A couple weeks ago, a friend and I were talking about some of the arguments people get into on social media and how friendships can be unnecessarily interrupted or even destroyed by these online disputes.
We were noticing, too, that a lot of these arguments erupt when one person misunderstands what the other person is talking about. Say Tom makes a comment that “hits a nerve” with Dick because it reminds him of something that already gets his goat. So Dick fires back at Tom, assuming he’s talking about that pet peeve of his. Even if he isn’t.
That gets Harry’s attention and he pitches in to defend Tom. And the fight is on.
And then, because it was the weekend and we had some rare spare time on our hands, we even got a little creative, imagining how total war might break out over a random Facebook post.
Say, if someone posted a nursery rhyme.
The conversation might go something like this:
Tom: Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. Jack fell down and broke his crown, and Jill came tumbling after.
Dick: Yeah, yeah, very funny. It’s not that simple, dude.
Tom: What the heck? What’s not that simple? It’s just a nursery rhyme.
Dick: Sure, it’s just a nursery rhyme. Sounds like a comment about water quality to me.
Harry: I am sick and tired of all the political bickering we have to put up with on FB. Why don’t you get a life, Dick? It sure sounds like a nursery rhyme to me.
Dick: It’s not just a nursery rhyme when it’s cleverly carrying a political message.
Harry: What political message? You don’t know jack.
Dick: Very funny. I’m not going to change your mind anyway. Maybe you should just unfriend me and have done with it.
Tom: Maybe I will.
Harry: Y’all, this is crazy.
And so on.
A s it turns out, the timing of our Facebook fantasy couldn’t have been better.
Because the very next week, we celebrated the Fourth of July, the one day of the year when we are most likely to read or hear the Declaration of Independence.
Usually, we hear it all in one reading. But in these days of social media, one network decided to republish the Declaration on Twitter in a series of tweets.
And all perdition broke loose.
Some readers complained the tweets were calling for revolution and condoning violence. Some accused the senders of spreading propaganda.
Other readers described the tweets as nothing but livestock excrement.
Some finally realized they were reading the Declaration of Independence. But a lot of readers got so offended by the content they stopped reading before they figured that out.
One friend of mine commented the frenzy reminded her of a similar misunderstanding many years ago, when the Declaration was made into a song by a popular band.
My friend said her mother was convinced that the song was un-American and the singers were probably guilty of treason. Even after she realized that the words were written by the Founding Fathers.
Maybe she thought the Founding Fathers had it wrong. And from the looks of the recent Twitter war, maybe some people still do.
Maybe sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction.
Julia Cochran is a licensed professional counselor in Rincon, a psychology instructor at Armstrong State University. She can be reached at 912-772-3072 or by email at JCochranPhD@GileadCounseling.com. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Armstrong State University.