Every time I read about cyber bullying, I acknowledge that there are many factors contributing to this problem. Here is one source of fuel for cyber bullies: adults behaving badly.
Check in on website comments or online reviews to see what kind of examples supposed adults (in legal age at least) are setting. At a philosophical level, the comments are about free speech. At a practical level, there is much vitriol driven by hate, prejudice and anger.
The anonymity of the Internet allows mean-spirited people to act in in ways that don’t have the courage to do otherwise. The worst online attackers are like those who key your car in the parking lot.
I recently had one of my books given a bad review because an audience member didn’t like a speech they heard me give. I’m decidedly diplomatic in all my communications, so it surprises me when someone goes ballistic about my comments. This person decided the best way to express his or her displeasure wasn’t to walk out or talk to me after the speech, but to call me a tool and hurl insults not tethered to reality. This person made no mention of the book they were supposedly reviewing.
By the way, the person who wrote the review identifies him- or herself as a teacher. There’s some great news for a classroom of impressionable minds.
Anyone in the public eye is used to having others disagree with him or her. That is an occupational hazard and disagreement done right creates dialogue and insight.
But attacking someone you disagree with in a public forum on the Internet adds fuel to the wrong kind of fire.
As a supporter of free speech, I know that this one of the unsavory prices we pay for that freedom.
But let’s not isolate free speech to the inclusion of common courtesy, fairness and civility. Free speech isn’t the only important value.
We all talk about the lack of civility in our culture today—live and online—but the real question is whether or not we’re practicing it.
Free speech allows people to express their opinions right, wrong or otherwise. It is how those opinions are expressed that matter. When adults regularly use childish behavior in their own communication is it any wonder how common cyber bullying has become? Please feel free to share your thoughts with me on Facebook and Twitter as well as in the comment box below