Wise Guys on WHO Radio - July 19, 2014

Brian Gongol

The WHO Radio Wise Guys airs on WHO Radio in Des Moines, Iowa on 1040 AM or streaming online at WHORadio.com. The show airs from 1 to 2 pm Central Time on Saturday afternoons. A podcast of show highlights is also available. Leave comments and questions on the Wise Guys Facebook page or e-mail them to wiseguys@whoradio.com.

Please note: These show notes may be in various stages of completion -- ranging from brainstormed notes through to well-polished monologues. Please excuse anything that may seem rough around the edges, as it may only be a first draft of a thought and not be fully representative of what was said on the air.

A plea to end grief voyeurism

Summer is supposed to be a happy, carefree time of year. So why have my Facebook friends been populating my news feed with such downers lately? I won't link to the stories here out of principle, but just in the last week, I've seen a tear-jerker story about a family documenting the day they put down their dog and a man who asked for volunteers to Photoshop the tubes out of a picture of his deceased infant child.

Either of those stories (and plenty of others) absolutely have a place online, but I worry about the rise of grief voyeurism. Those are the kinds of stories you might want to read when you're going through a similar experience and are looking for meaning or context. But to read -- and share -- a story like that on an otherwise perfectly nice summer day? That's voyeurism into someone else's grief and pain.

And that's one of the troubles of Facebook...we mindlessly troll through the news feed and take whatever feelings come along. It's not a deliberate act on our part -- even if it's an experience the hackers at Facebook are capable of programming and manipulating, as we've seen lately. Human emotions can be fragile, and surrendering control of those emotions just because someone clicked "Share" isn't good for one's mental health.

This week, I traveled past two towns that have been devastated by tornadoes in the last couple of months -- Beaver Crossing and Pilger, Nebraska. I stopped in neither. Of course I was curious about the state of each community, but there was no reason to be a disaster tourist. I saw some of the damage in each place from the nearby highway, and that was enough to remind me of the misfortune of the people living there and the importance of valuing my own good fortune. Any more -- like driving into town and circling around from block to block -- and I could easily have been dumpster-diving into an experience of other people's pain for no real reason. But it's that vicarious/voyeuristic experience of other people's pain to which I think people are succumbing much too easily thanks to the Internet's social-media sharing complex. And it's insidious because the sites and apps profit from engaging people -- and if that means dipping into grief, then they are not opposed.

Of course, it's not just the social-media sites that exploit this can't-turn-away-from-the-sadness phenomenon -- news outlets are shameless about it, especially with events like the airliner disaster in Ukraine. But that doesn't mean we should fall for it.

Words that (90% of the time) signal someone who doesn't know anything real

It's wonderful that communication technologies allow us to interact with one another in a relatively frictionless manner. But there's a whole class of people who want to free-ride on the development of technology (which is hard work) by using a vocabulary that makes them sound as though they know mystical things: Please: Let's have less goofy language used to masquerade as specialized knowledge, and more people who know how to code or do other technical things.

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