Sunday, December 5, 2010
Courtesy, Tact, Kindness, and Restraint. A joint obituary.
"Here lies four close friends: Courtesy, Tact, Kindness, and Restraint. They died together a slow agonizing death on the battlefield of the virtual world. They are survived by their nasty archenemies: Callousness, Nosiness, Meanness and Insensitivity."
Lately I have been just appalled at the things people say on the internet. Oh, I know it's not a new thing, but the lack of manners seems to have reached new epic proportions. Lovely people who would never say such horrible things if they were face-to-face with you think nothing of insulting you on the internet. Language that used to be reserved for the bedroom now appears on Facebook statuses. Bitter barbs no one would dare say to their husbands, bosses, pastors or neighbors are blogged as if these people are not real.
A recent caller to the Laura Ingraham show expounded on this cultural phenomenon. He was a military man who said that they use simulators to train soldiers in combat. He said that this has a two fold purpose: First of all, the video games improve hand-eye coordination. Secondly, these "games" desensitize the soldiers to the humanity of the enemy. A psychologist affirmed that this was true and encouraged parents to monitor and limit their children's exposure to social media, texting, etc. People are forgetting that in these mediums they are interacting with real people and not just an avatar of a person.
Although I love blogging, Facebook and the like, I do find the insensitivity of people so disturbing that I tend to agree with the Ingraham caller and the psychologist.
Lately a friend going through a difficult time put something in her Facebook status asking for prayer. Instead she got a barrage of comments of people putting her and her husband in their place and chewing them out. Then a debate erupted with meanness flowing both ways. She was an innocent bystander on her own Facebook profile! Would that have happened in real life? If she were face-to-face with her friends and said, "Please pray for our family because of XYZ." The response would have probably just been, "OK, will do, honey." But because no one saw her as flesh and blood with tender feelings it got ugly.
Last week I blogged in a light-hearted way about party etiquette. I mentioned no particulars--no names, locations or specifics and changed the exact details of some happenings to protect anyone who had become an anecdote in my etiquette lesson. Someone left an anonymous comment: "Since your talking about teaching your kids well...Here's a little advice for you....How about teaching your kids how behave at these parties!" I felt like someone had slapped me! First of all, I was talking about how adults (not children!) behave and by leaving such a vicious remark the person pretty much confirmed my point about not having social sense. Secondly, I'm a Mama Bear! How dare you attack my children! Trust me, when you bring up my children the gloves will come off! And thirdly, I could not be more proud of how my children behave at parties and social events.
After a few deep breaths my blood pressure returned to normal and I didn't publish the comment. I saved it and I think I will now publish it. And maybe the cowardly "Anonymous" will see this response. The fact that this mean-spirited comment was anonymous just goes to show that people forget that these are real people interacting with real people. Face-to-face you could never say a vicious, risque, sassy or otherwise charged comment and remain anonymous. Being face-to-face forces people to own their opinions, their actions, and their words.
Maybe Courage is another causality in the battlefield of the virtual world. But, I sure hope not. And courage is a kindred spirit to kindness, not the opposite, by the way.
Well, to paraphrase myself: "All this to say, Mommies, teach your children well. Teach them how to behave on the internet and in texts so that when they grow up they don't embarrass themselves or make others feel awkward, hurt or angry. As our social interactions include more and more technology, may your mantra be, "Kindness matters!"