I was on our neighborhood's "Next Door" Social media site and noticed a conversation about people being mean to others on the site. It made me think of how social media has changed the way we interact with people.
Don't misunderstand me. I am on social media sites multiple times a day. They have helped me reconnect with friends from High school, college, and past churches. I know more about my friends and family's lives than I ever have before. But I have noticed that people interact very differently.
First, they use all those Internet abbreviations, lol, etc... I actually have caught people using ones that they do NOT know what they mean. Many of them are substitutes for four letter words that I know the person typing them would never be caught dead saying in public. There is even a donut shop near our house named "OMG Donuts". Do they know what it stands for or do they just think it is a strong exclamation. I have actually been told by multiple teenagers that using that set of letters does not break the commandment to not take the Lord's name in vain... "I'm not cussing. That is just an exclamation." I even have gotten e-mail advertisements using a capitol F in their header, where it clearly stands for what you think it does...
OK, so people are using abbreviations to get around software that edits explicit words. The thing is, if you would not say it to a person's face, should you be putting it in print.
But that is not the whole gist of the discussion on our neighborhood site. People were upset that people were name calling and saying hateful things about peoples' posts. If you ran into your neighbor while checking mail and they made a comment about people speeding through school zones would you call them hateful names and cuss them out if you didn't agree? I wouldn't! I would say something like, "I see what you mean" and if I strongly disagreed, I would then give my opinion as another option.
I think because we can talk in live time without seeing the face of the person you are chatting with, somehow people think that means they can say whatever pops into their head. This may be one of the reasons that cyber bullying has become such a problem. People behave differently online than they do face to face. I want to ask, "Should we?" If you wouldn't be caught dead saying something, why would you put it in print for the whole world to see? That is one reason companies looking to hire now often ask for your facebook or twitter handles. They want to see what you are like when you are on the computer.
I admit that I do occasionally vent about someone who drives crazy in a school zone or cuts me off on the way to work. So, I am guilty of Internet venting, too. But I am going to make a point to try to remember what my mother and grandmother taught me, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." If everyone would stop and think before they type, the Internet would be a much more pleasant place, and it might even carry over into the real world.
Grace and Peace!