Friday, October 3, 2008

Bringing civility back...

There is no doubt that the relative immaturity of the Internet makes it not too dissimilar to the wild West. And just as the wild West was eventually won, I predict that, given time, the Internet will morph into a far more civil and hospitable place as well, with the adoption of legislation such as this.

In the meantime, it is what it is, and suffice it to say, I regularly witness some pretty obtuse behavior on our local blogs and forums. Now, some may casually dismiss it with the attitude that if you can't stand the heat, blah blah blah. Unfortunately, wide acceptance of this attitude increases the likelihood that even the innocent bystander who has no interest in on-line networking will become a "victim" of vicious Internet chatter.

It seems that many commenter's, particularly some that do not use their real name, set a completely different standard for themselves when they *think* they are anonymous. Comments that would not even remotely be considered in a real-life situation seem to fly carelessly off the fingers of this boundary-challenged person.

Fortunately, hosts of forums, blogs, and interactive news sites are starting to realize that allowing this endless onslaught of vitriol damages their work product and stunts their stated objectives- which is often to affect positive change in their community. In addition, it curtails otherwise healthy debate and problem solving, and God knows, we could use some of that right now!

I had a somewhat unsettling conversation with a friend the other evening. He was talking about how much he hates the blogs. Somewhat taken aback, I asserted "They serve a purpose". He begged to differ. I left the conversation feeling a little embarrassed that I had a blog, but I completely understood his point.

To any of you who feel that this post may be directed at you, it probably is. Here is my advice:

1. When you feel the urge to comment, first write the comment the way you have become accustomed. Use all the swear words, insults, and name calling you can muster up. Then, start taking it apart sentence by sentence, and challenge yourself to make the same points as if you were standing in front of your 3rd grade English teacher. The effectiveness of your argument just increased exponentially in its second edition.

2. If writing a civil, thoughtful response is not possible, try to get at the root of what is really bothering you, and address it appropriately. Meds=good.

3. Don't think for a moment that you are guaranteed anonymity. Commenter's that exhibit perpetual bad behavior at the expense of others can and will be exposed. People talk, people sue, and many bloggers will spill the beans at the drop of a hat or after their second beer, whichever comes first.

4. Wonder just for a moment what your Mom or your boss would think if he/she were reading over your shoulder. Likewise, is this the example you care to set for your children?

5. Site owners, remember, with great power comes great responsibility. Act responsible and don't allow slander and/or harassment on your site. Be mindful that this is the community we love, raise our children and own our homes in. If someone blows you a bunch of crap for over-moderating, send them this link. If that doesn't load fast enough or is down again, then send them this link.

6. There are moments when, despite your best efforts, you "snap". This usually follows a series of comments directed at you from the commenter's that are the subject of this post. If this happens, enjoy the moment, then move on. Don't continue to slither around in the mud. The pigs enjoy it too much. Nobody is perfect, and your fellow bloggers will forgive and forget your indiscretion if it is an aberration and not a pattern of behavior.

I realize this may all be "pie in the sky" thinking, but hey, its a start. Somewhere I read or dreamt this final comment:

The true measure of a mans character is how they act when they think no one is looking.


Anonymous said...

The internet is old and much more civil than it was, you should have ben a user back in the earlier days.

Theresa McKeown said...

At one point in time, character was taught at home(25 years ago). It was deemed home training!
Unfortunately, too many parents today are very immature and have never practiced these virtues in their own lives. It is a third generation now that are lacking substance and human cooperation. As a result, disrespect for other's points of view is certain without character. Emotional maturity can only be mastered if the character is taught and practiced in the home. Children should also have consequences when they are not kind to others.

Parents need to teach their children the following lessons of character:

{49 Character Qualities}:

Determination Diligence
Hospitality Humility
Responsibility Security

Diane said...

Re: The true measure of a mans character is how they act when they think no one is looking...

OK, what's the true measure of a woman?

Mazr said...

And now we have people at McCain/Palin rallies yelling "Kill him" and "terrorist" in regards to Obama.

Now that's civility in a nutshell.

Diane Vespa said...

Just to clear up any confusion, Diane, the poster above is not me.

Diane, in this instance, I would say that the term "man" could be used interchangeably for a man or a woman. That's how they used to talk back in those days! ;-)