Emboldened By The Internet

One thing that has never ceased to amaze me is the way the Internet has shaped the way people interact with each other – and frankly, sometimes it’s not such a good thing.

Since the advent of the web, people can communicate in a way we never would have thought possible thirty years ago.  When I was a kid?  You discussed things with people in one of three ways:  in person, over the phone, and via mail (by that archaic tool known as the written “letter”).   When communicating in one of the first two fashions, it was — and still is — difficult to be misconstrued in what point you’re trying to make.  You have the benefit of tone in your voice for one (Ever try to convey sarcasm in writing?  It’s a lot harder than you’d think).  Mannerisms when speaking say a lot as well.  Plus, it’s a lot easier to correct yourself — or to clarify your words — when speaking directly.  While letter writing, obviously, doesn’t have those advantages, the lengthier process of compiling something on paper allows the mind to work at a slower pace — and helps the writer to choose his words more carefully and avoid something they’ll regret.

In addition, if you’re communicating by one of the three methods above, you probably already know the person pretty well, or at least you should if you’re steering away from generalities and using the conversation to make personal comments about another — unless of course, you’re trying to analyze the personality traits of the customer service representative from the credit card company you’re talking to, in which case you probably won’t want to read the rest of this entry.  (Oops — scratch that last statement as illogical … we all know there’s no such thing as customer service from your credit card company).

As real as customer service

As real as customer service or civility on a message board

But am I the only one who’s bothered with the overly blunt, dismissive, hostile, and often judgemental way that people handle themselves on the web these days, especially on message boards?  It’s hard to find respect for another’s thoughts practiced much by people on the web; apparently, a great number of people expend the majority of their energy in coming up with a snappy user name and avatar and don’t leave much in reserve for common sense thinking when it comes to how they interact with others.  And the questionable decorum isn’t just being practiced on the odd-and-end isolated message board — it’s everywhere.  I’ve seen it on ESPN message boards, MSN message boards, comic book message boards, the IMDB message boards, rotisserie baseball message boards — heck, I’ve even seen it on my own fantasy baseball league’s message boards.

And the commentary in so many of these posts goes beyond overkill in many instances.  I’ve seen people refer to other people with some of the strongest language imaginable when it comes to describing another person:  racist, sexist, misogynist, anti-American, ignorant, etc, etc.  Criticism is one thing — I’ll admit to certainly having done my share of that towards people so far in this blog — but there’s still a line that I won’t cross in the things I write.  I like to believe that nothing I’ve said here, or will say in the future, isn’t something that I wouldn’t be willing to say to someone if we were face-to-face.  I’ve read a lot of things on the net, however, that I think the people voicing them would have second thoughts about if they could connect a face and a real name to the comments they’re making.

Is this the direction we’re headed? A society made up of a bunch of screen names calling each other out on the net?  I hope not — but if I spend a night surfing around the web, I might have to wonder.


One Response to “Emboldened By The Internet”

  1. sprentiss47 Says:

    Screw you, you racist, sexist, misogynist, anti-American, ignorant, commie-pinko, child-molesting, sh!t-for-brains assclown.

    Have a nice day 😉

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