My husband likes to post on Facebook. During 2020, it became an outlet to share information or lament the political landscape. It all seemed harmless given his Facebook friends share his views and enjoy his posts. However, social media posting can be a slippery slide when you least expect it as my husband unfortunately discovered.
After attending a virtual event for a friend, I shared with him that a number of people on the call had received the COVID vaccine and I didn’t believe they met the CDC criteria. We had talked a lot about this at home given the systematic problems plaguing the rollout of vaccines. Specifically, we had been discussing how so many seniors and people with medical conditions have not been able to get the vaccine while others, including some of our friends and their children have jumped to the front of the line.
We know of one person whose family member works at a hospital and was able to secure vaccination appointments for other members of her family who are not eligible at this point in time. We know of another person who fudged what he does for a living so he could get a shot.
This moral and ethical dilemma is very upsetting to my husband as I’m sure it is to many. Not having a platform to reach the masses, he took to Facebook to vent. He called what’s happening “white privilege” and suggested people in minority communities did not have the same advantages.
You might be saying well, he’s right. There have been published articles and interviews suggesting the same, so what’s the big deal?
The big deal is that people at the event saw his post and were offended. A few were outright furious and then turned on me because I shared what was said with him. Because he wasn’t part of the virtual event, he repeated his interpretation of what I told him in a post. That’s like listening in on someone’s private phone call without their knowledge and then telling others what you heard.
In this case, it turns out that some of the people who were vaccinated work in doctors’ offices and others drove distances to locations that did not have age or other restrictions. Someone else resented his use of the term “white privilege”.
Whatever you want to call it, my husband’s intent, whether appropriate or not was to point out the inequities of trying to get the vaccine. According to a CNN report, analysis of data from 14 states showed that vaccine coverage is twice as high among white people on average than it is among black and Latino people.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, black, Latino and Native Americans have disproportionately been hospitalized and died from the virus. Health experts say that disparity has been linked to access to quality healthcare, vaccine acceptance and whether people have easy access to distribution sites. That has led President Biden to prioritize putting federally supported vaccination centers in high-risk neighborhoods to give people easier access.
Back to my husband. When he realized he offended people, he took down the post and made some phone calls to apologize to those who appeared most offended. I believe there is an important lesson to be learned.
It’s about gossip. You can’t take gossip back. You can take a Facebook post down.
Whether you’re gossiping or posting on social media, I want to believe most people are not acting with any ill-intent. Sometimes we don’t realize that our words may be offensive or misunderstood. Sometimes, we’re frustrated at a situation and just don’t think things through.
Before you blow up at what seems to be gossip or a social media post you don’t like, ask yourself this question. Why did he or she say this in the first place? Were they being malicious or trying to cause trouble? Or did they say something without understanding the full context of what they were repeating? Then, look at yourself in the mirror before you jump all over others.
In this case, writing about what happened is my outlet, but I have also learned a lesson. Before I submit this column to my editor who will post it for thousands to see, I’m sending it to my husband to ask permission and make sure I’m not turning something private into something public.