“People were rude and judgmental, not providing respectful discussion or criticism. I was going to clean up the comments but people were too rude and it was better to just wipe it from the earth.” This reply came from the administrator of a Facebook group when I asked what happened to the thread I was following. I was happy, actually, that someone was watching AND did something to stop the escalating spouting off.

I use it a lot, and I’m very aware of the downside to social media. Anonymity gives us courage. Abuse is inevitable, I guess, and teenage cyber bullying is breaking my heart. It’s unbelievable how easily we lose common courtesy when we’re not face-to-face. I know because I’ve fallen into that trap more than once. But really, how often have you called someone an ass or worse to their face? One adult generally doesn’t stoop to name-calling another adult in person. Except in Washington DC, or with the aid of alcohol.

Here’s the thing. My town has a FB group page where we get info about what’s going on. It’s especially great when you’re new in town. “I’m looking for a dentist who’s good with children.” “Where can I find a good dog park?” OR “My bike was stolen yesterday, please be on the lookout (posted with pic).

I get lots of valuable information from this group and occasionally read through 50 comments before I give up. Not only because it’s interesting and educational, but I’m dumbfounded that so many have so much to say, over and over and over again. Everybody’s got an opinion. I get it. It’s fun to chime in.

My latest example. A man and young son were riding in the bike lane on one of our busiest streets. Ahead of them was a UPS truck parked in the lane and across the sidewalk, blocking both. His mind, perhaps, was thinking only of his son’s safety in having to veer out into the road to pass. He posted a photo of the truck and all hell broke loose. No cyber punches were thrown, but you know what I mean.

A small sampling of comments: “The UPS guy is just doing his job. Leave him alone.” Then, lengthy debate on where else he could have parked and still keep up that UPS pace. “Stop, wait, and teach your son about patience and safety.” This was followed by speculation on how long the driver would be there. “Why are you letting your kid ride his bike on such a busy street?” “What are you doing taking a picture while you’re riding your bike? “UPS sucks.” Opinions were all over the place, and I spent 30 minutes slogging through most.

Then I thought of the dad and how much he probably regretted posting his anger on FB that day. Because I don’t know him, I will assume he was merely worried about his son and so focused on safety he wasn’t thinking clearly. I’ve been there many times before. Fear shuts my brain down. He’s probably not the “jerk” comments would suggest. Other perspectives than my own are usually welcome, but rudeness and name calling aren’t required to air your point of view.

I suppose this all toughens us up a bit. Now you know ahead of time that when you post a complaint, 1/3 of the commenters will think you’re nuts, 1/3 will call you a hero, and 1/3 will have constructive feedback that you can grab.

Coming across a block in the bike lane wouldn’t be an issue for me, but I do have other “burrs in my saddle” that trigger emotional rants. Mostly in my head, though.

Weeded out this week: The urge to quick judge rears its ugly head…once again. I have no idea what this man’s life is like or what he was thinking. A book is seldom about what’s on the cover. Judging his behavior by a single incident is cruel and yet, that doesn’t stop us — me — from giving my two cents. Social media provides a juicy carrot that can still draw me in, despite my good intentions.