Thursday, April 5, 2012

Likes and Hearsay

Law schools annually try to teach a somewhat simple concept that becomes convoluted to poor little law students:  Hearsay.  Which is defined by the Federal Rules of Evidence as:  "statement, other than one made by the declarant while testifying at the trial or hearing, offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted."

Part of the difficulty in understanding the definition of hearsay has to come from poor sentence structure.  I am sure that grammarians who enjoy diagramming sentences find it a challenge.

Which should not be surprising given that evidence teachers have been giving exams and exercises of examples for students to determine whether a statement is hearsay or not.  To make matters even more confusing, the same statement could be hearsay, and might not be hearsay.

Basically a statement is hearsay if it is being given to prove the substance of the statement.  See below.

"John testified that George said, 'The pigs are blue'"

That statement might be hearsay or might not.  If John is testifying to provide evidence that the pigs are blue, then it's hearsay and can't be admitted.  Instead, the lawyers should get George on the stand who saw the blue pigs.  John's statement would be excluded.

If John's testimony is designed to prove that George is nuts, then the statement is admissible.  (Although, "nuts" has to be explained and determined by a series of expert witnesses who provide the foundation for what can be determined as "nuts"... but that's a whole other barrel of fun in the law)

Seems simple enough.

I was thinking about the various scenarios of hearsay this morning as I was thinking about "like"ing in Facebook.

So often we hit "like" not because we like the content of the statement - "Jimmy fell on his face and all he managed to break was an eyelash".  I'd like it because it made me laugh, but not because I like that Jimmy fell on his face. 

And that makes things complicated.  So, instead of clicking "like" we'll write convoluted statements like, "This is so wrong to like but man I cracked up!"

Or clarify that it made us laugh by something simple as "lol".

But I have noticed a pattern of friends liking all the comments to their Facebook statuses.  Despite the fact that it's election season, and so I should be suspicious of these things, I do NOT think it is a conspiracy to boost their own popularity (although, clearly, I acknowledge the possibility). 

It's one thing when you've done something great, and then everyone gives you encouragement in response to your status.  Those make sense to "like".  I've seen someone ask for a recommendation, and then seen the status poster like everyone's suggestion (except mine? What's wrong with suggesting cleaning out your toaster while it's still plugged in with a metal knife?).   I assume, sometimes, these are a way of saying "thank you for your suggestion".

And then there are times when I think we get stuck. We have started to like folks that if we don't continue liking everything in sight, we are afraid we might hurt someone. 

But the point is that I recognize that sometimes, when we hit "like" on Facebook, it isn't because we like the "truth of the matter asserted", but simply because we were amused or grateful or felt some other positive feeling and that was our only (lazy?) option to express it. 

Or, really, it is all just a popularity contest...

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