Words Mean Things

Buenos Diaz!

I’d like to first thank each and every one that “Liked” my Facebook page! Last week I reached the 100-like benchmark (pops collar), which to a more seasoned page-owner may be kids’ stuff but for me was cause for a full blown dance party in my car (to Beyonce’s Grown Woman, in case you were wondering). I got the news from a weekly email from the good people over at Facebook reporting on the overall status of the page, i.e. number of likes, popularity of individual posts, and figures on reach and engagement. It made me think. Well, it made me dance, but then it made me think. 

As a good friend put it earlier this week, “Every post, every like, every share, every comment reflects its creator and become his or her brand.” That brand has enormous visibility thanks to the power of social media.  It would seem that more often than not, people are aware of their primary brand- i.e. the one they actively manage at work, at church, amongst loved ones in everyday life, etc. It is the secondary brand, the one created on social media whether consciously or not, that is too often not considered or given enough weight. 

It used to be just the young’ns that I thought needed reminding of this concept. I try to give these kids out here a lot of leeway because I was young and silly once too. I for sure posted more than a few questionable photos in my late teens and early twenties: pictures of my “face” or my (yikes, blonde) hair but hey! look! boobs!, shots of me getting’ low on the dance floor of some house party with a beer in hand and a giant sombrero on my head and other ratchetivity. I’ll also be the first one to tell you that a) I was young and young people do dumb things, and b) I had major self-esteem issues as I suspect many of today’s youth do as well. Still it seems like the images filling all of our timelines and feeds are increasingly revealing, attention-seeking and sexualized, each day a little more than the one before. It’s all about the “like,” all about the Vine, all about breaking the internet.

Case in point: after-sex selfies. Yeah, you read that right. Selfies. After the sex. Online. I spent several minutes last week asking myself whether or not it would be super creepy to look up the hashtag. Alas, a certain disgusted curiosity got the best of me, and as my mother would say, “Santa Madre!” It’s real, it’s disturbing, and it’s a good thing I’m not a mother with a kid trying to pull this crap or I’d be forced to coin #aftermymamakickedmyassintonextTuesdayselfie.  Go ahead- look it up. Behold aaaaaall the users who know nothing of privacy settings (or propriety, or life). You’ll find captions like “Guess what we just did?” and “Sorry not sorry.” You’ll also find some hilarious jabs at this stupidity like one of two cats lounging by a fire. As for the ones that truly appear to post-coital shots- Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot. These kids need Jesus. 

It’s not just people’s own photos or videos either, but those of other groups or individuals that they turn around and share. I realize a lot of people spend their day gawking at adult film stars making real friendly with plumbers and pizza delivery guys.  I’m sure tons of folks got a kick out of Floyd Mayweather’s trashy-ass video where he’s posted up in his draws amid 10 strippers twerking. To the guy that came across a photo of three US soldiers who appear to be brutalizing a Middle Eastern woman, you should absolutely feel disgusted by this atrocity if it is what it looks like. 

It’s the part where you say, “By golly, I will share this with everybody else!” that demands a second thought. Yes , you are the scum of the earth if you violate a woman. Blasting the photo of the act on the internet to bring shame to the perpetrators, however noble your intentions, is insensitive on multiple levels. Would she want that photo to be seen, or would it force her to relive the horror and the pain and the shame? What about other victims of abuse that are unexpectedly accosted by this image in their feed between pictures of friends’ babies and cat videos? There are primary and secondary affects to our actions, as well as a time and place for them; just as we should think before we speak, so should we think before we share and know both our audience and platform.

Then there are the actual words that people post, and I’m not even talking about proper use of the English language (Girrrrrrrl, please. Don’t get me started). Some of this I write off to immaturity- the way too many drunk or soon-to-be drunk photos captioned with some variety of “turn down for what?!?,” the frequent rants airing out child-support woes or baby-mama drama; the “fuck this, fuck that, fuck you and your little dog too” tirades. I like to think that these are the follies of youth, but too many of the guilty here left youth behind many a moon ago.

This brings me to a major pet peeve, one that forces me to contemplate hitting that “Unfriend” button a few times a day: people who insist on sharing articles and commenting on them passionately when it is blatantly clear that they read only the headline and not the actual body of work. As a lover of words, this feels like an attack on my spirit. Leave my spirit alone please. What’s that you say? You did read it? Oh, then you just don’t care what words mean. Got it. Well, you and the folks who only read the headline can go sit in the same corner together because you’re both equally working my nerves.

An example- if you’re going to make political commentary, please, oh PLEASE try not to live up to the stereotype of the ill-informed American. Just a couple of weeks ago, I came across numerous posts slamming the hell out of Barack Obama, unleashing the sound and the fury on this man for saying that moms choosing to stay at home with their kids is not a choice he wants Americans to make. Pero…. no, dude. I watched that speech! What he really said was:

… Moms and dads deserve a great place to drop their kids off every day that doesn't cost them an arm and a leg. We need better childcare, daycare, early childhood education policies. In many states, sending your child to daycare costs more than sending them to a public university.  And too often, parents have no choice but to put their kids in cheaper daycare that maybe doesn’t have the kinds of programming that makes a big difference in a child’s development. … And sometimes, someone, usually mom, leaves the workplace to stay home with the kids, which then leaves her earning a lower wage for the rest of her life as a result. And that’s not a choice we want Americans to make.”

Make no mistake: I am not telling you that you have to like ol’ Barack. I’m not saying you need to agree with his views or support his policies or get a dog like his or dress like Michelle.  I am only saying you should be well informed before you go on a hell-bent rant that holds no water. He did not say that mothers shouldn't choose to stay at home; he spoke on the unfairness of current policies affecting mothers, the often exorbitant cost and sparse availability of quality childcare, and the difficult choices that mothers are forced to make as a result of these contributing factors.  I respect any cogently formed opinion whether in line with my own or not, but please for the love of all things holy-think, read, digest and understand before you hit “Share.”

As Crissle from one my favorite Podcasts “The Read” will tell you- words mean things. Your words, other people’s words, words in general. And as my favorite blogger Vanessa will tell you, so does everything else you put out into the universe. You’re free to like what you like, hate what you hate and do what you do- these are some of the many wonderful rights afforded to you in this great albeit imperfect nation.  There is however a consequence to your every action, that’s just a fact of life no matter who you are, where you live or to what deity you pray. What you say and do on social media is a reflection of you. Not just the other party-goers, not just your deadbeat baby daddy, not just the lady at Sprint that may or may not have just been doing her job when you cussed her freaking face off- YOU. Craft thine image carefully, and don’t be afraid to make changes.

Bookishly yours,