"I mean, all this stuff you're involved in, it's all gossip. It's people talking about each other behind their backs. That's the vast majority of this social media, all these reviews, all these comments. Your tools have elevated gossip, hearsay and conjecture to the level of valid, mainstream communication." - The Circle, Dave Eggers
When we're young we're taught the difference between our indoor and outdoor voices. The difference in tone, the difference in the way that we speak to different people and the difference in what we say. We're taught respectful and polite things to say, we're reprimanded for misusing our voices in an inappropriate or negative way. As the internet grows, adapts and integrates itself into our every day lives, it's becoming increasingly normalised to project our voices across the internet in a negative way, often hurting people that we don't know and have never met. For some reason, people seem to think that's okay.
I've always been very careful about how I use the internet. My rule of thumb has always been to never post anything that I wouldn't want my grandma to see, be it photos, comments or conversations. It was a choice I made when I first started using social media and it's one that I've always stuck by. I wasn't giving anything the power to come back and bite me. I've done pretty well. I've never made any catty, bitchy or unnecessary comments, direct or indirect. When I scroll through my twitter or facebook profiles I see photos and happy memories, not streams of arguments and petty remarks. I listen to others, hear their point of view and talk to them about it. I research and read opposing opinions before I make my mind up about anything. I try not to let my beliefs and opinions cloud the way I talk to people that don't agree with me.
Not everyone has those rules.
My guilty pleasure is watching youtube videos and one of my favourite channels is the Saccone Jolys. For the most part, their videos are fun and entertaining to watch. I mean, they have two children and six dogs which says it all. They're loving and light-hearted. It feels like watching your best friend's home videos, there's a familiarity and a feeling I don't know how to describe other than homely. They seem to be a family that understand that life has its ups and downs which is why, on occasion, they're happy home videos are interrupted with bad news. A few weeks ago, the Saccone Jolys had a miscarriage. They chose to be honest and share that part of their story with the internet, as heartbreaking as it was. It must have been tortuous for them both to sit down and work out how to turn their celebrations into news that they felt that had to break to a million extended family members who had subscribed to their lives.
Not long after they'd learned and shared the news the internet opened fire. The Saccone Jolys were attacked and not for a reason that is in any way justifiable, no matter how the light is shone on it. There were comments made that were incredibly personal and incredibly brutal, nothing anyone should ever have to hear said about themselves. But of course, as disappointing as it is, they aren't the only ones and it's become so commonplace for people to use their voices online to do more harm than good. But they put their whole lives online, they're opening themselves up to scrutiny. It's not an excuse and it's extended past the stage of directing the scrutiny and judgement to people in the limelight. It's spreading to ordinary people that dare comment on news article or discuss a taboo subject, even if it's in a constructive way. We should be channeling our positivity instead of dimming it's light with negativity, rumours, allegations, name-calling and abuse.
We, as the internet generation, need to learn the difference between healthy expression and unhealthy expression. We need to learn to discuss instead of argue, challenge instead of attack and disagree without being closed minded. We need to learn how to use our online voices and extend the social media etiquette beyond not liking your best friend's ex boyfriend's sister's photo from 42 weeks ago.
I love the internet and all the information it provides. I love how news is instant. How ordinary people can have their own websites and blogs to share their lifestyles and their point of view. We have a way to use our voice that no generation before us has had. We have the ability to share our stories and messages with people across the world instantaneously. We have a million extra branches of support that spread across the globe. We have a platform that has the potential to be used for so much good and yet it's being tainted by those that feel the need to aggressively push their opinions onto others. We should be using it as a chance to education ourselves, listen to another side of the story, not use it as an excuse to verbally attack someone whether we know them or not.
There's a way to discuss issues without turning the tone of the conversation sour and personal.
In a way I'm still thinking like a child. Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary? If ever I've been tempted to get involved with an argument on facebook or post a 300 word response to a comment that ultimately, I won't gain anything from, I've asked myself 'is it necesaary?' And sometimes that's just enough to make you really think about your choices.
It sometimes make me feel disappointed to be a part of this generation. It's such a forward-thinking, innovative and clever society that we should be so proud of and yet we're letting the internet give us a degree of anonymity that makes us think we're safe to say whatever we like. We need to think about using the internet as a tool to strengthen our society, not as a weapon to beat each other down with. We need to think about how we're using our voices, on the street and online, to build our generation back up to being inclusive, understanding, open and all-encompassing.
Let's use our voices for good.