Grab Your Pitchfork Its Time to Skewer Someone on Social

How are we supposed to get any work done with all the drama on social media?

It's downright exhausting. Every day there's someone new to judge and vilify, which we collectively do with the vengeance and rage of the villagers in Frankenstein.

I'm not talking about people who have committed truly horrible acts of inhumanity and cruelty, like that Texas veterinarian who put an arrow through the head of a neighborhood cat — and boasted about it on her own Facebook page.

I'm talking about the ill tempered and the foul-mouthed, the anger impaired and the sensitivity-challenged, the seriously naïve who either didn't know or didn’t think anyone would care that their butts or bellies or bosoms were on display in that too tight, too short, too small article of clothing.

I'm talking about people much like me and you who simply had the misfortune of having their stupidity immortalized on social media.

And the whole thing has me and others, including Peggy Drexler, an assistant professor of psychology at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, wondering:

Is this unhealthy "us and them" mentality coloring our perspective of the world? Do we feel "better than" by sharing the latest story of someone's bad behavior? Now take it one step further: Could these feelings of superiority and underlying lack of respect for other people be sabotaging our commitment to customer-centricity, at least subconsciously?

Just Stop Talking, Britt

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The latest Poster Child for Horrible Behavior: ESPN's Britt McHenry, who found herself in the news last week after a video surfaced showing her berating and belittling an employee of a tow company in Arlington, Va.

The heavily edited video, uploaded by the tow company, is indeed cringe worthy. McHenry, 28, is verbally abusive to an unseen tow company employee, who we can only speculate from the one-sided comments we hear that she is overweight and missing some of her teeth.

I wanted to dislike McHenry. She's young, pretty and probably makes more money than me. And while I found myself wishing that whoever reared her had taken more time with lessons on common courtesy, I couldn't jump on the #firebrittmchenry bandwagon.

I'm older and calmer now. But I've done and said plenty of stupid things in my life. And I give thanks daily that the peak of my stupidity occurred not only before social media, but also before everyone, everywhere walked around with cameras in their hands. I can't take the high road here just because I've resisted the urge to say, "Lose some weight, baby girl."

Just Because

Despite McHenry's subsequent apology, ESPN suspended her for a week. Now some of you may see that as a punishment fit for the crime. But I've been a reporter for a long, long time. And I can tell you one thing with certainty: If the job requirements included a pleasant personality, then most of those people would never have been hired.

Nope. Work as a reporter for just a few weeks and you come to understand what British mathematician, scientist and technologist John G. Bennett meant when he said, "If you have an unpleasant nature and dislike people, it is no obstacle to work."  

But in this new world of public shaming and mass vilifications, there isn't necessarily a direct relationship between cause and affect.

Which is why I suggest we toss out this outmoded social paradigm and embrace a new healthier alternative that requires less judging, more respect and frees up a lot more time in our days to actually get work done.

It's called the Just Because campaign.

A Code to Live By

As Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young suggested, everyone needs a code to live by. I was trying to figure out what mine should be — beyond the obvious — when it hit me, right in the middle of watching that 1985 movie Prizzi's Honor.

"Just because she's a thief and a hitter doesn't mean she's not a good woman in all the other departments," Maerose Prizzi (Anjelica Huston) tells Charley Partanna (Jack Nicholson).

Bam! Just Because. For several decades now, I've been trying to live by the Just Because code, with varying degrees of success.

Just Because I disagree with his politics doesn't mean he's wrong about (fill in the blank).

Just Because she has her own perspective on child rearing doesn't mean she's wrong about (fill in the blank).

Just Because she tweeted something offensive doesn't mean she is beyond forgiveness.

Just Because he snores on a plane doesn't mean he deserves to be stabbed with a pen.

Just Because he's a manipulative, passive aggressive poser who is gunning for my job doesn't mean he's always wrong… Ok, it's not perfect. The code doesn't work in every situation. But in many, it does. Consider this:

Just Because she has bad manners doesn't mean she's a bad sports reporter.

Can't We All Grow Up?

The best thing about high school is graduating, or leaving early, which is what I did. Why? Because I couldn't take the drama. The he said, she said. The she said, they said. The whispers. The secrets. The stuff. It made me tired.

Who ever thought that we'd continue this silliness as adults? For the record, I'm officially blaming this not on those much maligned millennials or even Gen X. I'm putting this squarely on the backs of the Baby Boomers, who vowed to Never Grow Up. A lot of them haven't, based on the number of judgmental Facebook updates and tweets I see from people old enough to know better.

"Did you see her boobs hanging out on #Insta?" "I saw a man buy a steak with Food Stamps!" Whatever, whatever, whatever.

Is this all we have to do with our time?

Let's worry less about every little thing everyone else does and worry more about the big picture: Better products, better service, better quality of life.

Let's focus less on what divides us — "Did you hear the horrible thing he said?" — and more on what binds us —"I'm so glad no one heard me say something equally as offensive."

Let's just start showing each other a little more respect. Just Because.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by martino_ob.