Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

October 28, 2012

Lee Ward: Enabling communication during difficult times: 10/28/12

Lee Ward
The Independent

ASHLAND — There is something wrong with putting information that’s very personal on Facebook, I have thought.

From the beginning of Facebook, people have put things I thought were in bad taste, not because they were rude or obscene, but because some topics are too personal or too serious for a social media site.

For instance, I don’t like to see commentary about religion posted. Religious beliefs are very personal; posting them on Facebook is the same as putting them on a bumper sticker — it cheapens the important meaning.

It’s similar for politics. Although it’s become a circus, especially in the last 30 years, but what we do as a country is extremely important to the people who live here. We all depend, to an extend, on what decisions our leaders make when we plan our lives. In many cases, other countries’ futures depend on decisions the United States makes.

Therefore, what ideology we follow as individuals is very serious and important business. To engage in petty arguments on Facebook or to post snarky comments about what’s happening in politics cheapens the process.

Likewise, when a family member is seriously ill, Facebook doesn’t seem like an appropriate place to discuss it.

Then, I found myself doing the very things I thought were in bad taste.

I’ve agreed or disagreed with comments about religion and politics on Facebook. I’ve even formed my very own smarty-pants comments on those topics and put them out for the world to see. Mostly, I have made such comments in the heat of the moment, as knee-jerk reactions to something someone else posted, likely to incite dialogue or jam a stick in the eye of a figurative bear.

I guess my responses have been a release of emotions stirred up by listening to things I don’t agree with and would like to respond to but think it might be in bad taste to do so. One of my friends said about expressing her opinion on Facebook, “Everybody else gives their stupid opinion; why shouldn’t I?”

Still, I didn’t talk about a family member’s health matters on Facebook. Luckily, I hadn’t had anyone sick in the family to talk about, but I had decided that was a line I would not cross.

That is, until my dad took ill.

After a few days of Dad being hospitalized and of my calling more than a dozen people with updates, I decided to break my last rule of Facebook and post “Jolly updates.” I heard from people I hadn’t seen in years, people I might see once a year, people Dad sees regularly but I don’t see often enough to give them a call with an update about him. This also got me thinking about all the personal information I’ve learned about other people’s hardships by reading Facebook posts and I was grateful to know those things, not because of some ghoulish curiosity, but because it gives me the chance to express my best wishes and makes me feel a little bit closer to people I might not have gotten to know otherwise.

Of course I still have a few phone calls to make to update older friends who don’t use a computer or Facebook, but posting Jolly Updates sure does spread the word fast.

I still don’t like the religious and political commentary on Facebook, even if I do participate every now and then. But I officially rescind my disdain for posting private health matters on Facebook. It’s not always bad taste; it can be good communication.

LEE WARD can be reached at lward@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2661.