Social Media and Civil Discourse

Once upon a time, not so long ago, people disagreed but still treated each other with respect and dignity.  They participated in passionate discussions about a variety of topics and thought nothing of calling those they disagreed with vehemently family and friend.  It’s hard to believe, but they exchanged conflicting ideas without becoming vulgar or belligerent. This no longer seems possible.  I believe the Internet and, especially, social media have helped facilitate this change, but it is not clear if it is the cause.

During my relatively brief time being politically active on the Internet, primarily through Facebook, I have been stunned to discover that vulgarity is something some people have no problem using when putting people down.  If I had been told I would encounter incredible rudeness, ugliness, childishness, ignorance, cruelty, hatred and intense bigotry while sharing my opinions, I would not have believed it.  A few short months expressing my disagreement with those who hold dissimilar political beliefs have proven otherwise.  I cannot recall ever being talked to, in person, the way I have been "talked" to on Facebook.  Is it the relative anonymity, or has the world become more violently confrontational?  Sad to say, I think the world has changed and not for the better.

Once an individual has been identified as a target, no attempt at diplomacy will be accepted.  Instead of responding to a post or observation in a civil fashion supported by facts where appropriate, the statement is frequently ignored.  Responses are often in the form of attacks with viscous name-calling and even more vitriolic and threatening language.  Is this what the world is coming to?

Regardless of which place on the political spectrum a person falls, it should be obvious there is some truth to this assertion.  While most of the rage and bitterness seem to come from the far right, there are many on the far left who are just as horrifying.

Specific Examples

These are just a few of the examples of the kinds of exchanges I have had with some people.  What amazes me is that they don't seem to mind having their names associated with the language they use.  Some make threats that must come to the attention of local, state and federal authorities.  If someone ever looked at their Facebook communications, it would forever change the way they were seen by the brick-and-mortar world.  However, nothing seems to deter them.

Conversations - Rude

The sad truth is, unless we learn to communicate with each other in a more reasonable way, we are doomed.  We will descend into a special hell buried beneath the fanatical screams of those with mouths and no ears.  Those on the extreme ends of a topic will attack each other with emotional weapons of mass destruction, and the rest of us will be crushed by their unwillingness to embrace the human in all of us – even our most bitter adversaries.

Posted in Humanity, Philosophy/Ideas, Social Issues, Social Media by with no comments yet.
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