Imagine, if you will, chatting with a group of strangers. You bare your soul, and this is how they respond.

A: I lost my mom to COVID.


A: I’m going to run for office.


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A: One way we can help our community is by wearing masks.


If you’re on Facebook, you know immediately what I’m talking about. If there’s anything that destroys a sense of camaraderie, of community, of good will, it’s the obnoxious laughing emoji and the people who throw them like grenades.

In person, it’s boorish behavior to bray open-mouthed into someone’s face like a donkey. But online, Facebook says, hey, it’s fine.

If someone did that to you in person, honestly, wouldn’t you be tempted to sock them in the nose? After hearing congressional testimony that Facebook has consistently chosen profits over community, I would not be surprised if it’s intended to affect you that way. They want to provoke strong emotions to keep you engaged, even in a negative way. They want to raise the stakes so you feel you have to keep coming back and responding. They are terrified of people using their time to do non-Facebook things.

It’s one thing if the laughing emoji were designed differently, if it looked less like it was laughing at you and more like it was laughing with you.

But its eyes are squinched shut like the user doesn’t want to look at you, like YOU don’t matter. The only thing that matters is that you have said something so foolish, so dumb, that the person writes you off as a worthless piece of garbage, good only for a laugh.

You see it over and over on Facebook, especially about the pandemic or politics.

I saw someone online actually bray at a Fergus Falls dad whose child was on oxygen because of COVID. Whenever the Echo Press posts a news story about COVID cases or deaths, you can be sure there’s some smug thinks-he-knows-it-all human who will laugh at us benighted blockheads who actually have been snookered into getting the vaccine or wearing masks. Running for office? Call out the laughing hit squad!

Of course, those smug know-it-alls are the ones rolling on hospital gurneys on their way to getting intubated — or worse. At least four conservative, anti-vaxx radio hosts died of the virus in August: Phil Valentine and Jimmy DeYoung, both in Tennessee, and Marc Bernier and Dick Farrel, both of Florida.

I could end up with something smug here, like he who laughs last laughs best, but honestly, the situation sucks and I don’t feel like laughing. I don’t want anyone to struggle to breathe in an ICU. I don’t want cancer patients to be turned away from the hospitals because the hospitals are too full of COVID patients.

And until Facebook changes its laughing emoji, please stop using it.

Unless someone intentionally tells a joke.

Then, bray away. They’ll appreciate it.

“It’s Our Turn” is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.