Editorial: Civility is the best approach to social media

There are countless vehicles for online expression in our age. Be it Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Reddit etc., there is no shortage of spaces where people can express themselves in any way they see fit.

It seems that when people are not physically present with others, they feel as though they have a right to be as uncivilized as possible. But social media civility is just as important, if not more important, as civility in any other social setting.

We’ve all been told the expression “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” So why do people stop applying this when it comes to the internet?

Insulting people online under the guise of “free speech” says more about you than it does about the victim of the insults. Being a “savage” has no real meaning beyond its cyber insinuations, and having an online platform based on being as verbally ruthless as possible is not as cool as you may think.

Social media makes it really easy to be as “brutally honest” as possible, with few penalties. But what makes people feel that the internet is a free-for-all place to say whatever they want devoid of consequences?

It’s likely the anonymity and the ability to hide behind a screen that allows people to be bolder online than in real life.

The feeling of anonymity that accompanies social media allows for people to feel less accountable for their actions. But anonymity is relative in this sense. Everyone knows that once you post something online, it stays there forever. Even if you feel like you can hide behind your screen, it’s not impossible for your past posts to be dug up and brought to light once again.

In online spaces, as well as in real life, there will always be bullies. Although the line for cyber bullying seems to be blurred at times, the best way to handle it is often to disengage from the conversation.

You’ve probably seen it before, someone posts a seemingly innocent post on a Youtube video, and fifty replies later all hell breaks loose and people are calling each other names left and right. It’s so ridiculous to witness, and it doesn’t even seem worth it. This would be an example of a time when the best solution would be for the commenters to disengage as best as possible from the original post.

If someone is antagonizing you online, don’t play into their game. There’s no shame in deleting your comment, or blocking someone online if you would feel better for doing it.

Presenting your opinions in a controlled and intelligent manner is a far better method of communication than angrily keyboard smashing at the Facebook comment above yours.

Every internet user has a choice on how they wish to represent themselves. If you absolutely want to be that person that just hates on everyone else online, that’s your perogative. But being a responsible internet user means engaging in respectful and controlled conversations, regardless of if you disagree with the next person or not.

The internet isn’t always a bad place. It allows for a broader and more diverse range of voices to be heard. Anonymity even has its advantages, as it allows for people to express their opinions more freely without fear — which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

That’s the whole point of the opinion section if you ask me. It allows for me, and other volunteers, to express our opinions on relevant issues in an articulate and respectful manner.

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