opinions are all over the place when it comes to politics.  Nevertheless, it might be helpful to the greater cause and world of debate when a humanitarian who has worked with troubled youth in low income developments debates topics on poverty with a business person who operates within the same community that is trying to solve employment problems.  If people can come and debate issues with education, facts (and I’m not talking about some meme on Facebook where no one knows who developed it) and legitimate personal experiences, and check one’s emotion at the door beforehand, then some real progress could be made.  This is the “fertilizer” that I am talking about.  This is the good kind of poop – differences of opinion that could be perceived by some as negative; used sparingly to cultivate discussion and movement towards a common good.  The problem begins when people start turning their turds into trophys for purposes other than promoting good discussion.

YOUR TURD IS NOT A TROPHY:  I see it everyday – in my personal life and at work.  Someone is upset about something for whatever reason and rather than flushing those turds of negative, unproductive, opinions down the toilet they chose to go run their virtual mouth on the internet proudly displaying to everyone their smelly, fly infested, turd.  What is even more fascinating is that some people seem to display these piles of crap like a trophy and wear the stench as if it were a badge of honor.  It might be on Facebook, or Yelp, some blog or news thread, or some other online review/complaint forum.  Unless you are just a “Richard,” those who engage in this kind of conduct can’t really feel good about what they are saying.  So why does this happen?  Well, there are many philosophies, but I’ll talk about the few that I tune into:

  • EMOTIONAL OUTBURSTS:  All humans have some very basic needs and when those needs are not being met they tend to act differently.  Perhaps some people react negatively online because they are looking for attention.  Some might even say that these types tend to be a bit narcissistic and fail to consider that other people have opinions…and feelings too.  Others just are a little bit of a hot-head.  We all know at least one person that flies off the handle and says things without really thinking about what they are saying or the repercussions that can come from it.  Sometimes people’s emotions get the better of them and they do or say things that aren’t exactly becoming.  Those people tend to be remorseful later…but what happens when those outbursts are not contained to the private setting?  What happens when they post it on the internet for all to see…and then maybe can’t get it taken down?
  • ENTERTAINMENT FACTOR:  As twisted as it sounds, yes, there are people who actually go around being negative and mean just for pure entertainment.  Indeed there are those that carry the turd trophy and engage in the frequent displaying of turds.  These individuals are labeled by other onlookers in the online community as an internet “troll.”  What is rather sad is that trolls literally post inflammatory remarks merely to provoke readers into an emotional response to disrupt regular conversation for their own amusement.  Who has that kind of time on their hands?  Why would anyone purposefully hurt someone else for entertainment?  Trolls I guess…  Again, even trolls eventually get caught, are shamed, and/or feel remorse once their moral compass straightens itself out…and then what?  And again, what happens when the posting you made cannot be taken down if and when you want to?

Regardless of how it happens, the fact is, these actions are not nice (often causing harm, and possible liability, that many don’t think about until it happens to them or someone they love and care about and/or you get slapped with a defamation lawsuit) and when you do it in an online forum you are doing nothing more than displaying your turd trophy that no one wants to see.

FLIES ON TURDS:  It only takes one really stinky turd (negative opinion) to get the flies swarming.  Online, it seems that as soon as someone starts in with negative talk and opinions others feel comfortable in joining in the same bad behavior.  There are a lot of articles out on the internet about today’s “mob mentality”.  Anne Trafton, in a 2014 article titled “When good people do bad things” and posted to the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT‘s website, reported on the mob mentality topic and eluded to how people in groups will do things that are against their morals and standards due to, among other things, a “diminished sense of personal responsibility” for the actions of the group.  Its amazing how bad people can get when they perceive some level of protection by the group…and this takes place all over, including the internet.  I’ve personally seen one person post a comment regarding finding a dog a home and you had all kinds of opinions back and forth, including name calling, defending one side or another.  All I could think of was a crowd chanting “Jerry, Jerry, Jerry” on the  Jerry Springer television show.  Again, this was about finding a dog a home!  Seriously?  When did this sort of actions become the norm and quasi accepted in society?  Why is it that everyone feels the need to turn EVERYTHING into a Jerry Springer show?  If you do any reading online you know exactly what I am talking about; and some of it has become so bad that it’s like a train wreck…even the most conservative of people can’t look away.  It’s distracting…and moreover just wrong.

