The recent TwitterJokeTrial really got me thinking about the way we interpret the written word, and how that interpreation affects our actions. To bring you up to speed if your not aware, Paul Chambers, made a joke on Twitter about blowing up Robin Hood airport (the irony that Robin Hood was in actual fact, a terrorist still makes me giggle). It was a harmless, bit of fun poking at the inconvenience caused to him by the airport being closed. Well, that’s how most people with an ounce of common sense would take it.
However, the airport got wind of this, then the police did, then the courts did, and eventually he was found guilty of “sending a menacing electonic message”. Muppets. It was a blatant joke, a joke that most people would have not even cared about. I mean lets face it, if i am going to blow up your airport, i am not going to tell you (and the rest of the world) over a social network.
Any how, I’ll avoid a massive rant about the dire situation that exists in this country regarding politcal correctness, moron’s in power and the combination of the two.
My point is that since the written word was invented, i wonder how many bloody problems it’s caused.
It’s that wonderful lack of tone you get from a verbal communication, when i speak to you, i set the tone, mainly using my body language, vocal levels and facial expressions. When i send you an email/text/tweet etc, you set the tone. This is where things can go tit’s up.
In various social situations where this has happened, it appears that most people i know seem to automatically assign the worst “tone” when reading words on a screen, even more so if they are in a bad mood, stressed etc.
An example, the wonderful exclamation mark. Take the following;
“I can’t believe you did that!!!”
When you read that, did you assign an aggressive tone to those words? Did the three exclamation marks make you think i was angry, and if you know my voice, did you “hear” me shouting when you read it? If you answered yes to the above then wahay! It means that i might be making a bit of sense and not talking bollocks (as occasionally i am prone to doing).
Now, what if i added a few extra characters;
“HA HA HA! I can’t believe you did that!!!”
What do you hear this time? Do you still assign that agressive tone to my voice when you read it out aloud? Or this time (i hope…) you might of imagined me laughing, expressing disbelief in what you have just done, but i think the introduction of the HA HA HA really changes the way you interpret the message.
I find it really interesting to see just how difficult it is to display humor, sarcasm or sadness in the written word, i imagine that’s why people invented smileys! I’ve seen it in the workplace so many times I’ve lost count – all it takes is the omission of a couple of characters (in this case HA HA HA) and you have completely changed the way in which your reader will view your message.
I’ve seen people get a subtle telling off for an email they have sent, that in their eyes was completely harmless and light hearted. I’ve also seen couples fall into a spiral of fighting and hatred, all because the fella forgot to put in a couple of kisses at the end.
Related back to the Twitter incident, it makes we wonder how many people read that message and assigned the voice of a crazed mad-man screaming at the top of voice running towards an airport covered in C4… perhaps the people that thought it was a genuine threat were having a crap day and thus made that negative assignment.
It made me realise how important it is to double check and then check again the words we write on the internet. To us, it could be a harmless jest at a friend, to others, a hateful remark.
I wonder if this story/trial would have got any traction if he had started his tweet with “HA HA HA”….