Everyone is getting offended. Let them!
Inter-connectivity between people across various social networks has been the driving force behind changes in perception over the past 5-10 years. Ever since the world entered a new realm of networking, social media platforms, the world and everything it has to offer has changed drastically. No longer do we only know the friends we can keep updated in our Address Books and whom we choose to call and see how they're doing. Instead, our entire lives are displayed across various platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+, WhatsApp, Blogger, etc. Just a few clicks or key searches, and an entire person's life can be on display.
This concept is fascinating! 15 years ago, you saved your pictures in a scrapbook. You had your local neighborhood friends, and you had written your life-long friends' numbers and addresses in a book. If you wanted to find a job you searched your local newspaper or a company would reach out to you if you were extremely lucky and good at what you do. Home videos were still on VCR videos. You used disposable or film cameras to capture your summer vacation. Technology has changed every single thing we do!
With this inter-connectivity though, we've recently witnessed a paradigm shift. In 2015, we witnessed this:
This was the year that hatred, offense, bigotry, racism, politics, and critique became widespread across all social networks, online and in person. Last year it actually became socially unacceptable to have a different opinion than those around you. Profanity, insults, and rude comments plagued social media, especially Facebook and Twitter.
Yesterday I saw an increased number of posts on Instagram about April Fools asking people to be considerate of others. The most prevalent posts looked something like this, but most in a more condescending tone:
I get it. Some things are said or done that may offend others around you. But that's part of life. I'll give a real life example:
My girlfriend's grandmother passed away three weeks ago. It was very unexpected. Within two days, her health had deteriorated completely. As her caregiver for the last year, she grew very close to her grandmother. Sitting at her bedside, she watched her grandmother pass away. Since then, we've been around family and friends and random strangers who have brought up death. Whether it be through a meme, a Vine post, or a comment such as, "I hate this professor, I wish he would just die."
Now, did she have the right to lash out at these people and criticize them for being insensitive? Was she excused from social norms and standards because her grandmother passed away recently and she's still going through the grieving process? Was she permitted to tell these people they're horrible people? Technically, yes. Did she? No. Why? It's because she's better than that. Her grief and sorrow is something personal. She doesn't start every conversation with, "hey, heads up, my grandma died." If those around her make a mistake, it's not intentional, and she recognizes that!
For some reason I remember a line from the movie Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, which came out in 2001. All of the kids' parents have been abducted by aliens, and Jimmy is trying to convince them to turn the theme park rides into space ships and go after them. The conversation goes a little something like this:
Jimmy: There's a 95 percent chance it'll work.
Cindy: And the other 5 percent?
Jimmy: We all get blown up.
[the crowd starts nervously chattering]
Jimmy: Hey, hey! Ninety-five is still an A.
Nick: I've never gotten a 95 in my life.
Nick's comment convinces them all to go ahead and build rocket ships.
I always found this so funny, and it stuck with me. It has also kind of been my go-to thought when I see people get offended or critical on social media. Simply put: YOU WILL NEVER NOT OFFEND SOMEONE. You can never be perfectly safe that what you say is do is going to be pleasing to everyone who witnesses it.
I don't post about anything that I know is a touchy subject to those around me. On social media, I don't critique or joke about rape, pornography, addictions, or divorce, because some of my closes acquaintances have been affected by these things. But I personally don't know anybody that has openly told me about their infertility problems. I might actually find myself guilty liking a fake pregnancy post on Instagram about the subject on April Fools Day, because I don't understand how harmful that post actually is. But I'm not a bad person!
Conclusion and Call to Action
You are constantly identified by what we post online and how people choose to perceive us. You are a bad person to those who wish to perceive you as bad. You are good to those who perceive you as good.
With people getting offended and hurt all across social networks, it's inevitable that you will eventually say or do something that someone else won't like. I propose we let them be offended. If arguments happen, let them keep happening. We need to learn the hard way as a society, that it's okay to be different. It's a give and take society. We need to learn to be less judgmental of those we see online, but we also need to have thicker skin. I don't think that will happen until we reach a breaking point. Eventually, we'll figure out our online identities, and we'll feel stupid for wasting so much time being hurt by what others say. We obviously need to learn this lesson the hard way.