Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Speak with purpose online; don’t ‘duck’ your comments

12/27/2013

A new year offers an opportunity for everyone to sharpen their game and do things better, kinder and in a more civil manner than they have in the past. Execution of those resolutions can and should begin with having the conviction to “own” our remarks and be able to back them up too.

Many people like to voice their opinions within small groups of family and friends — where you often don’t have to provide evidence and reason for your convictions. Why? Because many of those surrounding you already share your views. Those who don’t — wishing to maintain harmony — typically will avoid political topics to stay out of a possible confrontation with the larger group.

A new year offers an opportunity for everyone to sharpen their game and do things better, kinder and in a more civil manner than they have in the past. Execution of those resolutions can and should begin with having the conviction to “own” our remarks and be able to back them up too.

Many people like to voice their opinions within small groups of family and friends — where you often don’t have to provide evidence and reason for your convictions. Why? Because many of those surrounding you already share your views. Those who don’t — wishing to maintain harmony — typically will avoid political topics to stay out of a possible confrontation with the larger group.

The situation is different online, especially using social media where people can’t easily deny their comments that — once on screen — can go viral, taking on a life of their own and a permanence some might later regret. Unlike verbal commentary that can be denied as mischaracterized or misunderstood, words written online stand on their own, often being shared over and over again with others who don’t have the context to judge the comments ... but who judge anyway.  

That commentary frequently shows the writer to be uninformed and, sadly, not interested in knowing the facts of the situation. Uninformed opinions can be useful in alerting businesses and organizations to some members of the public’s perception, which might in turn prompt them to do a better job of communicating the facts about an issue to encourage a better-informed public.

Though the First Amendment allows Americans to state their views on just about anything, we still need to be responsible in what we say — understanding that some statements might bring negative consequences. Whether you agree or disagree with his comments in GQ magazine, ask Phil Robertson of A&E’s “Duck Dynasty” about the blowback from stating his opinions.

Robertson believes in and stands by what he said about minorities — blacks and gays — in the story. Unfortunately, many other people voice opinions without actually reading the context of his statements and most other issues on which they choose to opine.

Intellectual discourse provides more stimulation if the parties are informed or are at least attempting to become so. Regardless of the topic, it makes sense to try and be informed and then own your statements — regardless of the “friends” involved in the conversation — especially online where more than the original set of listeners are bound to be privy to your comments.

 

— Jeanny Sharp,

Editor and publisher

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