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Whenever an event of significance occurs, commentary is almost an absolute certainty. Most recently, the unfortunate tragedy involving a teacher and his two children left the nation reeling in shock.
Whilst many offered condolences, there was also much speculation around the circumstances of this event, much of which was fuelled by rumor and hearsay.
Without getting into the details of these rumors, I would like to offer a few words of caution to persons that engage in sharing information on their social media channels, particularly in instances where the grieving family members and friends have scarcely had an opportunity to grasp the fullness of the situation for themselves:
- Is the statement I am about to make truthful or factual? If the statement made is based on a feeling or opinion, are you prepared to be wrong? If it is a fact, are you able to back up your statements with the sources for your information? Many times, the idea we have cemented in our heads could really be from a belief that we have held for so long it begins to feel like a fact, but it has no real basis in truth.
If possible, cite your sources to make a solid case. Did you see a police report? Did you have access to an autopsy? Did you have a direct conversation with a medical examiner? Are you a trained psychiatrist that can speak to anyone’s state of mind? Is there some other way that you are able to speak with absolute certainty as to the cause of death? If not, then your statements are likely an opinion that could possibly be correct but also, equally, be very, very wrong.
- If I realised that I was wrong, how difficult would it be for me to apologise? In the age of social media, sometimes we choose a language that can be perceived as harsh as it is difficult to establish tone and inflection on these channels. With that in mind, I have often seen original theories proven wrong and the scores of persons that perpetuated this idea hide silently behind their keyboards and never offer a public apology.
In the same way a public blasting was shared, so too should an apology once the error has come to light.
- How would I react or respond if someone said this to me? Placing ourselves in someone else’s shoes requires an empathy that is sometimes difficult to keep at the forefronts of our minds. Although many of us have personally experienced a loss at some time in life, we sometimes forget that those feelings of grief do not change or diminish because someone else’s circumstances have come into the public domain. In fact, these feelings may become amplified. We should also consider that everyone does not cope with grief in the same way, and the mental strain of the circumstances may require more sensitivity that what you would want for yourself.
With that in mind, imagine how you would feel if you saw these negative statements immediately after finding out that your loved ones have perished. Are your words offering comfort or have you added to the mental anguish of someone who may already be at the brink of their sanity? If you feel that you must express these insensitive statements, can they at least be limited to private conversations that are less likely to be overheard by the persons involved in the tragedy?
And last but by no means least:
- If screenshots of your statements were circulated to the important people in your life such as your mother, pastor, boss, or any other respected person, would you feel ashamed? Would you feel the need to clarify why you made your statements? To offer explanations as to why it should not be perceived as unkind? Would you feel as though you are being judged in a manner that does not accurately represent how you would like to be perceived? Then this may be an indicator that the post should not be made.
Remember, even if you delete it, social media can cling to your mistakes. Your post could be saved by someone else and recirculated. Some mistakes blow over and some take much longer to be forgotten.
Above all, please remember the next time you post, rather than playing the role of judge, jury and executioner, take a few minutes to ensure that your post is mindful and meaningful.
*Krystle Howell, CPA, CIA, COSO, ALMI, ACS, aka Mavis, is an Internal Auditor by profession, avid artist and a lover of dance.