Once upon a time, “dog people” had a limited number of options for staying in touch and informed. Local all-breed dog clubs met perhaps monthly, and/or sent out newsletters to members with brags, event announcements, and various articles of interest. Breed specific clubs met perhaps quarterly, with newsletters in between. National clubs might conduct meetings only once a year and, again, send out newsletters with specific types of information.
Then along came the internet, and email, and the ability to create listservs. And then blogs were created. And then came the deluge of social media — Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, etc. Suddenly, with the click of a mouse, breed fanciers on opposite ends of the country had access to the same information, from the same sources, almost in real time. Geography was no longer a barrier to belonging, to being “in the know.” What a terrific way to unite the fancy, right?
Maybe. But there is also a huge drawback to this culture of all-media, all-the-time. The less savory types of communication amongst members of the fancy, namely gossip and innuendo and ill feelings, are now broadcast just as far and wide as is news of specialty results and rule changes.
I am and always will be a staunch supporter of free speech. I firmly believe that we are all entitled to post what we like on our own Facebook pages/Twitter feeds/Blogs. (I mean, hey, I’m doing it right now.) People who do not like what we post are free to Unfriend or Unfollow or to simply avoid clicking on the URL.
Things get a lot murkier, though, when you take into account things like group listservs and public Yahoo or Facebook groups that by their nature are intended for a wider audience. Opting out of participation because of a particular post means losing access to information that you would really like to have. So what to do?
Having been involved in my own recent dust-up via Facebook, and watching the current acrimony regarding the 2013 National Specialty play out over the listservs, this is the best advice I can come up with:
1. Standard internet warning: “Don’t feed the trolls.” It’s like with dog training — ignore the behavior you don’t want to encourage, because even negative attention is still attention.
2. If someone posts something you’re upset with, and it’s not something you feel you can shrug off, contact that person directly to discuss it. Written communication is rife with opportunity for misunderstandings and misinterpretations. Make sure that you’re not misconstruing something before you fly off the handle. Continuing the negative conversation in public will only lead to more negativity, so clear it up in private whenever possible.
3. Don’t assume that the person posting their grievances far and wide is the person in the right. Perhaps the other person just has more class.
4. Keep in mind this Dr. Phil-ism: “There are three sides to every story; Side A, Side B, and the truth. We are rarely privy to the third.
5. Take a moment and learn about what constitutes libel. It’ll be much better than learning it the hard way.
“Freedom of speech” does NOT mean freedom from consequences of that speech. You are accountable for what you put out there, so think about what you’re casting out into the webosphere, lest you snag more than you can handle. You may be able to delete the post, but the consequences are not so easily negated.