Social media and the loss of common courtesy and respect

Social media and the loss of common courtesy and respect

I have noticed and personally witnessed a disturbing trend: the loss of courtesy and respect among many users of social media. And it’s a very troubling trend.

Social media provides a layer of anonymity somewhat, in that even friends you may know personally (as opposed to virtual friends whom you’ve never met) often write and respond to your posts in ways they never would if they were talking with you face to face. Hiding behind a keyboard and screen or smartphone has somehow resulted in a loss of courtesy and respect in responding to one another. Gone are the days of a friendly exchange of ideas and opinions, even if one were to disagree with another. Instead, the new normal online etiquette is that of belittling, name-calling, insulting, childish behavior when one disagrees with someone else. It is no longer OK to have an opinion different from one’s peers, lest one be met with pejorative sleaze from those same peers. Conform to the group-think or face the consequences! Do not dare to be different!

It’s for this very reason that a few months back I made the decision to post predominately on Twitter rather than Facebook. Twitter gives me a layer of insulation from the insults and personal attacks I faced regularly on Facebook. It’s pretty hard to get abusive in 140 characters, or at least it’s much more difficult. And I set up my Twitter account to post all tweets to my Facebook account. This was intentional. In the past I have all but disappeared from Facebook for weeks at a time, to recover from the abusive comments others were hurling at me. But many other friends pleaded with me to continue to keep them informed of world events, particularly relating to Islam. So I needed to find a balance. I needed a way to continue to provide updates to friends on world events, while at the same time be able to voice my opinion on current events without having to face an onslaught of insults and extremely rude comments. Twitter seemed to fit the need. It allows me to continue sharing articles of interest with my Facebook friends, and allows me to post personal thoughts to friends, even those on Facebook, who might disagree and get virtually nasty with me with insults. I choose to tune in to Facebook on occasion and respond to comments when I know I can trust those to whom I am responding to be courteous and respectful, even if they disagree. And this arrangement also allows me to ignore those posts where I know I will receive hateful, disrespectful, insults for sharing my opinion.

And I’m discouraged that we’ve arrived at the situation. It’s a sad state of affairs when we have lost the ability to disagree with one another and maintain respect and civility in the process.

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