Relax

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One of those all-too-common unfortunate errors of our digital age occurred last week when Esquire’s online site erroneously placed this horrific 9/11 photo known as “The Falling Man” next to a story titled “Making Your Morning Commute More Stylish”.

Stop laughing.

Esquire then made matters worse, according to the social media police, by posting this tweet in response to complaints:

“Relax, everybody. There was a stupid technical glitch on our “Falling Man” story and it was fixed asap. We’re sorry for the confusion.”

Apparently the use of the word “relax” triggered more outrage according to PR News, since the use of that word “is not really a good tactic when you are in apology mode.”

PR News then goes on to make the case first encountered by emailers back in the day that carries over onto the social networks: humor, snark, irony – whatever you want to call it – does not always translate in these restrictive formats. For every person that “gets it”, there are apparently three who do not. That hypothetical 3-to-1 ratio creates a backlash that goes full-speed into the social media cycle until, mercifully, the next “crisis” in communicating comes along.

The photo of “The Falling Man” was taken by Richard Drew for the Associated Press. The story in Esquire of the same name (written by Tom Junod) was originally published in 2003 (and reprinted last week). The image and the words – when placed correctly – are a haunting reminder of a terrible day in American history. The error – and its backlash – have probably led more people to actually read this piece and recall the fate of as many as 7 to 8 percent of the World Trade Center 9/11 victims whose only way out of the burning, about-to-collapse 110-story building was to jump.

I don’t think anyone who may have initially laughed at this error – or the concept of a man falling from a building next to a story about commuting – is a bad person. In fact, they probably are no stranger to a hellacious commute, one that forces you to develop a tough exterior and a sense of humor. I’ve been there. Relax. That’s why I now work from home.

Photo by Richard Drew for Associated Press.