Should we forgive (some) #dumbthings on the internet?

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People do dumb things.  All the time.  And not just on the internet.  I’m not talking about illegal things and I’m not talking about keyboard warriors (grrrr…trolls). I mean things like playing stupid pranks.  Like saying stupid things.  Like calling old boy/girlfriends when they’ve had one too many.  You know, vaguely offensive or disrespectful things.

I was having lunch with a friend recently and we were talking about some dumb things that people had done on the internet and the terrible repercussions.  My friend told me about some people who had been taking disrespectful pictures at landmarks.  One of the pictures got shared more broadly than expected via social media, and the people involved ended up losing their jobs.

We’ve all heard about sportspeople posting or doing dumb things on the internet, and losing multi-million dollar contracts.  And while some of those things are certainly over the top, if you heard or saw what they posted in a pub during a footy match would you do much more than mutter an insult under your breath and continue watching the game?

While I don’t know why on earth we would consider ‘sportspeople’ role models (I could write a whole other blog on that one :-)), it does seem to me that we hold people to much higher standards sometimes on social media than we would in real life.

And while it is true that people are sometimes ‘braver’ behind their keyboards – thinking of you #cyberbullies – we need to remember that sometimes people have just done something dumb and that there may actually be a reason for it.

I have seen recent cases on my own social media feeds where people have written #dumbthings.  These were cries for help, and while I don’t in any way endorse their behaviour, the comfort social media ‘buddies’ could bring to those people meant that they were not alone in a time of need.  It seems to me that we have a strange community where we sometimes forget that doing #dumbthings is human.

So next time you see someone do something dumb on the internet, think about when you have done something dumb in your own life (on or off the internet), and consider whether you have it in you to forgive.

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