Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last two days, you’ve probably heard more about the United Airlines kerfluffle than you ever wanted to know. It’s a given that the incident in Chicago is a public perception nightmare for the airline. No one, at least none that I know of, thinks the airline handled the original situation or the pr nightmare that followed in anything close to the right way. However, that’s not what this post is about — at least not completely.
Yesterday, as well as the day before, I blogged about how we need to be careful about what we do and say on social media. Those posts were mainly about how authors and editors present themselves to the reading public and to potential clients. Today’s post, however, comes via a series of comments in response to a FB post made by a friend of mine.
Now the post itself wasn’t that much different from many others I’ve seen over the last 24 hours or so. My friend discussed what happened on the flight and then talked about how the media not only named the passenger involved but how some outlets were attempting to smear his name in what looked like an attempt to make United appear to be the wronged party instead of the other way around. At some point, Sarah — and others — made the comment that they felt United might have been behind leaking the passenger’s name to the press.
And that is where the idiocy from a third-party came in. You see, this person read an opinion as a statement of fact and got all hot and bothered, demanding sources for such an outrageous statement. It didn’t matter that the people making it said it was their opinion. They had said it and he wanted proof.
No matter what anyone said, no matter how they tried to approach the situation, he kept wanting sources cited.
Now remember, this is in response to a personal opinion on FB, not a story released by a major media outlet. It was an opinion based on personal experience, on the reading and listening to a number of different sources reporting on the incident and more.
What gets me about how this person dug in and refused to let go of the demand for a source to back up the personal opinion is how they continue to ignore the fact that opinions and decisions are made all the time based on information from a number of different sources and that is colored through the lens of personal opinion. It is rare when we can point to something and say “THIS!” is the reason why something happened and have that, whatever it is, be the only factor involved.
In this particular case, I can see how United very well might have been the source of the leak of the passenger’s name to the media. After all, they knew who they had “picked” to be removed from the plane because they needed four seats for crew members. They knew who they had told security to remove. They knew who had tried to reboard and who had to be removed again. In other words, it all begins with United.
Now, it is also possible the security team leaked the man’s identity. However, usually when the media gets a suspect’s name from law enforcement, they tell us something along the lines of “as identified by”. I have seen none of that so far. In fact, the media is excruciatingly silent on how they identified the passenger.
One of the possible explanations thrown out by the person taking umbrage to the opinion United might have been involved was that the passenger had been in the news before and someone local might have recognized him and called the media to make the ID. Again, where is the confirmation of this. Media outlets aren’t hesitant to let us know how they came to identify someone — unless their source doesn’t want to be named. Then it is “an unnamed source” in the report.
Considering how some of the media reports have been trying to pain the passenger as being a “bad” person based on past behavior — which has nothing to do with what happened — I doubt a member of the reading/viewing public made the ID. No, this smacks of someone either at United or with airport security telling the press who the passenger was and the press trying to pain the airline in the best possible light by digging up events from the doctor’s life that had nothing to do with what happened onboard that jet.
So here’s the thing. While the person was demanding everyone give sources for their OPINION United was behind leaking the passenger’s name, he had no problem bringing up other scenarios about how it could have happened — without offering proof. Worse, and what brought about this post, was his inability or whatever to actually discuss the issue. He dug his heels in and wouldn’t let go.
Now, I love me a good debate. I’ve even been known to dig my heels in a time or two. But I also know I have to listen to what the other side is saying and make sure I understand their position. If they ask a question, I need to be prepared to answer it — not ignore it and continue to hold to my position without wavering. Hell, I have to be ready to admit I might be wrong or I might have misunderstood the original premise.
That is especially true when dealing with social media. One of my biggest pet peeves about it — and with email, texting and the like — is that we don’t get the human interaction. We see only words, not inflection or facial expression. What we might mean one way can be easily interpreted another because the person reading our words don’t see us or hear us as we speak them. They are nothing but words on the screen and in social media we tend to take shortcuts that don’t help get the real message across.
There is another thing to consider. If most of the commenters in a thread are taking you to task for something, whether you are right or wrong, you have to ask yourself if it is worth your time to keep coming back to the thread and trying to justify what you said. It is so very easy to fall down the time pit that is social media as it is. Do any of us need to add to the time we spend there?
In other words, think before you hit enter. Make sure you understand what someone said and ask for clarification if you don’t. Don’t waste time if the person has shown themselves to be incapable of engaging in discussion. And, most of all, follow Jim Baen’s main rule for Baen’s Bar — Don’t be a butthead.