I spend a lot of time on the Internet. I read the news; I read political websites; I read the comics; I socialize; I email; I… well you get the picture. I love it.
I love the Wild West aspect of the whole World Wide Web from the sprawling political arguments to the random twists of Facebook conversations to catching up with fans from my favorite shows. The Internet has really made the world a smaller place.
I’ve seen the Internet used for good. I’ve seen it used to rally a cause and to bring friends and family together to experience each other’s lives in new and innovative ways. I’ve been able to reconnect with friends from my youth and establish and strengthen family ties. You can even make friends with folks you’ve never met face to face. In fact, I got this column because of the Internet, Facebook specifically. Another good thing. Well, depending on your point of view!
There’s a flip side to the Internet though. It’s made things a little bit meaner; courser. People write things that they would never, not in a million years, say to a person standing in front of them. I’m appalled and disgusted at how grown people act under the cloak of anonymity. The venom they spew. It’s really outrageous and more than a little cowardly.
I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it.
Badgering people for their beliefs is bullying but calling people names while hiding behind a screen name is the very definition of cowardice. It’s pervasive. I find it more appalling when I see it on local sites, in comments attached to news stories. Most of the time I avoid the comments since I really don’t like to wade in the cesspool, but honestly the things that folks say about their neighbors astounds me. If you want to disagree with someone, have at it but at least have the decency – the courage – to sign your name to it. If you can’t or won’t sack up and take ownership of your ideas and words you should probably keep your opinions to yourself. Seriously, you can disagree without being disagreeable; you (well reasonable people) can have a discussion about politics or any other topic without it devolving into a free-for-all. It’s called respecting someone’s right to have an opinion that differs from yours.
Next time you go to post something under the cloak of anonymity ask yourself this, “Would I say this to the person’s face?” If the answer – the honest answer - is no, you should probably walk away from your keyboard. Maybe you can get a cookie (low blood sugar makes people cranky). Or maybe you can take a walk (exercise is a good outlet for aggression). Or maybe, just maybe, you’ll realize that the world can do without your particular brand of cowardice.
I could be wrong but at least I’m willing to sign my name to it.
Barbara Mulvey-Welsh is a mother, writer and blogger raising kids and a husband in Plymouth. Check out her blog at "Did I Say That Out Loud?" Use caution when reading around the family, there is some strong language.