Monday, November 23, 2009

The Dark Side of the Internet

Recently I’ve looked at a few different blogs from the opposite side of the safe vaccine debate. Some post thoughtful and thought provoking insights. Some post vitriolic self congratulatory diatribes. Some post fluff tied up with a bow and presented as if it actually contained something more than lint. Some blogs reminded me, to some extent, of rabid partisan political websites I’ve read that were filled with twisted and massaged facts if not outward lies. I remember reading something horrible that was going around the internet about Sarah Palin’s son Trig. I don’t understand the mentality that would justify attacking a child because you don’t like his mother. And the comments, oh the comments were filled with objectionable things written about her son by people I could only assume were adults.

The dark side of the internet is the anonymity that gives people the freedom to spew ugliness because they don’t have to stand behind what they say up with their name. I understand people have reasons to blog anonymously; after all I do it myself. But I never say anything I haven’t said before and wouldn’t be willing to say to my friends and family. And I have a built in censor – my family. They read my blog.

What is it about the internet that brings out incivility? Is it that we are communicating with people we don’t know and thus have nothing personally to lose? It seems that with anything controversial people from both sides of the aisle seem to feel free to say anything they want, in any tone that they want as if with the assumption that vulgarity will overcome their enemy with “shock and awe” rather than winning over someone with rationality, thoughtfulness and logic.

I understand that someone from the opposite side of the vaccine debate could quote my first five sentences back to me with equal honestly. Ultimately, there are many issues that one side will not win over the other with logic, rationality or thoughtfulness. Politics and religion top that list. But surely in everything, even religion, politics and vaccine safety we can find common ground or at least agree to disagree with respect.

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