- that because of Facebook I have connected with two of my cousins, whose lives and deeds of inspiration have brought great joy to my heart
- that through blogging I have made a few wonderful friends whose daily musings both entertain and excite me, sometimes sparking deep personal reflection
- that if it weren't for email I would never have contact with my sister
- that I love being able to instantly find whatever information I am seeking--a recipe or a definition or a video of how a tornado is formed(!)
- that my spunky little computer may be my ticket to achieving my dreams,
I hate the Internet.
I hate the way that some people use the Internet to communicate in ways that they would never do in real life. And I'm not talking about pornographers or terrorists. I'm talking about regular, everyday people who think that sitting at a computer screen, getting glimpses into other people's lives, gives them the right to unleash their hyperbolic reactions and opinions in ways that they would never do in real life.
I'm not even talking about the occasional obnoxious comment that I receive here on my blog. Honestly, if people don't like my ideas about natural parenting, unschooling and healthy living, there are lots of other places on the Internet for them to hang out. Why would they waste their time on me? It would never even occur to me to leave hostile criticism on someone's website, no matter what they write about it. I just have other priorities.
What really bothers me are the people who express every knee-jerk reaction that springs to mind, yet in real life, they have nothing to say. For example, every article that appears in an online newspaper on the topic of Unschooling seems to attract the most hateful, uninformed responses. Would these commenters speak to me like that if they met me and my children at the park? I doubt it.
And that's the problem with the Internet. The lack of face-to-face communication allows people to completely disregard the social standards of proper interaction. It allows people to behave completely without social skills. It allows for too much anonymity and lack of consequences for engaging in anti-social behaviours.
Imagine that my family and I were invited to a wedding. While there, some of the guests find out that we are Unschoolers and they start screaming at us that we don't deserve to be parents, that we are unfit and abusive. Would that happen? No, because in real life, people know that there are social boundaries that we don't cross. On the Internet, it seems that people don't give themselves boundaries.
And the reason this really concerns me is that already an entire generation has grown up with the Internet and without these personal boundaries being firmly in place. When children see that adult Internet-users do not hold back their vitriolic and hateful opinions, they learn that they don't have to either. We have school-age children who are expert cyber-bullies and we don't question how that happened.
As an adult Internet user, I have a responsibility to communicate in the same way that I do in real life. The tone I set online is who I really am. I don't have an online personality and a different one in real life. When I have nothing to say, I stay quiet. When I vehemently disagree with another person's ideas, I walk away and I don't come back. When I believe in something, my real life and my virtual life work in harmony to promote it.
Will you do something for me? Will you make a pledge with me?
I pledge that my online voice will be an authentic reflection of who I really am, the life I am living and the opinions I hold dear. I will not use virtual words that I would not use in real life.
It's a small thing, but let's unite in our desire to uphold the social standards of communication that have been with us for generations. Please leave me a short comment to let me know that you agree.
(If you are reading this in an email, you will have to click on the blue title at the top which will take you to my webpage. Scroll to the bottom to leave a message. Anonymous messages are accepted.)