Much of what I learned from my father about being handy around the house was from watching him work, and then, once I was old enough to be more useful than distracting, from actually doing the work while under his careful supervision. His style of instruction was typically hands-off and non-verbal, letting me experience the tools and work for myself, but he spared no words when it came to warning me about the dangers of the various tools (powered or not) with which we worked. His hands were covered with various scars that did not require more than one terse explanation, and my grandfather was missing parts of two fingers from a woodworking accident that served as a silent and regular reminder of a life lesson I carry with me to this day: Tools are dangerous regardless of your familiarity with them – always treat them with respect and understand their proper use and application.
Ignorance and injury go hand in hand
The attack last week on the nation’s capitol by extremist thugs will no doubt grace numerous textbooks and will provide plenty of lessons for everyone, but there was a particular behavior exhibited by many of the invaders that has provided plenty of amusement for the rest of nation and illustrates my point perfectly. While I’m sure many of the people participating in the violence last week thought they were justified and not committing crimes, documenting your “activities” via social media demonstrates a clear lack of understanding of what that act actually achieves. Not only did they visually document numerous criminal activities that directly or indirectly led to the deaths of 5 individuals, they pinpointed themselves at the scene of the crime via GPS on their “smart” phones. This same crowd used the conservative social media platform “Parler” to organize this attack, to foment additional hate, and then documented it with thousands of posts, pictures and movies, all of which was scraped by a hacktivist and made available to the public and, presumably, numerous law enforcement agencies. I’m sure there were plenty of law abiding citizens engaged in reasonable discourse on Parler – one of the most common arguments offered by conservative politicians on the dismantling of your privacy is, “If you’ve done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear.” Over 50 terabytes of data is a lot to sort through, but you can be sure that plenty of self-incrimination will be found within.
In addition to the lessons taught by my father and grandfather, I learned plenty of times the painful lesson that even tools you know well can “bite” if you are careless or try to use them in unintended ways. While poetic justice is rare and should be celebrated when it is encountered, Parler’s unintentional incrimination of some of it’s hate-filled user base should also pose a sober lesson for everyone. It’s clear that social media (and the internet) was meant to bring the world closer to together but it has, at the same time, driven a dangerous wedge into society. Ignorance, misinformation and hate spread just as quick as knowledge and compassion on the internet, and we just got bit by the sharp edge of this tool.
Later on in life, once I was old enough to appreciate it, my father told me that it was a constant struggle to not snatch tools from my hands if it looked like I might hurt myself. He knew I had to learn the hard way, but not necessarily at the cost of a finger or worse. Unfortunately, my dad isn’t around snatch this tool out of our careless hands, and it’s clear Twitter and Facebook’s “dads” aren’t keeping a watchful eye either. By allowing hate and lies to ferment online, social media usage played a direct role in creating one of the darkest days of American history and led to the loss of 5 lives. Seeing as this tool can’t be put down and another used, we must learn how to use it properly, safely and for constructive purpose.
Image by Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke from Pixabay