Monday, April 27, 2009

Walking the Line. Online.

“Did you hear about the dude who got fired because of his “tweet” on Twitter?”

That’s an innocent enough question for someone to ask you. It takes on an entirely more menacing undertone when it is printed right below your “What’s on your mind?” line in Facebook.

Not that the person asking me the question was my employer, you understand – it was a good friend of mine, no doubt watching out for my professional well being. The thing is, the thought of that line getting me into trouble hadn’t even crossed my mind. In fact, it would be fair to say that work, clients, employers, colleagues or any other connection to my job was the furthest thing from my mind when I put up what I did. So when Eric said what he did, I wasn’t overly worried, but it did get me thinking about some of the strange norms of the society that we are a part of, and especially the extent to which our behaviour in the virtual world is almost more important than how we conduct ourselves in the flesh.

Firstly, the small matter of the content of my post. Here’s what was on my mind as reflected by Facebook:

“Stoners should make public policy. Sober folk should implement them.”

I am amazed that while so many remarked on the content of the post, nobody smacked me across the head (you can virtually, you know – things called “superpokes” on Facebook allow you to smack, kick, punch, gouge and claw your “friends”) for the quite atrocious grammatical discontinuity in those two sentences. I’m a stickler for things like that – if you MUST say something, try to say it right. I was pretty tired when putting up that line, and my grammar slipped.

But perhaps it is too much to expect others to pay as much attention to the form when the content tends towards the controversial. And there is my second issue with this all.

Just what about those two lines could rub someone the wrong way? I’m not slandering anyone with false accusations, nor am I misquoting someone as having said it. I’m just stating a light-hearted opinion – one that I feel is shared by many. Ever see stoners get aggressive and in-your-face? Not likely – pot smokers are so contented and so lazy that they would rather spend 10 minutes fighting over who rolls the next joint than lift their own hands and do the job in 5. They will happily brush off the most personal abuse and insults worded to rouse fury in most, if it means that they can go back to getting high peacefully.

Imagine a world ruled by laws made by such peaceful people – I can’t be sure, but I’d bet that if the many fruitless meetings between leaders of warring nations and societies had begun with 3 bong hits each, we’d be living on a much more peaceful planet.

And yet, people do get rubbed the wrong way all the time. I looked up some instances of folks getting into trouble over Twitter tweets (I don’t even know what those are) and Facebook posts. The large majority of those that lost their jobs happened to have said something derogatory about a colleague or a client. Fair enough – open honesty of the negative kind is almost involuntarily reciprocal, and if you hate your boss or client and state it publicly so that he/she gets to know, you can’t be surprised if said boss or client retaliates with extreme prejudice.

But other instances puzzled me. Here’s one - a man offended some of his company’s corporate partners because he spoke disparagingly about a certain city, and wrote that he’d die if he had to live there. Some work partners took offense, and had to apologize to them.

If people get offended and need an apology from someone at work who happens to hate their city and says so, there are definitely going to be folks that could get pissed off because I spoke positively about a section of society that indulges in the use of a substance that is illegal in most of its forms almost everywhere in the world.

Eric was right to give me a (not so) subtle heads-up. The question is – why? Facebook asked me what was on my mind, and I told it. People call other people "friends" and connect with them online, and then blow the whistle on them when something is vented in an unguarded online moment? There’s not one person I know that hasn’t disliked their boss at some point, even if only in passing. People find it hard to be openly confrontational at times, and they vent in another forum. We all know this. Why the surprise, leave alone shock?

If I’ve learned one thing as a working professional, it is that even colleagues who have wildly divergent views on life and how to live it can work together productively. To me, this is professionalism. You don’t have to like someone to work with them.

So people say or do things we don’t approve of. So what? As long as someone isn’t doing something criminal, why does it have to be a problem? When did we lose our collective sense of humour? There is something painfully sad in having to sanitize our thoughts before writing them down in a place where “friends” can share them.

If someone who reported to me called me an ass on his blog, and I happened to find it and read it, I’d find it funny. I would try to find out what the problem is, but not before laughing at the situation first. And now, I find myself wondering if something is wrong with me because apparently, my instinctive reaction does not seem to be the majority view.

It is a challenge that simply can’t be resisted. So here I am, with my first ever blog.

I believe that I can express myself honestly, sincerely, openly, without dousing my random musings in antiseptic solution, and that I can do so without bringing offense to any reasonable people that I work with and live among. Many of my views and opinions are unconventional, a few downright weird.

The apprehension that I felt after digesting Eric’s question remains within me. I can feel it as I type out each sentence. I have found that the best way to deal with a fear is to know it, dissect it, face it, beat it – until you know that who you are and what you are is sufficient to walk amidst society with your head held high.

Time to walk the line. Online.


  1. I don't think I've ever told you this.
    You inspire me.
    To broaden my horizons and think,do and say more.
    Congratulations on your first post.
    I love it!

  2. Borrringgggggggg! Not your post, but the comment from Polo.

  3. "I have found that the best way to deal with a fear is to know it, dissect it, face it, beat it – until you know that who you are and what you are is sufficient to walk amidst society with your head held high."

    Congratulations on your words of false wisdom. Savour them. These hollow sputterings are just that. Proof that the internet has somehow provided a vehicle for greasy bags of oil to parade around as pundits. Hot shitty air.