Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Dark Side of the Social Internet

I guess it was inevitable.

Social networking is THE thing these days what with blogging, FaceBook, Twitter, MySpace (well, maybe not so much) and other sites. Along with the social part comes something that everyone's mom would cringe at and would then send us to our rooms with no supper over... Rudeness.

Only its more than just being rude. Its some people feeling like they can get away with just about anything because of the anonymity afforded by the very nature of the internet. Everyone is basically faceless and unknown to everyone else and likely to stay that way.

This lends itself to blog comments calling the blog host a "moron" or an "imbecile". And it goes downhill from there. In extreme cases, the rudeness devolves into bullying and whether you are a direct target or not, bullying hurts everyone. 

The unfortunate thing is, most of these bullies hide behind the Constitution (if they're American) if they're caught. The vast majority are not caught or stopped. So, where does that leave us? In the dark, mostly. I don't have any answers. 

I wonder, though, would most of these internet bullies behave the same way in a real-life, face-to-face meeting? Would someone who disagreed with a movie or book review call the reviewer a "moron" right to their face? I'm guessing the majority of them would not. So, why do it in a blog comment? Because they can. Because there's a shield there: Anonymity. Yeah, maybe you fill out a form with a name and an email address in order to comment, but there's still no actual contact, no apparent reason to act respectfully toward the other person.

Right now the only weapons a person has is 'moderation' and ignoring the bully. What happens when you ignore a bully? They try harder. It becomes a 'Catch-22' situation that can easily spiral out of control. I don't like the possible answers, but I really don't like bullies.

Anyone have any ideas?

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