This is a common mistake made by participants in social-media pile-ons: They erroneously assume a person’s character and competence can—and ought to—be accurately judged by the most ill-advised words they post on social media. Rather than spend any time or effort investigating whether or not the offending remarks are actually reflective of typical behavior or indicative of work performance, they write articles in which they fixate on and amplify that worst moment while treating it as all one needs to know about a person.

That is irresponsible. Social media brings out the very worst in many people. Fixating on and amplifying their worst is a choice. Extrapolating from it is often inaccurate.

It’s not too much to expect that adults will have the maturity to recognize as much. Yet growing factions on the right and left routinely engage in this behavior. They fixate on and amplify the most polarizing words in our society, not only when doing so is unavoidable, or serves some constructive function despite its costs, but even when the words in question are uttered by an otherwise obscure person, like a Fresno State creative writing professor, and when the better course is simply ignoring the words. In this case, ignoring the tweets would’ve restricted them to a fleeting moment in the Twitter streams of a tiny number of people. No one would’ve thought about profane Barbara Bush insults ever again.