After watching a comedian online go through a short routine about something that sounded rather funny and innocuous to me, I scrolled down to read some of the comments on the video clip. This is a habit I sometimes feed and then feel as if I should have just let it alone because the comments often litter my brain with word trash. My reason this time was that in the back of my mind, as I chuckled over the jokes, I thought perhaps some people actually wouldn't find the topic funny. Yep, my suspicions were confirmed. The comedian was bashed for being rude, for not accepting people who were different or had interests that she did not share. And many of them were VERY MEAN about it.
I know that comedians often get away with any type of joke because it's almost protected under the comedy banner (except racism usually gets them blasted by the media), and I don't usually like this aspect. We teach kids in school to be kind and not laugh at others when they fall down but comedians can laugh. Funniest Home Videos can give people lots of money for footage of someone falling down because it's apparently hilarious.
But my reason for writing isn't to pick on the comedians.
This social media age where people post what they think every other minute causes the words offend and offensive to be tossed around a lot. For example, someone will prelude a post on Facebook with, "I hope this doesn't offend anyone;" or, "This might be offensive to some people, but. . ." People are smart. They know if they start spouting off their opinions on a political or social hot topic they will get comments back from people who say they are offended. They know if they post certain jokes not everyone will laugh along. But people usually do it anyway. Why? Sometimes they want to offend just to get those comments so they can then reply and continue the thread: offend, retort, offend, retort. Who gets the last word becomes the battle. People might TYPE that they don't want to offend anyone, but they really do.
Now I don't believe it is wrong to speak up about political matters, news topics of the day, social injustice. I don't believe it's wrong to share jokes in person and online, and not just because of some free speech laws. I certainly don't think it is wrong to feel offended, because feelings are real and valid. But do we really believe we will change someone's mind/actions/beliefs by ranting about our offense? The comments, by known and anonymous people, just trigger more strong feelings when they blast back in attack. Does that mean stay silent? Sometimes. For the health and sanity of both sides. Think before posting: Will it bring awareness to an important issue or will it just cause more harm than good? Think before responding: Is there a non-offensive way to reply? And sometimes, can't we just hide/ignore the comment/statement/joke and LET IT GO?
It's hard, I know. I've participated in some discussions online and in person where I've realized I opened a can of worms that I should have kept sealed, or I've responded back in a way that others immediately saw as offensive and I knew, I really did, that it would cause strong feelings without helping anyone. We know all about the suggestions I just gave to avoid some of these situations, but naturally life shouldn't be spent walking on tip-toe to avoid offending others. It's a tightrope walk sometimes, and sometimes we just have to risk the fall and hope there's a net. But maybe we can start by checking our motives first. Do we really want to help/inspire/ignite a fire for good changes to come/laugh over something really funny, or do we just want to stir the pot? Next time I feel like stirring, I hope I just go make some soup and share it.
(Comments? HA HA HA HA HA.)