We have all heard the phrase, “Once you hit enter, it’s online forever!” from nervous parents and concerned administrators alike. It is fair to imagine that many of us took it with a grain of salt and continued our uncensored use of various social medias.
Unfortunately the twelfth-grade class Facebook page was recently put under siege by an explosive combination of political opinions, intolerance and personal attacks. After approximately four hours of liking, commenting, replying and posting insensitive memes, the posts were deleted. However, the damage was done; several students were assailed for their ethnicity, sexuality and political allegiances.
Aside from the retorts flying every which way, this particular thread also displayed a much deeper division within the senior class and our society as a whole. It is much more complicated than the classic Conservative/Liberal split — it is a massive schism between the insensitive and the sensitive, the uncensored and the censored. Which brings up the time-honored question: where does one draw the line between being sensitive to someone else’s view or orientation and being able to convey your own opinion on the issue?
For fear of offending anyone or provoking an offensive response, the answer is remarkably simple: moderation. Instead of throwing profanities at each other, we should compose ourselves with respect and dignity, stating our opinions truthfully while being open to opposing viewpoints and respecting those of others, however disturbing or foreign they might be to us.
Additionally, in an age where online activity has proliferated within only a short amount of time, our generation has grown up learning to socialize and interact through the Internet, far different from past generations. For this reason there simply has not been enough time to develop a general etiquette for online interaction. And this is why it is important to just consider — if you would not say something to someone’s face, why would you do it through a computer screen?
There is no way to remain certain that all jokes among friends will be politically correct, but a joke that might be humorous to one person is not one that you should necessarily tell everyone. This is why social media can prove to be dangerous — everyone you are “friends” with can and will see it. Posting something on a page specifically for all members of a class is the same as making an announcement to the entire class. If you would not be okay standing up in a class meeting and saying something that could potentially hurt fellow classmates, how is that suddenly appropriate online?
We grew up with forums on Internet Safety, and learned how to avoid the “stranger danger” that could happen digitally. But we overlooked a different type of danger online, and perhaps one that is more sinister. For part of the danger stems not from strangers, but from the very people we consider our own “followers” and “friends.”
So take a deep breath, and take some time to reread before you hit the post button. Because a few likes on a comment will never be worth hurting someone else.
a Staff Editorial