Is Facebook the new F-word? If a new study reported by Time and other news outlets is to be believed, Facebook and F-bombs are nearly synonymous. According to the study, more than 47% of Facebook users include profanities in their status updates. More than 80% had profanities among the comments on their posts. And the profanities aren’t strictly of the PG variety. Leading the way is, quoting Jean Shepherd’s A Christmas Story, “THE word, the big one, the Queen Mother of dirty words, the eff-dash-dash-dash word.”
As a Real Southern Man who has not only chastised friends for using the F-word in comments on his posts, but also unfriended habitual abusers, I found this statistic shocking. Surely this was just a Northern trend. Southerners don’t use public profanity, right? Right?
I searched but couldn’t find where the data was broken down geographically.
Of course, there’s always the possibility that my attitude toward public profanity is not Southern, but prudish. It seemed unlikely, though. My wife and I routinely have “cussing time” after the kids go to bed. Sure, it’s crude and reflects a poor command of the language, but sometimes it’s just plain cathartic. Plus, she and I are a producer and a director, respectively. Profanity is practically a job requirement.
However, I do have rules about cussing:
- Don’t cuss in public. Not only is it rude, but I wouldn’t want someone else’s kid to hear it. Other people’s kids are intolerable enough without having them spewing profanity during their temper tantrums.
- Don’t cuss in front of my parents … Or my friend’s parents. I’m 41 and should be over this one, but I’m not. It’s a respect thing. Plus, I don’t want to run the risk of being grounded.
- Don’t cuss in front of people I don’t know well. Again, respect. And what if they enjoy my command of profanity? Then I’ll feel pressured to be profanely “on” every time I’m around them. That’s exhausting. Look at what it did to Richard Pryor.
- Don’t cuss in front of good friends who don’t cuss. If they don’t want to say it, they surely don’t want to hear it from me. And I wouldn’t want to encourage them to take up the habit, because they’d probably screw it up. Nothing is worse than a cussing newbie.
- Don’t cuss in a work context. Come on, people. This one should be obvious. If you’re always cussing on the job, how can anyone tell when you’re having a breakdown? Save it for the right moment.
- Don’t cuss in front of my kids. Monkey see, monkey do. And no matter how smart or obedient the kid, they’re all monkeys on some level.
- Don’t cuss in my writing unless it really enhances character or mood. There are writers and performers who can elevate profanity to high art. (Samuel L. Jackson comes to mind.) I’m not one of them. Therefore, I use it sparingly in my writing. Even then, I keep it under an R rating. Besides, invented curse words are more fun. Flarbinbatch is my new favorite.*
The sum total of my rules means that I only cuss around a total of five people in my life. Maybe six. The times that I’ve violated that rule left me feeling like the lowest form of humanity. Once at a party I recounted how, following the extraction of my wisdom teeth and still feeling the effects of anesthesia, I busted out the F-bomb in front of my two-year-old daughter. In telling the story, I opted to use the actual word for effect. Those within earshot fell silent, their faces growing pale and their eyes darting about to locate the exits. They reacted as if I had served them unsweet tea or spoke ill of the memory of Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, both capital offenses in Alabama. I backed away slowly and avoided eye contact.
A closer look at the study on the site of its authors revealed what should surprise no one: news outlets are misreporting the facts. The study was conducted by a service called Reppler that purports to “keep your Facebook image clean and safe.” The study was not of all Facebook users, but of those who had availed themselves of Reppler’s services – about 30,000 at the time of the publication of the results.
This is troubling on so many levels. First, there is the issue of news outlets choosing to omit certain facts that make the story less sensational. (It may be time to rethink that First Amendment.) Secondly, it would seem those who use or welcome profanity on their walls would be the least likely to worry about their social image. Based on the data, however, the opposite is true.
Again, I could find nothing about geography. So, we took matters into our own hands and conducted a thoroughly unscientific survey of our own.
When asked whether Real Southern Men should use profanity in a public forum, a whopping 96% of responders chose either “A Real Southern Man doesn’t do that. Leave the F-bombs to the Yankees” or “I’m not a Real Southern Man, but I still think it’s a no-no.” The remaining four percent chose “I’m okay with it, but keep it strictly ‘PG.’” Not one responder chose the libertine option of “Anything goes, you #€^+&*!”
The answer is obvious: only Yankees use Reppler’s service.
What do you think? Are Reppler’s results skewed by geography? Or are they skewed because the type of people using their service are more likely to know their social image needs a little spiffing up?
Comment below … And please, keep it clean.
*Flarbinbatch ©Wayne Franklin, 2011. No unauthorized reproduction.