Yesterday I posted something in an online group that was never intended to be controversial or cause a hubbub, I was sharing information and personal experience. For doing that the comments I received were in two categories: very kind and polite, and mean and piling on.
I had warned people to take it easy this year if they get the flu shot because I found it to be tougher than last year and I am home in bed sick. The nurse in the chemo lounge where I got my shot after my oncology appointment warned me to take it easy, and I didn’t and well…here I am sitting in bed losing a day during the time deprived holiday season.
People reacted two ways: politely and often agreeing as they had similar reactions this year and the other reaction was just piling on. Saying things like they disagreed and I was “wrong”. Wrong? My experience was not something to either agree or disagree on, it happened to me, it just IS! One person made some inane comment about how they got the flu shot and some other shot and would do it “100 times more” or something equally moronic.
All I was doing was passing along my experience and urging people if they did have to get one like I do, to take it easy on themselves. After all, I learned the hard way when I did not listen to the nurse warning me to take it easy. Trust me with a post -cancer compromised immune system, I wish I did not have to do things like get a flu shot, but I do. So I get it. But the reactions in an online community where hypothetically you are supposed to be able to share DID make me think about something overnight I feel is important: online behavior and this holiday season.
Sociologists and psychologists will tell you that the advent of online communities and social media has created behavior patterns that are very different ONline versus OFFline. In the real world face to face you might have a discussion that gets heated, but people don’t necessarily pile on in the same way they do online, which is a virtual experience.
Online in large groups, people pile on and can be very judgmental. It’s like their keyboards give them immunity from social norms and more acceptable patterns of behavior. Keyboard tigers, keyboard cowboys, keyboard killers – all the same thing and it is behavior that can be hurtful or offensive of others.
So I spend a lot of time often just reading what people write in these groups and NOT commenting. And what I see at times blows my mind because as human beings we can just be so darn mean to one and other. Or they just post things that are so wholly inappropriate it confounds me.
It is the holiday season. We are not all the same, we are all individuals. Let’s try especially at this time of year to be respectful of each person’s individuality and opinion and NOT pile on. Especially in online communities. When we pile on it is not right and is actually bullying, a behavior we teach our kids no matter what the age is wrong.
Opinions will be different from person to person and that is quite alright. If you disagree with someone’s opinion, that doesn’t make their opinion wrong, it just means yours is different.
Online communities were started in part so we could share information and be supportive of one and other; not tear each other down and be intolerant of differences.
Enjoy the magic this season has to offer to all ages. Think before you post online. Be more kind. Be the kind of adult you want your kids to be someday. If we can’t be kind and tolerant to one and other, how can we expect our kids to be that way?