LEARN TO COURTESY FLUSH:  I’m all for people having opinions.  I even form my own turds on occasion but rather than being a “Richard” I do my best to stop and ask myself if my turd of an opinion is going to advance valuable commentary or not.  I get it, sometimes it is really hard to bite your tongue…especially in the “keyboard warrior” environment, however, if what you are going to say (your opinion) is mean, harmful,  amounts to bullying or harassing, and/or fails to promote legitimate truth (you know, a turd on a shiny platter) perhaps consider giving it a courtesy flush. We could all benefit from checking our negativity at the door.  Nothing good comes from being mean and harassing.  Nothing good comes from saying harmful things.  Nothing good comes from the publication of half-truths and false information.  If anything, in the long run, what you say could come back to haunt you days, weeks, years later…and you may be met with regret, social problems, and/or legal problems…all of which will be discussed later in this blog series.  It’s time to break the cycle…and through discussion, education, and tools perhaps we can start making a change one “post” at a time.

Fighting Fair on the Internet: Part 2 | The Loss of Human Connection and Manners

FIGHTING FAIR ON THE INTERNET: PART 2 | THE LOSS OF HUMAN CONNECTION AND MANNERS

MY MOMMA ALWAYS SAID:  Growing up in my household was less than desirable.  I saw all kinds of icky mean things that would have sent most children, according to statistics, into the justice system or result in some other “negative” situations.  I had first hand experience on what it is like to deal with the aftermath of violence…mental and physical.  Oh yes, I could share stories for days…and I did in some on topic college classes to the awe of many.  Yes, times were tough and I ask for no sympathy…I’m way stronger because of it and I think I can relate to others better as a result.  This is not to say that I didn’t struggle along the way.  The truth is, it took me a long time to get to a point where I was able to handle my own emotions and words in difficult situations but I like to think I do pretty well now as an adult.  Not perfect, because no one is, but certainly better at being more self aware.  So what does all of this have to do with “manners” and “fighting fair on the internet?”  Well, in my household, in spite of the serious chaos and desire to act up, my momma always taught me that saying mean and hurtful things was not nice and if you didn’t have something nice to say you shouldn’t say it at all – regardless of the medium.  Of course, back then, there was no internet.  I suspect many of us had parental figures who taught a similar lessons.  Sure, I was allowed to disagree, after all she had a very independent little girl on her hands who was all about speaking her mind (God bless my mother), but if I was going to disagree I had to have real reasoning and I had to be able to articulate it respectfully.  Name calling and being mean just to be mean was not acceptable.  Being a bully was not allowed.

RESPECTFUL DEBATES…A LOST ART:  This week alone I found myself explaining to friends that I perceive the characteristics of good manners and respect to have been lost by society.  Nearly three times this week I have found myself saying “Ah, respect…it’s a lost art.”  Of course I don’t believe this about all people.  I have met some incredible people who could debate respectfully…especially in the legal field.  One of the great things about the analytic mind is that it allows you to see things from different angles.  Oh yes, there is something to be said for those who can articulate and argue positions without resorting to calling each other a “flaming dodo head” just because they see something differently or dislike a particular situation.  Unfortunately, however, I don’t see these traits as the norm anymore.  Where in the heck did the human connection go?  Apparently out the window followed immediately by manners and respect!

