"You are a cheat, a nincompoop and a coward!"
Did that sting? Apologies, but I mean well. For the past couple of days I have been a silent but vigilant observer of the increasingly obnoxious behaviour of fellow netizens. The opening line was only one of those remarks. In the past, I have had friends who have been innocent victims of the aspersions of others in the virtual world. Perhaps, I would have held my silence if I myself wasn't victimized by not one but two netizens on two different networking sites Facebook and Twitter in one week. As they say, you don't know the pain until you face the music.
I have come to realise that within a gap of few days one can go from being a 'conversationalist' to a 'controversialist'. When the first incident occurred, like most others, I gave the person a piece of my mind (sans any abusive language) and blocked him. I considered the case closed and wanted to let the matter rest until the whip cracked again, this time in the form of a 140 character tweet. I was questioned by a complete stranger for 'maintaining' my etiquette while speaking about an elder. It was this comment that made me realize that Social Networking has now transformed radically from a mechanism promoting a healthy exchange of thoughts to personal battles with complete strangers.
After a long and useful chat with a couple of fellow internet users, here's what most concluded:
- Retort, Rebut, Forget
- Answer and if the problem persists then block
- Promotion of the 'I don't care' attitude.
However one friend did make a useful observation: "Give a man a mask and he would be fearless and shameless in this case. It is a masquerade party you see!"
These lines resonante my thoughts, but how long are we going to discount the kind of behaviour of these nameless, faceless individuals as immature? Internet users are not illiterate. But the attitude portrayed is that of the 'Educated illiterate'. Society seems to be spiraling downward on both moral and ethical fronts. I do not imply every user is worthy of blame but someone needs to raise a voice against this injustice too!
Disagreements are common but does it cost much to be civilized in our argument? Is it incumbent that one must end a losing battle with a demeaning statement or with an abuse.
With the increasing number of celebrities on social networking sites, these portals have now been converted into forums of venting anger and frustration towards the individual rather than the issue/problem itself. Politicians are probably facing the brunt of this open medium to the maximum. What started off as a vehicle of connectivity is now turning into a catastrophe. Character assassinations are common because of misinterpretations coupled with a narrow mind. No wonder then that trite expressions are blown out of proportion and we do not see too many of the tribe keen on connecting with the people in this fashion. Journalists come a close second in the list of celebrities to get abused.
It is unfortunate that with all our education and experience we are unable to maintain our tradition of common courtesy. Criticism without cuss words works well! It is farcical to respect people in the Real world while simultaneously abusing others in the virtual one under the guise of exposing them. Your abusive language may be encountered by silence but don't gloat that the receiver accepted your argument because they haven't. If anything, you have successfully exposed your mentality to the world.
Our gift of free society and free speech is best used with sizable self restraint. It is after all a person like you and me who is at the receiving end; a human being whose beliefs may concur or differ with yours, but at the end of the day possesses feelings like you and me.
Just a few pointers before I close: Research your facts before making an accusation, make your point without being derogatory, cut the use of cuss words and just know that you won't earn a gold medal for this but you will enjoy your camaraderie with different people.
With a hope that before 'Netiquette' is forced to make its way into classrooms and better sense prevails in the Virtual World,
A concerned fellow netizen