We are becoming increasingly disturbed by the tone of comments we see on social media.
Because we live here and we know the folks who make Prince William County their home, we are sometimes surprised at the incivility that appears in our newsfeeds. We know that folks would never say in person the things they say online.
After reading straightforward police reports, some rush to condemn the accused -- and even the victims -- when investigations are just beginning. Before all the facts can be gathered, the wave of comments crests, surmising about the perpetrators’ “real” motives or the perceived honesty of the victims. For good reason, our police departments release limited information; we must resist the urge to fill in the gaps.
Online bullying is a thing, and not just among teenagers.
This newspaper and its employees are shouted at (in all caps) on social media as being tools of the liberal left -- or sometimes, of the conservative right. Not every issue is partisan, but local concerns are twisted into battles between ideological combatants and the newspaper is frequently accused of favoring one side.
Sometimes, of course, we make a mistake. We spell a name wrong or misstate a fact. A quick phone call, email or text from you allows us to quickly adjust the online article; we are grateful for that assistance.
And we have had many respectful conversations with readers who disagree with the substance of an article or editorial stance.
But often, instead of a request to correct the record, we learn about the error through hyperbolic Facebook comments and angry emails, complete with accusations of bias and deliberate deception.
Social media is wonderful for so many reasons. Let’s use it as the tool it is, and not a weapon.
A good rule to follow: if you wouldn’t say it face-to-face, don’t say it online.