On The Loss of Civility in the Online World
When I began this blog my stated goal was to give a “reasoned” opinion on the topics of the day, in an effort to counter the vulgarity, bias, and ineptitude I see so much of. In my debut post I said in regard to those perceived short comings online… “I intend to take a higher road, I believe that name calling and the shrill whaling from (primarily) the left, is a sign that they don’t truly have an intelligent argument so they must try to deflect the conversation away from the point.” Perhaps I’ve been reading too much of that sort of crap lately, but I’m ashamed to say that a few of my posts have been below the standard I set for myself when I started this.
In reflecting on this realization, I began asking myself why this happened, and why civility seems to be dying online. The fact of the matter is, anonymity breeds contempt and dishonesty. Look at the comments posted under just about any YouTube video, and you will find a wide variety of profane and vulgar comments that would never be used in polite, face to face conversation. While I considered many of them to be simply sophomoric teenagers, to my chagrin, I have found that many of these posters are in their 30’s, 40’s and even 50’s.
Such things as spelling, grammar and composition are sorely lacking in many of these posted comments. When someone makes a comment that goes against the general consensus or even just another posters views, they are met with profanity, put downs and/or name-calling. Name-calling is at its core just another form of bullying, it is sophomoric and typically employed by those who lack the intellectual capability to make a point based on reason or fact. They don’t like someone or something so they belittle it in an effort to make themselves look or feel better. When these folks can’t get their way, or someone disagrees with them, they become belligerent and try to force their way on others, like a bully pushes smaller kids around. After all, they’re protected by the anonymity offered by the Internet, who’s going to hurt them back.
At first I blamed the trend solely on liberals, but I have come to realize that they do not have a corner on that market. For example a recent (currently on going) thread on YouTube has a conservative in his 50s engaged in a war of words with a liberal, who is 37 years old. The conservative uses poor grammar and even worse spelling, while spewing a seemingly endless string of names, and put-downs. His somewhat better spoken opponent, does likewise and repeats them over and over ad nauseum. The guy needs a thicker play-book, but both men need to grow up! Had I not looked at their biographies, I would have thought these were a couple of 13-year-old kids. It reminded me of a quote by Mark Twain, “Never argue with an idiot, he will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience, and bystanders will not be able to tell the difference.”
I suppose there’s nothing that can be done to improve the etiquette of those engaged in online discussions, especially while they are protected by the anonymity the forum provides. As for myself, I will continue to try leading by example, refraining from using such tactics and remaining cognizant in these posts to strive to maintain that higher road. If I falter in my attempts, I would welcome a reminder in the comments section below the post that my aggravation is obviously getting the better of me.