Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Be Careful Of The Like

You click on the 'like' icon on some Facebook post to let your friend know you saw the post. Or you click on the icon because you are expressing your approval of what's been said.

Be careful what you like. You could face an investigation into your Facebook likes.

Maybe you shouldn't like this

Some teachers at Hinsdale High School in Chicago's western suburbs indicated that they "liked" a post about contracts talks on their union's page. The teachers and their union are agitating for more money, as happens every few years when it's time to negotiate a new contract, and the administration of the school is particularly sensitive to public discussions.

As often happens with posts that are just links to posts found elsewhere, there was a little extraneous content that showed up on the page. Unfortunate for the liking teachers that the link included an image from another story on the source website. Extremely unfortunate that the other story dealt with a bizarre traffic accident in which a car ended up with an axe impaled in the windshield.

School board members, who represent the taxpayers in negotiations with the teacher's union, saw the post or were told about the post. Some of them assumed that the teachers who "liked" the post were actually approving of the image, which reminded them of a scene from some teen slasher movie. In other words, they jumped to the conclusion that the teacher's union was advocating violence and seventeen of Hinsdale's teachers were giving violence a thumb's up.

And what do people do when they presume others are threatening bodily harm? They launched a police investigation and filed complaints and promptly informed the seventeen teachers that they were under investigation.

And what happened at the school board meeting when the taxpayers heard the board's reasons for opening an investigation?

Laughter, as you'd expect.

The board members were largely ignorant of Facebook and how it works. They didn't know about links and likes or what any of it means, and their outrage was met with derision by parents who are very much aware of what Facebook is all about because their kids spend most of their time on Facebook.

Needless to say, the objects of ridicule didn't think it was so funny. In fact, board President Richard Skoda took umbrage at the audience, berating them for laughing at such threats of violence. He only made himself look that much more out of touch.

The school's superintendent has ended the investigation before it really got started, but quietly, to avoid further harm to an out-of-touch school board that wanted to appear tough but came off looking like a herd of dinosaurs stumbling through a landscape that is changing too fast for them to keep pace.

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