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January 23, 2017

Ask Hickey: Don't buy someone's kid a toy gun because of a Facebook beef, folks

Ask Hickey: From family Facebook battles to a call for positive story pitches

Got something you want to ask? Send me your questions through FacebookTwitter or email (with "Ask Hickey" in the subject line). Your anonymity is guaranteed — if that’s how you want it — so feel free to send them via private/direct message.


And now, this week’s questions...

Family feud

During the election, my brother and sister-in-law came out as big Trump supporters.

They blocked me from the pro-Trump posts they made on Facebook, but my husband could see them. After the election, my sister-in-law engaged on a Facebook post my husband made about the election and how he and [we] won't stand for bigotry, etc. She came across less than great and dropped terms like "all lives matter."

Later that day, [she] and my brother unfriended us on all social media (I took it one step further and just blocked them). My cousin, this week, sent me this screen cap of my sister-in-law regretting her diehard fan-girl way.

Should I do anything? Gloating, I know, isn't going to make the election results any better. Or simply pretend I never saw it?

P.S. She also sent my kid a fake handgun for his birthday this month knowing I hate gun toys. (B.D., via Facebook inbox)

These are surely amongst the most divisive times I can remember in the social-media era. I blame the hot dog/sandwich and blue-and-black/white-and-gold dress wars of yesteryear for establishing a baseline acceptance of perpetual conflict.

(No and blue-and-black are the correct answers. Don’t @ me.)

In any event, what this past year’s election cycle has taught us is even the closest of relationships can be torn asunder amid an election that seemed less about casting ballots for candidates and more about defining the moral direction of America.

We’ve all faced conflicts amid our family and friends’ circles. Our better angels most assuredly wish we’d all go the bygones route. That’s easier said than done.

I’ve muted and blocked a handful of folks on my personal accounts. They’ve likely muted and blocked me because of those high-powered disagreements. I wish it hadn’t come to that. But whatever. We all just can’t get along, after all.

Unfriending and blocking is one thing – well, two things – but you probably don’t want to disown blood relatives. It was nice of your cousin to sneakily send that along. Otherwise, you may not have ever known.

Still, I advise you to just pretend you never even saw it. It’d be crass to gloat about having caused – whether accurately or not – her change of heart.

Avoid them online; don’t unblock – prior to a discussion – about why you blocked in the first place.

Be cordial in person.

Oh yeah, forgive, but never forget, that douchebag move to give your kid a toy gun. That s--- is over the top (even if, despite hating gun toys myself, my lad and I have had some epic battles with the Nerf guns a relative bought him for Christmas.)

Egregious grammar gaffes

Which is the more grievous grammar mistake: "should of" instead of "should have" or improper apostrophes (as in: banana's for sale)? (F.M., via Twitter)

Ugh. Both of them are heinous.

However, the whole “should of” thing is less heinous because it can be used as a social-media shtick to imply that you know you’re sending a seriously silly message while sending a silly message. For example:

See? When you can weaponize a common grammatical mistake in pursuit of an "I'm not really saying this seriously" mechanism, it takes some of the sting of outright-mistaken use away.

Now, those misplaced apostrophes, sweet Lord Jesus, they are reprehensible. There’s nothing whimsical about them. They are an assault on all that is good in the world. Jen Reardon, our copy editor at PhillyVoice, agrees with me on this, I’ll have you know. To wit:

“The improper apostrophe thing that really gets me is when you see signs that people hang on their front doors or in their front yards that say something like ‘Welcome to the Reardon’s.’ I just want to take a pen and cross the apostrophe out.”

She totally should of last time she saw one, if you ask me.

Down with misplaced apostrophes! Viva la revolution!

Send your positive story pitches here!

These tenuous times make stories with a positive hook all the more important. I really enjoyed writing a story about Brennon Jones, the West Philadelphia man who has set out on a year-long mission to provide haircuts for the homeless in the city and beyond. How can I find more of these? (Brian Hickey, via brain)

Well, Brian, one way to go about doing that is to just continue to keep looking for them as you always have.

Another way is to use your "Ask Hickey" column to put out a call for readers to share their stories of positivity with you so you can further report on those that you want to share with a broader audience, like you did with Jones’.

To that end, let your readers know that they can reach you via FacebookTwitter or email with “Positive Story Pitch” in the subject line.