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DayeTime: Gossip in the modern age

Facebook, I am convinced, is dangerous. It need not be evil, but it certainly can be. The entity itself is not inherently nefarious, but it has expanded the “clothes line gossip” factor of a bygone era by a significant level.

People haven’t changed since Grandma’s day, when many didn’t have a phone and only a few had TV. Now everybody has access to the internet with a computer, tablet and smartphone.

What this means is that unfounded gossip that eventually found its way around a small circle of friends and family is instantly available not only to everyone in Avoyelles Parish, but potentially everyone from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Oregon and all ports in between.

Of course, none of the current class of gossips can spin a tale like my Grandma could. She would sometimes tickle herself with her own exaggerations and giggle like a school girl. That was a dead giveaway that she was just having fun.

You see, back in the day before entertainment on demand, the clothes line “chat room” was the housewife’s best source of harmless -- well, “relatively” harmless -- recreation.

The online version of today just seems to be meaner-spirited with more personal attacks.

Asking people not to gossip would be a waste of time and breath. It’s our nature to gossip. It is also our nature to express our opinion on the issues of the day and on events that happen in our communities.

I would caution people not to be vicious in their tale-telling. Unlike the back fence gossip that was purely spoken, the Facebook “gossip” is written. That makes it harder for the gossipmonger to claim (a) he didn’t say that or (b) that what he said was misinterpreted.

If you put your opinion down in writing, it remains there even if you later come to a different conclusion on the matter.

This column is not aimed at any single topic that has become fodder for the social media sites. It isn’t even necessarily focused on a recent event. There have been several such incidents over the past few years that fit this column nicely.

There have been times when the Facebook posts on an issue have taken on a life of their own. Facts -- even reality -- take a backseat as the posts get wilder and wilder.

Most of those posting these thoughts are probably no more malicious than my Grandma was back in her day. However, you don’t have to intend to hurt someone to hurt them deeply with your comments. This is America and we have a right to express our opinions in speech and in writing.

Perhaps you can express that opinion without attacking an individual or making personal comments about someone.

If you stick to the issue, all anyone can say to you is “You’re wrong. I disagree.”

If you “go off into the weeds” and make personal insults, people can say a whole lot more about you than “You’re wrong.”


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