One of my friends recently said he was trying to be less of a smart a**. Of course, he said that right after he’d zinged me, and my immediate inclination was to send him an email and call him on his abuse. I didn’t. Instead, I sat down and looked at some of the communications he had mentioned to me. I’ve called him a smarty more than once, but the reality is, that there’s a difference between the teasing of friends and just being an a**.
More than once I have heard (and said myself) that there is no tone in email. The words you type on the screen can be read in a variety of ways and, depending on the reader’s mood, can elicit a variety of responses. My humor level can become non-existent when my caffeine level drops too low. With texting and Tweeting (which I don’t do), and the explosion of Facebook, what you type spreads even faster. When you share something on Facebook, you plan on sharing with your friends, but it also gets shared with others. Your friend posts something and you comment. It’s not a private chat between you and him, it’s between you and all his friends. They see what you wrote and chime in. A teasing jab between old friends now becomes fodder for everyone else. What might have been funny the first time is rarely as humorous when everyone jumps in and the teasing becomes an abusive free-for-all.
I’ve long wished that I had been smart enough to set up two Facebook pages. One for the more polite of my friends and family, and one for the people that I don’t need to censor myself with. I have a friend who finally went through and did separate pages. One gets the family friendly updates and the other one gets the “unvarnished” truth. Those of us that she has friended on that second page expect it to be less than politically correct, bawdy, and direct. I keep the friends on my personal page down to a minimum. No one under eighteen need apply, because my comments often cross the line.
There really are two separate and distinct people inside of me. There’s the more polite woman who likes to stay in touch with relatives, high school friends, folks I worked with before, and genealogy buddies – and then there’s – well me – the darker side. The dark side is often rude, crude, and socially unacceptable. I like a good dirty joke, the foul insults traded by people that have seen and done what I have seen and done, and the dark sense of humor that lives in people who have had to deal with the messier side of life.
But, as I thought about what my friend had said, I realized that he was right. Many people seem to consider commenting on Facebook as some kind of a contest in being a smart a**. Why is every communication now an opportunity for someone to make a smart comment or take a cheap shot? We’ve moved into the area where we have to figure out the difference between those who are teasing and those who are just being a**es. How many times have you seen something really mean followed by an LOL? Or even worse – the smiley face. Most of the time it is meant just that way, but we’ve all seen the line crossed, and no doubt we’ve all crossed it ourselves a few times.
Because of my warped sense of humor, I get friend requests from friends of my friends. I’m pretty picky – I take a hard look at those folks and I do pay attention to who posts what. Those people who live for the opportunity to make a sharp or pointed comment, but are unable to point that comment at themselves, don’t get approved. Neither do those who are only looking for a platform to spout their politics or religion. They are the serial a**es that take the fun out of things.
There have been times when I’ve posted the same responses that I would have made on the phone, but in writing it doesn’t carry the laughing and teasing tone of a longtime friend. They just plain look mean. I’ve deleted more than one post after rereading it, because I worried it didn’t convey the humor I meant it with.
My friends have value and I will continue to tease and abuse them – it’s part of who we are. Most of us are people that recognize a good zinger is like a hug between longtime friends, but being an a** is usually just meanness couched in humor. We could all do with a little more of the first and a little less of the second. However, I will hold back on occasion because I’m not willing to hurt someone or ruin a friendship just to make a witty retort.
The fact of the matter is that we are judged by our friends – and that includes the ones on social sites like Facebook.