It’s 2017. The world today is very different than the one I or my parents grew up in. Hours spent playing cards, hide and go seek, and baseball have gone the way of the dinosaurs. Those activities have been replaced by our obsession with any one of a myriad of electronic devices.
Now, it’s certainly not the electronic devices themselves that have captivated the human experience. Rather, it’s the social media platforms contained therein. And, fortunately or unfortunately depending on your perspective, once the individual reaches these platforms they can often live their lives through that media. Had a good day? You tell everyone. Had a bad day? You tell everyone. Frustrated or angered about a sports, political, or work related issue? You run to your phone and tell everyone your opinion.
I get it. It wouldn’t be my choice, but, everyone has a voice on everything now, so why not use it?
That said, the question we have to ask ourselves is, does the instant access to the entire world mesh with our makeup as human beings? To put a finer point on it, are we detached from our emotions enough to know, in that moment, whether saying this to the entire world or to the person we just had an argument with is a good idea?
Look at it this way, until around the mid to late 90s, the only way to talk to someone was to talk to them in person, call them on the phone or send them a letter. With all of those platforms one of two dynamics were always in play. Either you had a cooling off period as you wrote and before you mailed the letter. Or, if you decided to call or confront them in person in the heat of the moment, it wasn’t recorded.
So, now that the stage is set, why are we talking about text messages, emails, and social media on a legal blog? The answer is pretty simple. Those platforms have eliminated any cooling off period and they keep note. Immediately, accurately and forever. And, given the human condition to make poor decisions when in an elevated emotional state, that is a recipe for disaster.
Reason being, nearly every criminal case these days that involves human interaction, which is most cases, is going to revolve around these messages and statements. That means a jury of twelve is going to parse every word you typed in determining what you meant when you typed what you typed. Every attorney is going to do the same. And, in the end, the jury’s view on what THEY think you meant when you said what you said is going to carry the day. Whether you meant that or not.
As a result, and this is important, my advice to you is to use messenger and social media responsibly. When you are angry or irritated have your significant other hide the battery. Then, you personally lower your phone down the deepest well in your neighborhood until you’ve calmed down. Sound good?
Obviously….that’s a bit dramatic. But, the point remains the same. Any device that allows you to communicate with others in an instant and permanent manner is a dangerous device to have within arm’s length when you are angry. It’s just the human condition.