The Dissemination of Thought

Just because it's in print doesn't mean it's intelligent…

Has social networking made us braver than we actually are?

with 2 comments

My comment of the day award goes to Damien O’Keefe, a computer technician who had his employment with The Good Guys in Townsville terminated because he posted a threatening comment about a co-worker on Facebook.

It would seem that Mr O’Keefe posted a comment about the unnamed co-worker on his Facebook wall, apparently in an attempt to vent his anger about missing commission payments. For the few remaining people on the planet who aren’t initiated in the workings of this social networking phenomenon, a “wall” is essentially what it sounds like – somewhere that contacts can post messages to each other in lieu of more archaic 21st century communication methods like email. My, how we have evolved. The difference is that unlike email, depending on your Facebook privacy settings, wall posts can be read by your friends, your friend’s friends, and in some cases, people that you work with whom you may have threatened in the aforementioned wall post. According to the Herald Sun article, the exact wording he used was:

“wonders how the f *** work can be so f***ing useless and mess up my pay again. C***s are going down tomorrow.”

When questioned about the Facebook post, this allegedly intelligent individual defended his actions by stating that “the comments were not intended to be seen” by the co-worker. That probably would have been the case, had he not had 11 people he worked at The Good Guys as part of the make up of his Facebook friends.

He’s surprised that the co-worker found out about the comment, after he posted it in what is essentially a public forum? That’s the story he’s going to run with? Obviously Mr O’Keefe put as much thought into the actual comment as he did trying to come up with justification for doing so. I guess that it’s a lot easier to threaten and berate someone when you don’t have to do it directly to them.

The situation leads to a few pivotal questions, the most intriguing and controversial of which is: has electronic communication made us braver that we actually are?

Prior to Facebook, Twitter (which I still believe is the most aptly named application of all time) and MySpace, people communicated face to face. For my Gen Y readers, yes, it really did happen. If you had a problem with someone, you could do the adult thing and air the grievance with them to try to resolve it in a rational manner. Or you could repress and get on with life. In 2011, it seems that the socially accepted way to resolve an issue is to either libel or threaten people electronically. You don’t even have to do it to them directly: you can tweet about what a prick they are, call them a useless, fat whore on a forum, or even start a Facebook group and get people to agree with your biased and usually irrational, incoherent viewpoint. All of these personal attacks can be done in relative anonymity, from the perceived safety of your computer. What people tend to forget though is that everything we do in life has a consequence, be it positive or negative, substantial or seemingly trivial. People also tend to forget about the whole concept of personal accountability, especially when an impersonal electronic communication medium is used. What percentage of comments made online would have never been made to the intended target in person?

The internet has many uses. Unfortunately, one of those uses is to give cowards who hide online the false bravado to attack someone that they would have otherwise lacked the intestinal fortitude to confront face to face.

2 Responses

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  1. TDoT,

    I think there is a bit of the bravado factor and a bit of the anonimity factor. I also think that the ease and ubiquity of “communication” – i use scare-quotes as I don’t necessarily think all of these things are used as communication is many cases – are also factors.

    We can now post/tweet something in the heat of the moment while nowhere in the vicinity of said target from phones, laptops, etc. We tend to forget the read twice, send once principle all too often. When writing contentious emails in a business sense I always write the email, save it, read it again a little later and then send it. It avoids doing things while the blood is up and regretting it later. Some things once said cannot be unsaid.

    In the case reported before Facebook and Twitter the individual probably would have had some time (perhaps overnight) between discovering the pay stuff up and being able to confront the individual. They possible would have calmed down and been slightly more rational. Unfortunately they had phone in hand or laptop at the ready and lost their job.

    I think this just re-inforces my motto of “it’s business, it’s not personal” and my continued justification of not added work colleagues on social media.


    August 18, 2011 at 22:14

    • Advances in technology have made instant communication something that we take for granted. Lamentably, it’s led to people sending/posting things before their grey matter has had a chance to tell their fingers that it’s probably not wise to do so.


      August 19, 2011 at 07:28

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