It’s been a while since I have blogged here. Life for me has changed tremendously since I last blogged here. My last post was actually on the day that my wife and I first started dating. How crazy is that? In any case, I’m back. And the case of Lindsey Stone has really caught my eye.
For those that are not aware, Stone works for an organization called LIFE, which is a non-profit that engages in assisting adults with disabilities. While she was on a work trip to Washington, D.C., she decided to engage in a bit of hipster douchiness at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier:
Now there’s a “Fire Lindsey Stone” page on Facebook, her apology has been covered in a major Boston newspaper, and many people have weighed in on the issue. This has all led me to make few observations on the matter:
- When you post something on social media, you will never be able to predict how it will affect people. This is the “think before you post” rule that one should always adhere to. Given this woman’s reaction–”Hey, you guys know us; we’re just being douchebags like we always are”–she probably thought that the post would probably be seen as hilarious by her similarly hipster friends. She is now finding out that you will never know what will touch a nerve with other human beings.
- Your social media is always open to scrutiny from friends, family, your community, and, most importantly, your boss. It sucks, but it is true. I have had political jobs where I have had to take the most milquetoast of posts off my Facebook profile because of how my boss thought that people might react to what is on there. Free speech is not free; it comes with some responsibility.
- The reaction to this has been…..a little overblown. For obvious reasons, it was an idiotic move to take the picture in the first place. It was even more idiotic to post the photo in a public forum where, I have to believe, at least some of her connections are not hipsters, and come from her line of work. That being said, let’s be real here: if this photo had been taken at the Grand Canyon, the National Zoo, or a national park, no one would have thought that this picture was out-of-pocket. In fact, many of the same people that are up in arms about this probably would have found this funny. The overriding reason behind the outrage is that the photo was taken at a place that honors America’s veterans. I have two cousins listed on the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial in Washington, my grandfather flew in Vietnam and died from stomach cancer, and I have numerous family that have served and continue to serve in America’s armed forces. I say this to say that I have a unending respect for America’s veterans. But this outrage feels like it is coming from a place of blind deference to the military, and I cannot get on board with that. The Facebook page is festooned in images designed to make you think that she has committed some affront against patriotism, veterans, and America itself. But really, it is just a stupid photo. That’s it. The irony of the Facebook page is that they seem to not understand that the whole “veterans died for our freedoms” concept also extends to those that say REALLY STUPID THINGS.
Does Lindsey Stone deserve to get fired? Perhaps, but that point is really irrelevant. This is an amazing case study on how social media can amplify the loudest voices and most mindboggling images in our world. As much as Facebook and Twitter have helped organize revolutions, take down brutal dictators, and facilitate community change, it has also given voice to certain micro-outrages that should probably be left to the side. Given all of the pain and suffering that we have in this world, and all of the important issues of public policy that we must grapple with as a polis, this is probably one of those things that should be left to the dustbin of irrelevance.