These days, it seems, some people only read headlines before reacting. I suppose it always happened, but social media means the response is right there for everybody to see. Sometimes they get entirely the wrong end of the stick.
A while back I published a piece on the early 1950s sex scandal at the Elbe Milk Bar in Lower Hutt, New Zealand – allegedly a gathering place for teenagers to form trysts. I couldn’t get out-of-copyright pictures of the place and instead, as hero image, used a generic picture of a period milk-bar that sold Elbe brand ice-cream. I made sure it was clearly labelled so nobody would mistake it for the actual Elbe milk bar.
When I promoted the article on Facebook, their system used that image with a few words from the blog post referring to the Elbe. And somebody shortly ‘corrected’ me. The milk bar in the image Facebook had published wasn’t the Elbe. I had used a wrong picture and therefore didn’t know where the Elbe Milk Bar had been.
Well, quite. Actually, my correspondent obviously hadn’t read the article. I responded by suggesting he read it. The milk-bar, as it happens, was on the site of what is now a restaurant – 98 High Street, Lower Hutt – and my idea for the post was triggered when I walked past the site one day. Inevitably it got me thinking of the scandal, which I’d written in to my general history of New Zealand back in 2004. It had national repercussions – there was a formal government investigation, and the enquiry’s report was sent to every household, lest New Zealand suffer a general moral collapse.
I mention this as just one example. I’m sure that this phenomenon of readers triggering their comments from a summary headline, or finding ‘error’ in something presented without the context of the full article, happens to everybody who posts online and promotes it in summary – it’s not just restricted to the things I do.
However, I also figure that if somebody is going to remark on something, it seems reasonable that they should first learn about what they are commenting on, before publishing their opinion. Drive-by comments just aren’t up to the mark.
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2019