Friday, April 2, 2010

The Internet...Giving Ill-Informed, Mean People a Voice for Over 20 Years

Wait...let me slip on my asbestos undies before I finish this blog entry. Why? Because I'm pretty sure the title alone will create the sort of nasty, dirt-slinging, name calling free-for-all I'm going to write about.

How often have you visited a news site on the Internet and made the mistake of reading some of the horrendous 'comments' that people post about the story? You know what I'm talking about...the type of truly hideous things that people will write/say only when they are hiding behind a cartoon-faced, fictitious name moniker that gives them the courage to be publicly awful.

I've looked at some of them and they can be so mean they make my skin crawl. I know I shouldn't even bother looking but it's like passing a car just get sucked in and are so shocked by what you see that you can't look away.

Yes, I've been on the receiving end of some of those nasty comments. Sometimes they call me stupid, or greedy, or a corporate shill (whatever that's supposed to mean). I generally let it roll-off because whoever is writing it is just reacting to something I did/said that they disagree with. I'm usually just puzzled why they can't disagree with me without being nasty about it.

Several months ago I saw a similarly degrading string of comments related to a coaching change on my twin daughters high school basketball team that, for some reason or another was reported in the local paper. The comments directed at the young women on the team were truly degrading. I honestly believed that nothing would surprise me anymore until I read some of that tripe. What kept going through my mind was "It's HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS BASKETBALL for crying-out-loud"! Why would anyone want to flex their insult-hurling muscles about a thing like that?

The more I think about it, it seems that a national state of incivility has taken over, manifested by the ease of spewing anonymous venom to millions of people without consequence...i.e. the Internet. What's so odd is that often it appears people don't seem to know the real issue that they are ranting-on about. They are just 'posting angry' for the sake of seeing their anger take shape in the form of printed words.

So as not to appear a hypocrite, I will admit here and now that I am very pointed in my blog posts, newsletter CEO columns and an occasional letter to the editor. I do try hard however to refrain from name-calling, degrading language or personal attacks. I do my best to talk about issues rather than people. I'm not perfect but I try pretty hard.

The type of unkind behavior I'm referring to doesn't just bother me, it worries me. How on earth did so many Americans become such foul, insensitive, angry humans? Are our lives so horrible that we must resort to spitting angry words into the ether without regard for who it effects? This simply cannot be the end-result of what our forefathers dreamed when they protected free speech, because this type of dialog won't end up being may very well cost us our humanity.

It gets even worse if the discussion starts with a dialog about local, state or national politics. Those are the kinds of posts that will scare the heck out of you, at least they scare me. And I don't buy all that baloney that one side or the other is responsible. The nastiness comes from both sides and anyone who says differently is not being honest.

I wonder some bad will it get before the pendulum starts to swing back toward civility? How many generations of young people will we raise that grow up without any regard for human feelings, social graces or civil debate?

Turning this around won't come from politicians, or the media, the right or the left. Turning this around will come from the folks that still care about how other people feel as well as how they treat one another. When those folks start to stand up and say "this kind of behavior is NOT okay with me!"

So, let me be one of the first to jump on this bandwagon. This type of behavior is not okay with me. Who's with me??


  1. I'm with you! Again, so well put. You have a gift of well excuted expression.

  2. Thank you! We'll that's two of more and we'll officially be a 'group'!

  3. Don't even get me started on this one. I'm your third....consider this a group :)

  4. Jolene,

    You are on the mark. It's interesting that the Redding Searchlight has now provided online comments to run in the paper along side letters to the editor but only if contact information is provided. I have noticed a small change in the tone of comments.
    I believe individuals have a tendency to get nasty and hateful if there is no accountability to their commentary. Would be interesting to see the change if there were no anonymous or alias postings. I'm with you on this one wholeheartedly.

  5. Count me in as a member of your bandwagon. Well said, Jolene. Courage is not a descriptive word for those who hide behind a fake name and make vile commentary.

  6. Jolene,
    Well said! Let's stick to the issues.

    Paul Lehman... I think our local newspapers would be well advised to follow a similar policy regarding public comments.