The internet – bless its heart – connects us in ways that are impossible (and, truth be told, unwanted) in offline culture. People have almost unlimited access to their friends, family, colleagues, competitors, consumers and superiors. We encounter new concepts, stories and opinions we wouldn’t otherwise. We learn things, collaborate, progress and communicate like previous generations could never have imagined in their wildest dreams… or nightmares, as often the case may be.
Online anonymity has built an internet culture of assholes. Even YouTube is considering requiring users to use their real names. If you’ve browsed the comment section of YouTube videos lately, you can understand why this is a prime example of anon assolism, and why a change to YouTube TOS would signify a serious shift web-wide. Guy Adams was recently suspended (and promptly reinstated) by Twitter for speaking negatively about NBC’s coverage of the Olympics. Reinstated rightfully so, in my humblest opinion.
The Internet has us more connected than the off-line world ever could. But for all the benefit of keeping in touch, being and communicating online also disconnects us in new ways.
When you’re talking to someone in person, you can look at them and get clues on things like whether they understand what you’re saying, whether they’re interested, whether they agree, whether they have questions… Conversational context clues are an inherent part of how humans communicate with each other.
More than that, the Internet allows us to connect and communicate with people we wouldn’t otherwise have reason or capability to meet, much less talk to off-line.
Hello double edged sword.
You can look up articles all day long about stranger danger on the Internet. That’s not what this is about. This is about human nature, being nice to each other, and not acting like huge assholes.
Even with close friends and family, there are a lot of times you don’t know what another person has been through, is dealing with, or is thinking about. Life is rough. You have to expect that people you meet are all fighting their own battles. I’m not trying to be fourth-grade guidance counselor about this, but seriously. Everyone’s situation is different. All the things that led up to the conversation that you’re having with someone, those are the things that make us different and make us individuals. Those are also the things that make us likely to be offended by something someone says, especially ones said without considering the audience, specifically on the Internet.
Every election, we see swarms of ignorance, fueled faster and more fiery as new platforms emerge and technology accelerates the back and forth. Whatever your politics or affiliations, everyone else is wrong.
So the current climate is ripe for debate, and we the people can take to our channels of choice to state our side for all to read and comment upon. Personally, I think, for democracy’s sake, this is supremely powerful shit.
In 10th grade, I refused to dissect a frog in Biology class. I later went pre-med and dug through all sorts of dead animals in college (worth noting). In highschool, however, my reason for opting out (and taking a decisive GPA hit, no less), was not of moral dilemma for the frog. Research is the heart of science and I’m no PETA. When something of value can be learned and applied to better the world, go for it. I refused to take part because, in highschool, students are required BY LAW to be there. They don’t choose to. They don’t, for the most part, care. Most highschool students forget half of what they’ve learned by college. People bounce frog eyeballs. Boys try to flirt over frog guts. It’s despicable, really. A bunch of kids cutting up creatures because someone decided that was enriching curriculum. I didn’t buy it and I still don’t.
Uninformed, uneducated voting is no better. Worse, actually, because it affects an entire country of people, not just one unfortunate frog.
The internet better equips us to make informed decisions, to help others understand our point of view, and theoretically, change minds, (should you be so persuasive).
Debate is a good thing. It brings the most important issues to the forefront, and makes both sides think thoroughly through their argument. Theoretically… Ideally… Debate can solve problems and resolve things.
But if the upcoming election isn’t enough to stir the social media pot in your network, you’ll be hardpressed not to notice some other current events. Ahem, Chick-Fil-A, ahem Aurora, etc.
Unfortunately, the Internet also makes it even easier to ignore the facts and avoid listening to opposing views. People are often so fired up by the time they post an opinion that God himself couldn’t change their minds (or convince them to read through the entire comment thread before chiming in). They say things to be funny. But sarcasm doesn’t alway work properly online. It’s easy to be brave when you’re facing a PC monitor or cell phone screen, and it’s easy to forget all the real faces reading your rant. It’s easy to think you’ve got the only right answer when no one is standing by to counter your point.
But before you put on your big boy pants and start berating people for things you know little about, think, would I do this in real life? No; the answer is usually no. I’m not saying don’t stand up for your beliefs. Shit, do that! Don’t stop doing that! Just be a little more thoughtful, a little more respectful, and a little more nice. Take it from a southern girl, charm gets you everywhere.