(Photo courtesy of Hades2k on Flickr under CC license)
(Photo courtesy of Hades2k on Flickr under CC license)

By STEPHANIE COSBY, Staff Columnist

The Internet is irrevocably tied to our daily lives– we use it communicate with friends, family, coworkers and strangers, to manage our accounts and pay our bills, to apply for jobs, to complete our work, to shop, to get news, to learn about things we may not directly experience, to share our thoughts, feelings and photos, and so much more.

While the Internet is enormously exciting, helpful and efficient, it also facilitates some pretty crappy behavior. The Internet shields you from direct connection with others and it doesn’t hold you accountable for what you say, so people can and do say anything on it– for better or worse.


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The power of Internet anonymity and distance coupled with a highly emotional election season has yielded a high volume of “for worse” examples. I’m willing to bet that if you take a look right now at your Facebook and Twitter feeds, the comment sections of your go-to news websites, or the web profiles of your favorite brands, you will find at LEAST one mean-spirited, insulting remark.

“There is a point where that speech becomes so hateful and short-sighted that nothing comes from it but animosity”

In the last week alone, I’ve seen quite a few derogatory comments floating around my social media feeds and favorite websites. I’ve seen intelligence attacks, character tear-downs, and even death wishes (!!!) toward individuals and entire groups of people. Often, these comments are devoid of fact and completely based on a narrow view or common misconception.

The basis for these attacks? A difference of opinion.

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I get that conversations will get heated during election seasons, especially THIS election season because many see it as a “make or break” turning point for this country. It’s great and important that people stand up for their beliefs and exercise their right to have and voice an opinion– that’s what this country is all about.

I do not, however, see why that warrants the overwhelmingly negative, catty tone that has characterized our nation’s conversation, nor the vitriolic personal attacks clogging the world wide web.

I believe that everyone has the right to free speech, but I also believe that there is a point where that speech becomes so hateful and short-sighted that nothing comes from it but animosity, division and hurt. How are we supposed to fix our society’s current problems and build a better future if we’re spewing hate and tearing each other down online?

As we move forward, I ask one thing of everyone, myself included: Please, think before you comment.

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I ask that you consider a few things before you post something: Does the remark add value to the conversation? Does it respectfully state your opinion? Would you say it to someone’s face? Would you say it to someone you care about, or want people you care about to know that you said it?

Let me reiterate that I think that everyone is entitled to speak their mind. We as a country have a lot of problems to deal with; the economy and the job market, education, war, poverty and social inequality affect us all, so we need to talk about it.

We NEED to speak up, we NEED to debate these issues in order to work toward a solution. It’s okay to get emotional. It’s okay to feel strongly about our positions. But we NEED to be respectful of others if we want these solutions to be fair and lasting.

  • I don’t let my 12 year old students speak like that to each other. It’s sad that adults are so much worse when commenting online. There is no difference.