On playing the fool

“It’s better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you’re a fool than open it and remove all doubt.”

Mark Twain

 

I wonder what Mark Twain would think about social media. I would love to hear the zingers that he’d come up with regarding the many, many opportunities we all have now to play the fool. Perhaps he would change his quote to say, “It’s better to keep your fingers still and let people think you’re a fool than send out a Tweet and remove all doubt.”

With the influx of social media and the numerous sites that allow us to convey ideas, share thoughts, connect with one another and offer our vastly different opinions, I fear that we have opened ourselves up to looking the fool if we aren’t diligent and careful to manage our online footprint.

And as parents, we had better be ever vigilant in teaching our children how to navigate the waters of the online world. Social media isn’t going away and I don’t think it should. There is a lot of good coming from the online communities that have sprung up these last few years.

There’s also a lot of danger.

We are all prone to fits of frustration and angry backlash of the tongue. Some are, perhaps, more prone to issue a biting, angry barb than others, but none of us are immune. We have all inserted a foot in the mouth at some point in our lives and we’ve probably all had to apologize for foolish words spoken in the past. It’s the nature of being human – we can’t control our tongues.

But while a biting comment may ruin a relationship, if it’s been said in private there are steps one can take to restore that relationship, to apologize and to learn from the mistake in a private way.

A foolish tweet or Facebook post, however, will last forever.

 

This scares me for my children and it’s this reason alone that will keep them from opening a Facebook account or having a Twitter profile until Lee and I are sure that they have mastered enough control over emotions and words that they won’t blast off 140 characters that end up painting them fools for the rest of their lives.

And lest we think this issue of foolish tweeting is only a thing for youth, the fact is it isn’t. I’m astounded, particularly now as we are headed into a contentious political season, at the things grown ups are posting online. Foolish tweets. Ridiculous pictures and meme’s. Shameful Facebook posts.

So many words are being misused and the online world turns into a dreadful game of cat and mouse. This isn’t to say I don’t think people should share their opinions. Of course not. I am completely supportive of people writing about the things that they feel passionate about.

It’s the snarky, online bickering and arguing that I find tiresome and this is the very behavior that I will passionately teach my children. Don’t be the fool online. Think before your tweet. If you don’t have something nice to say, just say nothing at all.

Please.

 

I have one child in particular who is very susceptible to reacting in anger. Words are his weapon of choice and when he’s frustrated, he uses them in an attempt to ease the frustration. I understand this about him only because I struggle with the same thing. A single quick, harsh word only feels good for a split second.

It feels horrible for eternity afterward.

We are constantly working with him and teaching him how to control and tame his tongue. How to stop, to breathe, to think and to decide if the words he wants to say are really going to make the situation better or worse.

If he can learn to do this in his every day interactions, then I feel like we will be better preparing him to handle the interactions of the internet.

In the nearly five years that I’ve been blogging, I’ve learned that not every sentiment of my heart needs to be blogged. Not every disagreement needs to be resolved online. Sometimes people say things that I disagree with and I find myself getting hot and angry.

So I walk away from the computer.

I’d rather keep my mouth shut fingers still and be thought a fool than send out a tweet and remove all doubt.

If you have children, how are you preparing them and training them for the online world that stands in their future?

Comments

  1. I try to always use the “comma rule” when commenting or replying…..when in doubt, leave it out!

    Invariable the times I have overridden that feeling, I have regretted it!

  2. Hmmm…I haven’t had to worry about that yet, but it will be soon enough. And I have a feeling that considering both our children’s boisterous and obnoxious speak-first-think-later parents we uh, we have some training of ourselves to do first!

    • Preach it. I JUST issued yet another reminder to “Stop, take a breath and think before speaking.” They’ve been home ten minutes….

  3. Oh Kelli

    I love how you share your heart on this matter. So many times it is so easy to just type our disgrace for words that should otherwise remain unspoken.

    I hope that other moms will take this advice to heart and help them learn to focus their energy on more positivity instead of retaliating online.

    • Yes! The world would be a happier place if we would all just be a little bit more understanding and graceful, even in our disagreements. :)

  4. I usually do a pretty good job of keeping my brain to tweet filter on high. (Think then tweet.) Honestly the fact that you can think before you type is why I love facebook and twitter. I’m not always that great about doing that in real life. But I know what you mean. People can be cruel and thoughtless. Good luck with your kids. With a mom like you I think they’ll be fine.

    • Yes. People with common sense do have the benefit of a delayed reaction online. Unfortunately, they don’t often heed that common sense and you end up with a stream full of foolish tweets. :)

      Thanks, Dana.

  5. I deleted my Facebook account about 8 months ago and have never uttered a tweet. But this was a personal decision, much of it having to do with the frustrations I felt when I saw otherwise smart and kind human beings using these platforms to show some ugly colors. BUT, I am not naive or strict enough to think my children won’t eventually want or have a social media presence for themselves. Thanks for the powerful post today to remind me that I already need to be training Andrew (and later Megan) how to gracefully, kindly, and wisely navigate these social media avenues.

    • It’s so hard, isn’t it? They are going to have to deal with so much more than we ever did. Parental vigilance is extremely important!

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