[written by MIKHA CHAN]
People do not function socially the same way they did ten years ago.
This may seem really obvious. But it bears much thought, especially when you consider its scope.
Before the Internet, people usually functioned on a single social level. Nothing was easier and more natural than direct and straightforward conversation; people had to actually get out of their houses to make themselves heard. They were more or less forced to develop their social skills if they really wanted to succeed in life – which I think is a good thing. This was also another reason for the larger nerd-jock gap back then (not necessarily a good thing), since the naturally extroverted could not understand why these stay-at-home kids preferred the company of their books, games, or what-have-you.
Now everything’s changed with the dawning of the Internet. The extroverts are still by and large unable to connect with the introverts and socially defunct, but frankly, it doesn’t matter as much anymore. The Internet has become the perfect way for everybody to interact socially without leaving the comfort of their homes.
So on one hand, nerds and geeks everywhere can rejoice. It is easier to succeed in the creative/obscure fields given the widespread reach of the Internet. Websites like YouTube, deviantART, SoundCloud and Facebook make it a real snap to share one’s creative work where everybody can comment and criticise. The Internet has removed all barriers to fame and recognition, and the artistic among us have now no excuse for not getting our work out.
On the other hand, we have become a generation of social derelicts. So there is that.
By social derelicts, I don’t mean that we’ve all become the shut-in computer-dependent zombies people first thought our generation would be, though some of us do live that way. Far from it. We are an intensely social people. Communicating has become so much easier, entire communities have formed online, and everything is a shared experience.
No, the problem is that many of us have forgotten the rules of common courtesy.
Take Instagram for example. You and I both know that never in the history of mankind have so many photos been taken of food. Most of the time, we pretend that these photos have real meaning when in fact, they do not. Most of the time, it is just food – unless it happens to be something crazy exotic like cat meat, in which case you’re also just fricking weird, man.
Or consider the rising of the emo kid. They used to be greasy-haired teenagers with a penchant for goth fashion, teary eyes and slit wrists. Now we have them in form of duck-faced teenagers with a penchant for fitted caps, filtered photos and thoughtless acronyms. And every time something world-shaking happens – you know, like a stubbed toe – bam, another photo’s up.
The Internet has to some extent crippled us socially. We know less about real-world interaction than before, and a lot of our socializing now consists of face-to-screen-to-OMG, she did not just tweet that!
*posts angry tweet*
*receives angry retweet*
*the cycle continues*
We broadcast all our feelings, pain and anger (whether righteous or not) for the whole world to see. This is something we would not ordinarily do in real life, because let’s face it: you can hardly expect to see some random person ranting and raving on the street about how his or her roomie/coursemate is such a tool.
But that’s exactly the same thing as what many of us are doing online.
The Internet affords us a somewhat delayed reaction and a great measure of anonymity. It removes you from the immediate scene, giving you the opportunity to say things we would not normally say in polite society. We even have a term for people who do this: “keyboard warriors”. Simply put, these are people who only have the balls to pick fights online but seem to experience sudden testicular inversion when it comes to real life situations.
Take for example the recent Sharifah-Bawani case. For those of you not in the know, there was an uproar some time ago over how a university forum moderator rudely and viciously interrupted a participant, using meaningless animal-related arguments and rhetoric a child would be ashamed of making. A recording was uploaded and the whole nation was not happy.
What was even more shameful than the argument itself was the online reaction. The video went viral on Facebook and Twitter – which is quite right. But what wasn’t was the language used by many people commenting on the video. It was bad, and I don’t believe that anybody, no matter how much a waste of oxygen he or she may be, should be repeatedly called a bitch, slut, and other words I won’t repeat here. I’m not saying that she didn’t deserve it. But acting that way degrades us as much as it does her.
We need to understand that the things we say are equally hurtful when said online, if not more. Sure, we may think they are not, and justify this in all sort of ways (“I’m just telling it like it is” “If you can’t take the heat, get off the pan” “Who asked him/her to be so sensitive?”). But come on, guys. Half of us wouldn’t use such flimsy excuses in real life, because we instinctively understand that silence is best if one doesn’t have anything nice to say. Online, though, everything changes, and the rules of common courtesy don’t seem to apply anymore.
My point is that the rules of good etiquette as we’ve practiced them in real life for the past few hundred years should be the same online. Check your language. Take a moment to relax before you post anything angry online. Remember that the world isn’t your emotional dumpster. Yes, the Internet is full of malign idiots who get their kicks out of getting a rise from others.
But you don’t have to be that way.
We’re all better than that.