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Flamed on Facebook

Sandi Falconer

Surely my fellow Newfoundlanders wouldn’t be so quick to judge? Boy was I wrong, Marie Wadden writes

Facts & Arguments is a daily personal piece submitted by readers. Have a story to tell? See our guidelines at tgam.ca/essayguide.

“It’s winter in Canada!! Suck it up princess!”

“Sounds like she’s just another self-entitled moron.”

“I hope this lady reads all these comments.”

What had I done to earn all this Facebook hate?

In mid-January I slipped on the steep steps of a St. John’s home where I’d been invited to attend a meeting. On the way back to my car, my feet went out from under me and the keys flew from my hands. Wooomp! The wide stone step made an imprint on my lower back.

At the hospital, WiFi gave me something to do during the 10 hours I waited for an X-ray. On Facebook, I described the busy scene at the emergency department, which was filled with people like me who had fallen victim to the freeze and thaw cycle of a St. John’s winter.

I vented my anger over what I considered my hosts’ callous disregard for their guests’ safety, and concluded that I was feeling litigious. Severe pain will do that to you, especially in the hours between 6 p.m. and 5 a.m. Then CBC Radio and CBC online picked up the story and ran a Facebook poll asking, “Would you seek legal action if you slipped on someone’s icy steps?” Most of the 334 respondents said no.

Not only did they disagree, they were surprisingly nasty.

“Guess she won’t be getting any more invites anywhere.”

“To be fair she looks like someone I’d never invite over anyway. And I’m really not that fussy!”

“Grow up! You don’t sue your friends!”

My teenage daughter was the first to notice the response and tried to shield me from it. But I wanted to see what people were saying. I had nothing better to do since I was laid up at home on painkillers, every twist and turn driving sharp pain down my leg.

The reaction surprised me. Wasn’t I the victim in all this?

The painkillers couldn’t soothe the hurt from comments like these:

“I think you are looking for a quick buck, and you call yourself a friend. So glad you are not my friend.”

“Give her a warm bottle of milk and her blankey, put her in the crib and let her sleep it off.”

Beside each comment were photos of the people I came to think of as my virtual lynch mob.

I found myself “creeping” them. Surely they weren’t local. Maybe Trump supporters? My fellow Newfoundlanders are kind and compassionate, aren’t they? Not so quick to judge?

“I don’t know how people like this sleep at night … running to the news, threatening to sue over slipping on ice? She herself said there were no serious injuries. Get over yourself.”

Most of my detractors were women.

“If she noticed that the stairs were dangerously slippery, why didn’t she just refuse to enter? That’s like saying I saw a shark in the water. … Now I have a shark bite and I want to sue even though I was aware of the dangers.”

“Only a snake would sue over this, a money-hungry snake.”

“If you knew the stairs where slippery, and knew they did nothing about it, why not take your time down the steps.”

I don’t know what I was thinking when I went back down those steps. Did I think the steps had been salted after I drew the homeowners’ attention to the problem?

It was only after I’d made my first tentative steps that I realized the danger I was in, especially since there was no rail to hold on to.

I wrote that I’d only sue if I was left with injuries that impaired my mobility, but the mob ignored this. Lucky for me, once the pain subsided (created by swelling pressing on nerves in my lumbar spine), I was fine and able to return to the winter activities I enjoy, such as skating and skiing.

“People are out there fighting for their lives and you get a couple bruises and talk about taking legal action … Anything to get on the news these days.”

I didn’t seek the media attention. Facebook users beware.

Reporters are reading our posts and you’re a bulls eye if you have any kind of topical story to tell. The day I made the news, slipping and falling on ice was the top story.

“This is ridiculous! She should be ashamed of herself. I know one thing for sure, I’d never invite her back to my place ever again!”

“Next time, bring your own salt.”

The homeowners I was visiting have been pretty silent about all this. Maybe they feel aggrieved, too, but at least they haven’t been shamed in public because I never mentioned them by name.

“What a great way to lose friends.”

“I bet she’s fun at parties.”

“Grow up, what a joke.”

The few who supported my point of view were drowned out by the derision.

One wrote: “Moral of the story: Have the decency to salt and sand, unless you don’t want visitors until spring. It’s the owner’s responsibility to make sure your steps are safe.”

There’s another moral to the story. Be careful what you put on Facebook.

Not everyone is your friend. In fact, there are a lot of people who don’t want to be your friend. They’d like to make fun of you, and heap scorn – especially, it seems, if you’ve taken a fall.

Marie Wadden lives in St. John’s, Nfld.