Maybe you don’t know it yet, but some of your words are offensive.
In your life, a joke, a witty remark, a sarcastic comment has the power to offend. Maybe you were fortunate the potentially offended party did not hear what you said.
But it doesn’t change the fact that you, and everyone on Earth, has likely said something regrettable at some point in his or her life, and most likely it was done in private.
But you say, "What? Me? Not me. I’m a good person. I would never offend anyone." I’m sure you wouldn’t ... on purpose. But if you speak your mind, as many of us often do, you are going to offend someone, somewhere for something.
Donald Sterling, owner of the LA Clippers basketball team, recently made famous by a racist rant his female friend/employee recorded and shared with the world, is a cautionary tale.
After the NBA investigated his racially insensitive comments, commissioner Adam Silver banned Sterling from the league for life.
And while nobody — and I mean nobody — can condone what Donald Sterling said, how we discovered what he said concerns me, and should scare you. It should scare all of us.
Because that smartphone you have not only takes pictures and video, and connects you with the world’s social media networks, but it’s also a classic mini tape recorder.
What does this mean to you? Well, such as was the case with Sterling, anything you say, anywhere, at any time can now be recorded without your knowledge and broadcast to the world.
For example, last weekend, someone in my neighbourhood had a long and loud conversation on his deck with a co-worker. Our decks happen to be very close together. Could I tape it? It certainly was loud enough to be recorded.
A father and son mis-behave waiting to tee off at the golf course, swearing and cursing. Another incident I could easily tape without their knowledge.
A guy fooling around on his wife, out for dinner. Pictures and video could get me punched in the face, but the audio of their romantic rendezvous is something they both aren’t even aware of.
Against the law you say? After signing up for Twitter account under an alias (as so many do), the damage would be done long before anyone can take the audio off any web page.
And that is the scary part. Because the bottom line is this: acting like an idiot in front of a camera is one thing, since most of the time we are aware there’s a camera in front of us, or at least in the vicinity.
It’s another when you are not aware.
Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post recently wrote a column discussing this complete loss of privacy thanks to devices like the smartphone.
"You’d best check for recording devices. Alternatively, you might check your thoughts," she writes. "We should all be nervous about the instantaneous formation of social media mobs that attack a single individual whose comments, while contemptible, result in a virtual execution. Once the mob descends, no punishment short of absolute destruction seems sufficient. People may want justice but the mob wants blood."
That said, I have two questions for you:
1) Have you ever said anything hurtful, harmful or disrespectful in frustration, anger, or an attempt to be humourous? Something you later had to apologize for?
2) Have you ever made someone so angry you would consider them your "enemy"?
Chances are, the longer you’ve lived on this Earth, the more likely it is you would answer yes to both questions.
And if you ever had both situations occur with the same person involved, and they record the incident, your career, your business, your marriage, your friendships, your reputation, can all be destroyed in one split second.
So then, what do we do?
"If you don’t want your words broadcast in the public square, don’t say them," Parker says. "Such potential exposure forces us to more carefully select our words and edit our thoughts."
Edit your thoughts? Can she be serious?
My career forces me to edit my words and be careful of what I say. After all, much of my day is spent behind a live microphone.
But do I say inappropriate things when I’m in my own home? Possibly. Things that are part of private conversations with friends and family? Maybe I do, and maybe you do, too.
But are you ready to edit? I know I’m not.
We’re living in some "upside-down" times. Last week, a school board member was criticized by his language used on social media. It appeared as though he thought something private was actually being conducted in private.
Let me tell you something. There is no private anymore. Private is gone.
As Beyonce and Jay Z discovered last week, even riding in an elevator is taped, and if found to be of general public interest, could be shared with the world.
If you’re reading this column and you’re over 50, you should be especially careful with what you say, who you say it to and where it’s said.
Offending an entire group of people with one slip of the tongue has never been easier than it is today. What used to be clever or funny or witty or smart can now be just out right offensive.
Offensive leads to anger and anger leads to sharing with the world, which leads to "pitchforks" coming out on social media and worse, total character assassination.
And until the far-reaching arm of the law catches up to this new reality, be careful out there. Not only is it "what you say can and will be used against you in a court of law," it’s worse. "What you say can and will be used against you in the ‘court of public opinion’."
JOKE THIS WEEK
A woman takes a lover home during the day while her husband is at work. Unbeknownst to her, her nine-year-old son was hiding in the closet. Her husband comes home unexpectedly, so she puts the lover in the closet with the little boy.
The little boy says: "Dark in here."
The man says: "Yes it is."
Boy: "I have a baseball."
Man: "That’s nice."
Boy: "Want to buy it?"
Man: "No, thanks."
Boy: "My dad’s outside."
Man: "OK, how much?"
In the next few weeks, it happens again that the boy and the mom’s lover are in the closet together.
Boy: "Dark in here."
Man: "Yes, it is."
Boy: "I have a baseball glove."
The lover, remembering the last time, asks the boy: "How much?"
A few days later, the father says to the boy: "Grab your glove. Let’s go outside and toss the baseball back and forth."
The boy says: "I can’t. I sold them."
The father asks: "How much did you sell them for?"
The son says: "$1,000."
The father says: "That’s terrible to overcharge your friends like that. That is way more than those two things cost. I’m going to take you to church and make you confess."
They go to church and the father makes the little boy sit in the confession booth and he closes the door.
The boy says: "Dark in here."
The priest says: "Don’t you start this ride again with me, kid ..."
Gina Holden Hicks
Debbie Roberts Good
Cody AW Dixon
Mici Richards Coppicus
Janice Ames Smith