DISENGAGEMENT:  In an on point discussion this week I attributed this dwindling of respect and manners to technology and our loss of ability to be human; I mean really human, as in actually interacting with humans.  Think about it…most of our communications now are through some method of technology; and most don’t even involve actually speaking.  Instead of telling someone, to their face, that they are upset…they send a text message with broken language, odd use of capitalization and punctuation, and an abundance of emoticons or you get blasted on some form of social media or internet site.  We have become so reliant on technology that we have almost forgotten how to communicate and often feel really uncomfortable if and when we actually have to talk to someone else.  Do people even call in an order for pizza anymore?  We have all become so disengaged from other humans…

THE HABIT OF TECHNOLOGY: Next time you are out in public, look around at how many people are “together” but are totally or partially disengaged because they are too busy staring at a screen.  Maybe this even happens in your own home?  Until I started raising a fuss about it, and only because I became more self aware of the trap that I was falling into myself, it would be a regular and normal occurrence for myself and my significant other to be sitting on the sofa together, with the television on, but each also be totally engaged in something else online – be it reading an article or playing a game on our phones, tablets or laptops.  It’s a BAD habit!  It’s like one form of stimuli has become not enough…and we need more constant interaction in order to feel comfortable.  But we aren’t the only ones.  According to studies done by the Pew Research Center, “some 21% of Americans now report that they go online “almost constantly”  and “67% of cell owners find themselves checking their phone for messages, alerts, or calls — even when they don’t notice their phone ringing or vibrating.”  With all of this being online and/or constantly checking devices for messages, alerts or calls, it’s no wonder we, as a society, are no longer really connecting with people the way we used to.

WHEN HUMANS DO CONNECT:  Interestingly on point, I recently stumbled across the Liberators International organization who posted a video on their Facebook page showing an eye contact with strangers experiment posing the question “Where has the human connection gone?”  You are encouraged to link to and watch the short video for yourself, however, the idea was to have two total strangers sit and look into one another’s eyes for an entire minute.  The results…smiles, tears and/or hugs…from strangers.  So very amazing…and the facial expressions…so very telling and profound.

TIME TO MEND THE BROKEN:  The more we “connect” through technology and become akin to an individual island with a population of one the less we REALLY connect in a way where real emotion is involved.  The less legitimate human connection we have, the greater the opportunity for an IDGAF (I don’t give a F!) attitude to develop and the more opportunity we create for words and thoughts (mean ones) to flow without consideration for any consequences; for ourselves and for others.  Indeed, with the loss of our ability to really connect and communicate, we have also seemingly managed to lose the concept of manners and respect.  It’s time to figure out how to gain those characteristics back…one step at a time.

EXPERIMENT:  Try unplugging from technology (no cheating) during a time that you would normally “check in.”  This could be at home around family, at dinner with friends, or even just some time by yourself.  See how it makes you feel and what things around you you notice and report back.  I’d love to hear your feedback.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smart people will, by default, never be “yes” men…

I see it all the time; business owners who hire professionals that turn around and try to tell them how to do their job.  Some call it micromanaging.  Others call it “big boss syndrome.”  What I know is this concept just doesn’t make sense.  Why would you do that?  Assuming that the quote “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” was actually said by Steve Jobs…I think he had it right.

Smart people, by their very design and nature, will not automatically be “yes” men.  They will question, analyze and reason with any requests that are made of them and, if they disagree with your position, they are going to tell you so and they will not do what you ask them to do if they know it is wrong or is going to bring harm to you in the long run. Professionals are not going to tell you what you WANT to hear…they are going to tell you what you NEED to hear.

A wise colleague of mine once said that the best you can do is advise your client on the best/right choice to make and let your client take it from there.  In the legal world this is true…after all, if the client goofs things up, and you have to fix it, you can look at it as job security.  Right?  I think, however, in a business setting, and you are an employee who has been hired to do an important job, this can be an even harder pill to swallow.  I suppose this is because if the boss screws things up, it could mean that you end up out of a job, or worse, which will make that employee fight harder against “bad” decisions.

Bottom line, if you want a “yes” man all of the time…don’t hire a smart person.  It just won’t work.