A Teachable Moment

Image result for scolding schoolteacher

My Facebook friends are usually a pretty brainy bunch.

Most of the people who follow me on social media are a cut above in the smarts departments.

A lot of them are in the hospitality industry, too, which gives my feeds (on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook) a distinctly foodie feel, with comments that are invariably insightful and entertaining.

Just like those who read this website.

I generally do not seek out people to “friend” on Facebook, and I try to leave room (inside the allotted 5,000 friends limit) so that people curious about the Vegas food/restaurant scene can hop on board and enjoy the ride.

Occasionally, I will make an exception, and send someone a “friend request” if I know them and think it would be fun to hear their input — pro and con — on things I post about.  (I enjoy a good, spirited argument on all kinds of things, as long as some degree of respect and attention to logic and facts are invoked.)

In 9 years on FB, I’ve never refused to add a “friend,” and I’ve only un-friended one person: a local food blogger who holds a doctorate in unpleasantness, with post-graduate honors in practical assholiness.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in almost a decade of social media activity, it is that people love to weaponize taking offense at something they’ve read. It is no longer enough to simply disagree with someone, you must now personalize that disagreement, and turn your disaffection into something that diminishes them and makes you feel better about yourself.

So it was with a “friend request” I sent to a friend of a friend recently.

I had met this person more that once, and know our mutual friend rather well in a professional capacity.

Adding this person to my list of contacts seemed logical since we had run into each other, and no doubt would again.

So, I sent a “friend request.”

This is what I received in return:

Hi Mr. Curtis. I see you have thousands of FB friends, and perhaps weren’t expecting a dissertation on the matter of friend request etiquette, but, I won’t be adding you at this time. In a previous pic that (our mutual friend) had posted, you commented with a meme/gif that I found to be offensive and derogatory. While my initial inclination was to “go along with the joke” or simply ignore, seeing your friend request caused me to view this as a teachable moment. Even if a woman displays cleavage and/or sexy garments in photographs, it is not an open invitation for her body to be mocked and trivialized into an anime gif of a bouncing woman with large breasts. Thank you for taking the time to read. Have a nice day.

My response:

I have no idea what you’re talking about….but I will say this: any person (man or woman) who intentionally draws attention to a body part…such as cleavage, musculature, booty, whatever…is fair game for whatever reaction comes their way. And anyone in this day and age who gets offended by the trivialization of body parts is not living in the same century I am…….and for the record: I have no memory of posting any gifs of bouncing breasts…so if you know of any, please advise.

Their response:

Sad that even in a more enlightened time in history, the “you asked for it” mentality still prevails for you. Take care.

My response:

I still don’t know what you’re talking about…but yes, if you flash your ass at someone…you forfeit the right to complain about their reaction to said ass-flashing. I’m sorry you see things differently, but again, I have no idea what you’re talking about, vis a vis whatever “meme” or gif offended you.

And that was it. No further response.

Just to remind you: I’m the same guy who was accused of condoning sexual assault because I advised holding off on judging Mario Batali until all the facts were in. Fat slobs hate me because I have the temerity to call them such; and all kinds of people accused me of having horns and a pitchfork because I pointed out the impropriety of scantily-clad women who pass out drunk in shopping malls.

Now, I’m a bad guy if I post a gif of some woman’s bouncing breasts, as a bemused, humorous reaction to a FB posts. (FWIW: our mutual friend’s sense of humor often strays into Rabelaisian territory.)

This whole idea of, “I don’t like your reaction to something you saw on the internet and I’m going to use it as an excuse to (dislike, berate, condemn) you,” is actually quite comical.

It is also the mother’s milk of social media.

It’s at least understandable to despise someone for outright saying something that you didn’t like  — but are we now going to judge people based upon the gifs they post in response to other’s comments?

When did we get so far afield from normal behavior? When did the smallest pin prick of impropriety (as defined by others) give people license to chastise you?

If the above is true, we may have gone so off-the-rails that there is no turning back, as far as productive human discourse is concerned,

As with our political institutions, once this mindset takes hold, instead of hammering out differences like adults, everyone just runs back to their tiny mental comfort bungalows where nothing is challenged, and everyone agrees with you. Especially yourself.

I actually felt a little sorry for my almost-friend. The world has to be a tough place for anyone that sensitive.

But the encounter taught me a lesson. Social media is riven with individuals who are just looking to be affronted about something. And those somethings can be far more trivial than your social mores and political beliefs. Outrage can even be directed at the merest slight or hint of vulgarity. Which is pretty rich since, next to taking false umbrage, bad taste is the Internet’s stock in trade.)

Yes, in some people’s worlds, even something as innocuous and juvenile as this:

bouncing boobs GIF

…can cause one to clutch one’s pearls and think harshly of the person posting it.

Remember this lesson the next time you decide to show off your girlfriend’s tits on Facebook….or make fun of someone else who does.

 

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