Do you understand the words that are coming out of my MOUTH????

Do you remember that?  Hilarious! Mis-communication has always made for great comedy. Who’s on First, Three’s Company, the list goes on. Sometmes though, the results of miscommunication are not so funny, like last week on Twitter.

There was a mini Twitterversy this weekend (that’s Twitter + controversy).  Evidently, a mom tweeted about hurting her child which alarmed several of her followers. The police were notified and arrived at her home late that night. They insisted on seeing her child and making sure the child was okay and in addition there is a file opened on this family at Child Protective Services. Turns out the mom was just using colorful language and the child was fine, but man, what an ordeal! So now colorful mom is PISSED at one of her Twitter friends for notifying the authorities.  I mean, it is no small deal to have a file at Child Protective Services and no small invasion to have the police come to your house and demand to see your child. Who knows all the inconveniences and indignities that this mom had to suffer because of this misunderstanding. Did the police treat her like a criminal? Were they rude? Did they wake up the child? Did they take off their shoes when they came in the house (big deal for me)?

On the other hand, several of her followers were really concerned. They thought that her child was in serious danger. I mean, in this day and age can you really blame them? We have the YouTube suicide and MySpace suicide as high profile examples of violence and social media mixing. We have plenty of recent high profile cases of violence against children such as this, this and this. How would you feel if you were the one that saw that tweet, did nothing and the next day you read about it in the papers?

I think the most important thing to note here is context or lack thereof. Let me tell you…I have a lot of mommy friends, and I have certainly heard some violent talk.

from a homeschooling mom of three under 5: It’s about to be a triple homicide.

from a stressed out married/single mom of two: I’m about to bodyslam these two!

from the mother of a particularly precocious 4 year old:  I’m about to slap the crap out of her!

These are real comments and even as I type them, I feel their impact differently than when I heard them. You see, I know all of these mothers (confession: one of the above statements escaped my own lips…not telling which one) and I know that they all love their children deeply and sincerely. Not only that, but I know that they are all incredibly dedicated, conscious parents. It is actually their committment to giving their all to parenting that creates the stress that leads to violent thoughts. Because I know them, because I heard the tone of their voice when the comments were made, because these comments were made as part of an ongoing conversation that began when we became sistermoms….I knew their kids were not in danger. However, people need to understand that your Twitter followers are not your FRIENDS. These people don’t know you! You cannot talk in the Twitterverse like you would to a close girlfriend. They have no context in which to place your comments and that inevitably leads to miscommunication.

Remember people, this is why emoticons were created; to give more context to electronic communication. LOL, ROFL, IMHO…all of these exist to help with the lack of nonverbal cues that are present in the spoken word. And even then, these are only taken into the context of the WHOLE relationship. For example, if your frenemy, who is always insulting you, sends you an e-mail with a semi-nasty closing line and includes a ‘lol’, are you really going to believe that she was just kidding? Of course not.  However the same e-mail from a true friend probably wouldn’t bother you.

So remember, there is no context in cyberspace….choose your words carefully! And, tell the truth….haven’t you ever had a violent thought or two about your little ones?

PS

After typing those violent words I have a new idea for a blogpost about how our culture of violence is infiltrating our subconcious. Good grief! Those words sound read terribly.

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11 thoughts on “Do you understand the words that are coming out of my MOUTH????

  1. Great post! I must say that I do take what parents say seriously and people need to watch their mouth, more from the point of view that the words are damaging to the child. I was with a parent this weekend who said to his daughter “if you do that one more time, I will slap you.” Now, I know that he won’t because obviously this girl runs all over him all the time and also he’s not a parent who would hit his child, but I cringed just hearing it (even though she was being a brat). The most that I say to my kids (and husband) is when I am joking “if someone_____, someone’s going to get hurt.” And usually the context is something like, “if someone eats these cookies that I made for the bake sale…” I look forward to your post about violence and our words.

  2. That’s sad. I feel most sorry for the accuser. Her world must be limited. Or maybe she’s been traumatized by child abuse in some way. You never know who with whom you’re exposing yourself to online.

    Though enormously vast, our virtual world contains many small-minded people. They’re not necessarily bad, however, their world view slowly narrows to the width of a Twitterlens (or MySpacelens, FBlens).

    Your reminder that Twitter followers are not friends should be a permanment disclaimer on the Twitter interface.

  3. I think the most powerful statement is that “your Twiiter followers are not your FRIENDS.” It’s so easy to get confused about that. I’m always clear about calling people that I meet through social networking sites my “Myspace friend” or my “Facebook friend.” Just so there is no confusion between them and my real friends in my own mind.
    Ree

  4. Great post. I have written about this situation myself in my own post in spanish. I found it incredibly interesting from a professional point of view. I am very much of your opinion, context is the most important thing but I think that apart from the speaker taking this into account, the person who listens at the other end of the computer should also take it into account. I went to this mothers blogs and after just reading for a bit and reading her previous tweets, I thought it was clear that she did not seriously mean to harm her daughter. How is it possible that the other mother thought that she did? Many people should apply a bit of common sense and know that on twitter a lot of things are said that are never done, they just serve to vent frustration. Check things out better before creating a fuss over nothing.

  5. I caught the tail end of this drama and all I can say is that I can certainly see both sides. However if I had been actively a part of the discussion I would not have called in the authorities. I took a look at the woman’s blog and tweets and there was no indication of anything but love for her family. But I understand that sometimes it is important to err on the side of caution.

  6. You are so right!! I am ever so careful about what I saw with my Tweeple (Twitter people). I can honestly say, I would not have called the authorities. I just don’t think it would have occurred to me to do so, but I understand the concern it presented. Great post!!

  7. Over 90 percent of communication is nonverbal. Your point about emoticons is critical. I used to joke around about looking for my sarcastic font. We have to learn to compensate. We need to consider ways to communicate in written form more completely AND we need to take into consideration when reading that we might be missing things.

    (Specific to the controversy, my sympathies lie with the woman who had the police called on her. I don’t want the other woman to be villified, but I think that taking a little more time to consider the context would have saved a trip by the police and the Twitterverse a lot of excited tweets.)

  8. This is a great post. We have to be very careful how we word things when we write them online. Written communications are easily misinterpreted when you can not see the emotion behind a statement; see a facial expression; or hear the inflection in someone’s voice. I think it is ridiculous that the lady called the authorities. I would have contacted the woman who made the statement first to see if there really was a threat. But everyone has different standards and philosophies regarding such things. Great conversation!

  9. I’m sorry that we have all become captives of the world that we live. The world has become so dangerous for our children that you don’t no what to do.
    Sometime we forget about the children. Their safety.

    It’s funny how we feel that we know a person until something happens. “Well, I know he/she and he/she wouldn’t hurt a fly.

    They might not hurt a fly, but they sure would hurt a human.

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