Just what is it today that makes people think they can get away with being so downright abusive to fellow humans online? It used to be that people hid behind the anonymity that the Internet allowed. And when the likes of Facebook came along, mostly everyone who had an account needed to own up to who they were.
Oh sure, there are still trolls who hide behind fake identities on a variety of sites, from forums to blogs and even Facebook and Google+ now. But the this behavior has become so insidious - so acceptable - that suddenly, some people don't care who they offend or how antisocial it makes them look; they just seem to want to make themselves feel better by putting others down.
Monty goes on to discuss how the level of vitriol on the web has ratcheted up in recent years, and I have to agree with him. With every advance in social media and online communication, the opportunity for attacking others increases.
Be it the perceived anonymity, the lack of consequences or just people showing their "true colors," the dark corners of the internet have begun seeping into the day to day.
It's not just the trolls
The thing I've noticed, though, is that there is a more subtle, quiet version of this that we don't talk about too much.
The web has not only made it easier to attack people, but also easier to ignore people you don't agree with.
It used to be that, if you disagreed with someone's point of view, you were still face to face with them, so you would either a) both temper your opinions out of desire to maintain a civil relationship or b) discuss the issue calmly, with give and take, to arrive at a mutual agreement or lack of agreement. But, it was civil because the other person was right there in front of you.
Online, though, people become more outspoken because they aren't dealing with a real person...just a screen. People who are generally nice people and would be pleasant to have a conversation with will write you off or ignore you as a "troll" simply because you have a different opinion than they do. In their mind, they're right, so they don't need to take any time to try to see the point of view of a nameless, faceless person on the web.
They will turn your difference of opinion into a moral judgement of your character simply because you see the world differently than they do.
For all the "social" of the web, we've lost something
One of the many things we've lost as more and more conversation has moved to the virtual world is a genuine discourse of varying opinions. Now, if you disagree with someone, rather than approaching them and discussing the different views to understand each other, we just run to Twitter and say, "Hey, that guy sucks."
Sure, it may be pie in the sky to hope that people, even off-line, would be civil to each other and calmly talk about our differences, but it's far less likely to happen online. Online, rather than discussing your views with someone different than you, it's easy to say, "Forget them" and move on to talk to people that are in lock-step with your opinions. The proplem with that is, no one's right all the time and if you just surround yourself with people who you agree with, you're likely to be wrong a lot.
Do we want nice...or respect?
Toward the end of the piece, Monty says he'd like to see a day set aside to be positive on the internet.
I'd love to see that too. I'd love to see that in at least one political ad, where a candidate would tell me what they stand for, why they're the better choice, rather than why their opponent is the devil.
But, I don't think we'll ever get to a "nice" day on the internet.
What I'd really like to see? Respect.
Respect for views that are different than yours. Respect for the people that hold those views. Respect the fact that, even if you disagree, the other person may have some valid points.
I know that, on numerous occasions, I've held back my opinion because someone I respect held a different view and I feared being completely pigeon-holed in that person's mind and written off forever. Ideally, we should all be able to voice our opinions secure in the fact that if we respect someone else's right to their opinion, they will respect ours.
Out of that respect, some genuine discourse and respect could flow in our conversations. And, an understanding that, no matter how passionately you hold your views, someone else holds the exact opposite opinion just as strongly.
Sure there are evil, nasty people online (and off), and that will never change. I'm not saying that every view deserves equal respect or validation. There are certainly wicked opinions out there that should be ignored. But, leaving those to the side, I think we would all do well to try to see the world through the other person's screen before writing them off as an idiot.
A little civility would go a long way.