So right now I'm thinking about that night I watched my son's intramural basketball team play my nephews' intramural basketball team.
Yes. That's right. Cousins. Playing on opposing teams.
I don't recall who won, but I do remember that every single player related to me managed to go up in flames for all the world to see. You know how cousins are. One minute they're full of brotherly love, playing nice and the next minute they're all, "Dude! You are going down! And after that, you are going down again! And after that, everybody you ever knew in your whole life, including your first-grade teacher, is going down. And after that, I'm gonna steal your bag of Cool Ranch Doritos!
"AND I'M GOING TO EAT THEM!"
Then suddenly those normally loving cousins are duking it out center court, which makes you feel like a kid watching the Friday Night Fights (live! from Madison Square Garden!) in your Great-Uncle Bob's living room all over again.
The next day, of course, everyone my son and his cousins woke up with a bad case of post-game remorse. They'd behaved badly and they knew it.
Fast forward to Election Night earlier this week. Those same boys were at it again this time on Facebook, calling out each other's choice of candidate (our extended family swings both ways politically) and egging each other on. Finally, I spoke up (why, yes, I do stalk my kids on Facebook, thank you very much) and said, "Hey, guys, this conversation is reminding me of that night y'all got yourselves tossed from that basketball game…"
Hopefully they woke up the following morning with a bad case of Facebook remorse. (See definition below.)
Facebook remorse: a feeling of sorrow associated with having said way, way, WAY more than you should have on Facebook in the heat of the moment.
Frankly, I was a little surprised by the things people were posting as the election results rolled in. Were you? I understand that elections are emotionally charged events, but… wow. Did we all forget that we had an audience? Of actual human beings? Like my friend Wade noted on his Facebook page, "Just wondering … when you post things about how supporters of [insert candidate's name here] are blind, stupid spawn of Satan, you do realize I'll be reading them, right?"
Another friend, Shelley, noted on her page that "politics seem to be an excuse for some to be down-and-out nasty." She went on to conclude that "righteous indignation is not an excuse for incivility, ever."
I think Shelley would have approved of the way my friend Bruce expressed himself, even though she disagrees with his politics: "The American people have spoken. My candidate lost in the race for the presidency, and I am profoundly disappointed. However, I believe America is bigger than any political party … Time to stop the ad hominem attacks and heal. Time to put America first."
It's all about tone, people. T.O.N.E.
I would also take things a step further and argue that you should never say anything online that you wouldn't say straight-up to a person's face. And, in fact, you should think twice about posting anything you wouldn't want certain people to read. Or see. Future employers come to mind, for example. (I'M LOOKING AT YOU, KIDS.)
In conclusion, I'd like to end with a quote by Thomas Jefferson I found on Barb Guy's wall: "I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as a cause for withdrawing from a friend."
Rock on, Thomas Jefferson. Rock on.
Ann Cannon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/anncannontrib.