The Internet does not Make you “Anon”

This age of digital communication gives us a sense of invincibility.  We are connected, and powerful the second we pull of a website, app, or social page.  This is a great concept.  The digital age has allowed people to connect with one another all over the world.  It helps for friendships, common interests, and seems to be closing the barrier between people in places.  Social media and blogs can open our eyes to new cultures giving us the opportunity to understand and appreciate each other.  To me, posting or exploring on social media, and posting or exploring blogs is a wonderful way to feel connected to someone in a different state, or halfway around the world.  Social media gives us the brilliant opportunity to spend our time building each other up.  Nobody says that we have to agree on everything, it’s not human nature.  It is important that we remember though that we can disagree, debate, and share ideas all day long while still being respectful that on the other end of our comments is another human being.

In recent months, I have noticed an influx of crude, cruel, and downright irrelevant bullying mainly on Instagram.  This social space allows users to be as anonymous as they want by using handles instead of names, and allowing users to post as much or as little about themselves as they want.  If someone posts a nasty comment on Facebook, chances are they will see or speak to that person and answer for what they said.  Instagram gives users the best opportunity to explore and connect with strangers.  The people in any given newsfeed could just as easily be an individual from across the world as it could be a best friend.  I think people are forgetting that just because someone doesn’t know them personally it doesn’t mean that they don’t have the same feelings that can be hurt as someone they see at school or work every day.

On any given morning I can scroll through my Instagram feed and look through whatever the individuals I’m following have posted during the night.  I follow a lot of users in different countries, so it is interesting to see their time differences.  Every once in a while I’ll see a photo that I really like, and want to comment on.  More and more recently, I also find myself wanting to see what others before me have commented.  I am becoming increasingly disappointed by the lack of respect shown by some people.  Below are just a few of the most recent comments I have been shocked by in my newsfeed:

“Your eyebrows are too bushy, you should have them waxed.”

              “She’s way too skinny to be health, don’t keep calling her #goals”

              “Why is your butt so big if you work out so much?” 

              “I don’t like your house.” 

“You’ve insulted my entire culture by using the word primal” (This was a response to a Buti Yoga post, Buti is actually a mixture of tribal (primal) dance moves and yoga.)

“You don’t deserve him, he’s too good for you.  You’re a slut.”

“It’s disgusting how much money you have.  Don’t rub it in.”

“You look unhealthy.”

“Nobody cares about your E-Book”

Seriously?  What does anyone gain from commenting these thoughts?  You can think rude and irrelevant thoughts all day long, but it takes effort to actually post them to a page.  Why waste it?  My concern is that we have forgotten that the internet is not an excuse to bully or body shame one another.  These are human beings running social media accounts, and they deserve the same respect that we all want.  The individuals who post nasty comments are the first ones to become offended the second they are called out.  Don’t be that person.

Social media is easy, if one doesn’t agree with whoever they are following, there is a handy ‘unfollow’ button conveniently located right by the user’s name.  Click it.  Remember that we are dealing with real people who have real feelings when we comment on a photo or video.  Just because we don’t know someone on a personal level does not make them less of a human being.  Let’s use social media to learn from one another, build each other up, and create connections we would never have the opportunity to create without social media.

Our computers provide a layer of defense and anonymity that we can easily take for granted.  We need to remember that we all have an identity.  A computer screen does not automatically make you some anonymous being without a name or address.  We are all people, we all have feelings, desires, plans, and dreams.  We have no right to disrespect another person in any of these aspects.  That Instagram handle is still a name, a piece of identification.  All words have consequences good and bad.  My rule of thumb before I comment on anything on social media, is to question whether or not I would still say it if I was standing right in front of that person.  Essentially, that’s what we are doing.  While we aren’t facing the individuals we talk to over social spaces, whatever we say or comment is taken as if it was said by someone standing right in front of them.  Use caution, and consider feelings before making a comment.  Words hold power, don’t use them to destroy others.  Rather, use them respectfully.  It is possible to disagree or debate while still using respectful and careful words.

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