Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Thinking out Loud #OPINION

Thinking out Loud
Recently, I have seen various posts that list life lessons of one kind or another as the right choice towards long, happy, healthy and productive lives. You have heard them all before and it makes no sense to add them as a part of this piece, because in general I agree. They remind us of what is important in a list format LOL. The one lesson that caught my attention was “What other people think is none of your business”.  This statement and its message, at first glance, seem simple and straightforward, right! However, life can be complicated and over simplification can lead to misinterpretation or miscommunication.  Martin Luther King, Jr. said it best – “Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will”.

Howard Woodley Bailey-Post Mar 2, 2014 (1)

Well, I have thought about the implications in this statement and want to quantify my position. Strictly based on personal opinion, this statement is not only generalized and preachy, it also has “legs with hair”. So let’s explore the potential ramifications and I will use myself as the Ginny pig.

The statement uses the word “Think”. Which can be defined as a process of using one’s mind to produce ideas, decisions, judgment, memories ect. (1). You knew this! I would also presume that “Thinking Out Loud” would fall into this category as a subcategory of some sort but there is an “intent” issue that is brought in as suspect. Now put “Thinking Out Loud” in context with the internet “posts”, comments, circles and extended circles. Example: My thinking that the neighbor is a thief is completely different from thinking out loud in front of a group of people, on the internet, in public, in a comment, “He is a thief”; the former having no personal or professional ramifications, to the neighbor, whereas with the latter there can potentially be a detrimental outcome and all done without evidence or facts to support the allegation. Depending on the damage done as a result of these incendiary remarks, I could be sued by the neighbor for libel.

Thinking out Loud:
While there are many articles supporting the idea that thinking is really “nobody’s business”, I am going to reference an article written by Eric Eden titled “Libel & Defamation in the Information Age” (2), that backs my argument about possible ramifications to “thinking out loud”. He talks about current internet behavior and various listed cases in which facts were not properly supported “It's not uncommon for users to ridicule, harass or insult those who disagree with them. But if you damage someone's reputation by trying to embarrass them in a public forum, you could be sued for libel or defamation.”  He states that “Every person you write something negative about won't sue you for defamation or libel, they might flame you or just try to set the record straight by replying to the message.  But if you post false information about another user and disgrace them in public, they have the right to take you to court -- and they could win a big settlement if they can prove you were negligent.” This especially rings true when accusing individuals of some sort of artistic or business misrepresentation and/or misadventure, in essence distroying their "Brand".

Even though the internet is still a casual forum to socialize, connect and do business; increasingly there are cases where people have lost their jobs because of what was said casually, in comments and posts, irrespective of how tight and controlled the commentator thought his or her audience may or may not be. You are in the Public sector. Reynolds Holding with Time U.S. wrote an article, titled “Can You Be Fired for Bad-Mouthing Your Boss on Facebook?(2); he investigated various cases where people lost their jobs after making incendiary comments on Facebook. In the piece, Holding states that "The Federal National Labor Relations Act prohibits employers from punishing employees, whether or not they are members of a union, for talking about wages or workplace conditions or forming a union. The idea is to ease communication among workers so they can decide whether a union is necessary"; however this law didn't help the individual (s) profiled in this case study. It is my opinion that there is a kind of a naiveté about the internet and social media certainly I can claim guilty as charged. People need to consider the source, audience and commentary made in a public forum.
I believe these types of documented events and their outcome affirm that “Thinking Out Loud” on the internet (i.e. in a public forum) is pretty much everybody’s business and can be a risky endeavor at best. So for obvious reasons, I don’t agree with this statement What other people think is none of your business in it's totality unless what you are thinking about is kept to yourself.

1.        Definition: Thinking.
2.        Eric Eden, “Libel & Defamation in the Information Age”.
3.        Reynolds Holding, Friday, Mar. 04, 2011, Can You Be Fired for Bad-Mouthing Your Boss on Facebook?.  Time U.S.: Facebook and Labor 
Laws: Can Internet Posts Get You Fired? - TIME,8599,2055927,00.html#ixzz2vapSHkBw
4.       photograph: Howard Woodley Bailey-Post Mar 2, 2014 (1).

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