I’ll stand down by the door
And catch the grey men when they dive
From the 14th floor.
—Steely Dan, “Black Friday”
It hit me today—minutes ago, in fact—while reading with disdain yet another story about lunatic behavior by Black Friday shoppers:
I might be part of the problem.
To clarify, I am not one of those brave (or foolhardy, take your pick) souls who venture onto the retail battlefield the day after Thanksgiving. While I appreciate a good deal as much as anyone, no discount is worth the stress of heavy traffic, frantic crowds and ill tempers. My family needs no gift so badly that I must risk life, limb and/or pride to get it.
And then, speaking of pride….
I was perusing various online news and social media sites, deliberately looking for stories of Black Friday chaos, growing comfortably smug. As I tsk-tsk’d a piece on two women whose clash involved a Taser, suddenly I realized that I was feeding this misguided feast.
The more that people like me seek out these things, the more it will be highlighted on social media as in-store stampedes are documented on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
One could argue, I suppose, that using social media to lay bare these appalling examples of human behavior serves a noble purpose—awareness can spawn positive action. And make no mistake, there are countless examples of this happening.
But for every politician caught behaving badly on Facebook, there are thousands of instances where the worst behaviors are displayed merely for the amusement of, and ridicule by, those who aren’t interested in participating in positive change.
Every form of communication, including social media, places a level of responsibility upon those involved. The interactive nature of the online world is still sorting this out. The lesson I learned today is to be more discerning of what I consume in cyberspace—and humbly remember that there, but for the grace of God, go I.
I don’t expect these learnings will change the Internet. But I hope they change me.