Contretemps (kon-truh-tahnz; French kawntruh-than): an unexpected and unfortunate occurrence. Synonyms include kerfuffle, hurly-burly, fracas, hullabaloo, brouhaha, and Donnybrook. As a former English major, my mind just boggles at the mischief our language gets up to (and yes, I do know I ended the sentence with a preposition).Due to instantaneous dissemination and digestion of information, issues that formerly only a few involved parties knew about now have global dogs in the fight. If somebody in Wichita says something stupid and offensive, wired people in both Kansas City and Kazakhstan know, have opinions about it, and feel obligated to weigh in on it.In the past, when people said and did hurtful, illegal, and sometimes just flat-out annoying things, the circle of knowledge and subsequent anger was much smaller.
Now, when an outrage occurs either through ignorance or malice, the news travels around the globe, and the indignation of millions can be ignited in the time it used to take to get out stationary for the writing of a sternly worded letter to the editor of one’s local paper. Recently a couple of controversies occurred involving area businesses. Both happened in the real world. But in both cases, social media spread the word and left much egg on many faces.As a bystander, each controversy seemed easily predictable. One seemed to stem from the overreaction to a minor provocation by an authority figure, and the other a clear, textbook case of cultural appropriation so blatant it bordered on naked racism.
Social media, in many cases not only spreads the word of the real-world ruckus, it also, in an ever-expanding number, provides the opportunity and venue for offences that then spread like crab grass during a rainy summer.
A person posts a cruel, tasteless “joke” right before getting on an international flight for business. By the time the plane lands, the thoughtless passenger has become a worldwide pariah, and is unemployed and disavowed by their red-faced former employer.A company attempts to use the historic Mideast turmoil to sell shoes. A phone company clumsily references 9/11 in an ad. On Pearl Harbor Day, a soup company makes the mistake of tweeting a flag-waving noodle.
And, pretty much any time Kanye West tweets anything, ever.To hopefully mitigate damage that ensues from these missteps, I suggest the creation of a vital new position for every company in the US.
The voice of reason. Or, if you like, special executive vice president of the office of not being dumb and getting into easily avoidable trouble.They can recommend guidelines like staying completely away from sexual, socioeconomic, educational, racial, and any other stereotypes that exist. Just take your hands off the keyboard and walk away. Just.Walk.Away.
A VOR (Voice of Reason) worth their salt will never let corporations engage in petty back and forth school yard-style bickering with private citizens. Nobody likes a bully. Especially not a multi-national bully worth billions.So, for the private social media aficionado without the means to employ their very own VOR, I offer a few tips that may save the pain and infamy that comes from ill-considered postings.
Check your sources. And then check again. If the information you want to post are so outrageous that only a world-wide conspiracy necessitating the silence of thousands of co-conspirators from all walks of life would make it work, you can be pretty darn sure it’s not true. That many humans are incapable of keeping their mouths shut—I promise.And I beg you, when drunk or jet-lagged never cut your hair, call your ex, or hit “enter”.Thanks for your time.