'Matter of Laugh or Death,' a humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
TIGER LEARNS PAINFUL DIGITAL LESSON
OK, kids, once again it’s time for Professor Bill to offer a lesson about the perils of digital communication here in the 21st century. The reason we need to address this topic yet again is our close friend Tiger Woods. (Although we consider Mr. Woods our close friend—in a completely impersonal, celebrity, I-saw-him-on-TV sort of way—based on the shear volume of young ladies who continue to emerge from the woodwork, to a lot of folks ol’ Tiger is truly a close, close, CLOSE friend.)
As we’ve learned in recent weeks, Tiger’s downfall was caused by an incriminating trail of text messages and voice mails. Well, actually, Tiger’s downfall was caused by his complete lack of character and his mocking of his marriage vows to the point that even Hugh Hefner said, “Whoa, dude, take a break.”
Now, of course, I don’t need to say it—but I’d better say it anyway—I am in no way condoning Tiger’s behavior, nor am I offering tips on how to commit adultery and not get caught. As I always say, the best way to avoid having six billion people around the world gawk at your personal moral failings is to avoid having seventeen mistresses in the first place. No, wait. I mean, the best way to stay out of trouble is don’t do something wrong in the first place.
However, the crude and X-rated voice mails and text messages Tiger sent to his various girlfriends make it rather clear that the most disciplined golfer in the world is not quite as disciplined when it comes to being faithful to his wife. Tiger is in a heap of trouble, and he would be even if he never left behind any digital evidence of his infidelities. (One suspects the next bombshell to emerge in this saga will be a widely scattered brood of little tiger cubs, whose DNA will be equally airtight digital evidence.) Tiger’s humiliation is all the more painful and public because he committed the exact same blunder often committed by countless other people: he thought voice mails and text messages were fleeting. (Right, Alec Baldwin?)
Many people make this mistake. They think if they leave someone a voice message or send a text message or email, it’s the same thing as whispering to someone in private. You say it, they hear it, and the words are instantly a memory. It just doesn’t work that way in the digital world. When you communicate using any number of electronic methods—voice mail, text messaging, email, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, chat rooms, carrier pigeons, etc.—your message potentially will be recorded forever and copied and distributed a zillion times.
One hundred years from now in the 22nd century, long after Tiger and all of us are gone, his startling voice message to one of his girlfriends, “Hey, it’s, uh, it’s Tiger….can you, uh, take your name off your phone? My wife went thru my phone, and, uh, she may be calling you,” will be available to a generation that hasn’t even been born yet. (I suspect they’ll be able to retrieve the sound bite using some form of Google and microchips embedded in their heads.)
It doesn’t have to be gross moral failings either. For example, sarcastic comments at the end of brief business emails can take on a life of their own. (Why are you looking at me?) So let’s all learn to zip it. (Multiple meanings intended.) If you wouldn’t want your mom—or six billion people around the world—to see your message, then don’t send it. OK, class dismissed.
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