You've probably seen it before, people being rude or just plain mean on Facebook or Twitter. But why do our virtual manners fail to reflect the everyday ones?
It doesn't take long to find it. People behaving badly online.
"What is it with queers and cameras?" Asked one Facebook user.
"Your head must look as goofy as your picture next to it!" Says another.
"I'd guess I'd say thanks for saving my life homo!" Proclaims a frustrated post.
Social networks like Facebook and Twitter began as a way to communicate with far off friends and family, but have since morphed into a means for people to start arguments and harass each other.
"People seem to be taking pride in expressing this bad behavior to others because at least initially it appears to be anonymous and they can get away with it." Said Dr. Gerry Schlenker, a media professor at the University of Sioux Falls.
Manners and being polite seem to disappear the second we log on to the virtual world.
"Whether it's a text message, a tweet, or Facebook post you can't always read sarcasm." Said Travis Berg, the web producer for KSFY News.
Bullies used to be just a playground problem, now it's widespread. Everyone has heard of cyber-bullying but not everyone is a witness to it. High school senior Landon King says he's constantly running into harassing comments or snide remarks among fellow classmates on Facebook.
"I think a lot of it is a way to blow off steam another thing is they don't really think before typing." Said King.
It's not just a high school issue, adults can be just as ruthless to one another. In fact, Time Magazine and Humboldt State University mapped hate speech across the United States and recently released the data. It paints an ugly picture.
The main reason? Social networks give you a mask to hide behind... or do they?
"It seems like this façade of anonymity is allowing people to believe that they are in fact acting anonymous at least momentarily without realizing what the consequences of that behavior are." Said Dr. Schlenker
As the world becomes more high-tech, it's becoming even easier for a bully to reach their victim no matter where they are.
"There's just so many technologies that people can communicate with each other and sometimes that anonymity of those media sometimes fuels a person's desire to say things that they typically may not say face-to-face or in a crowd of other people." Said Dr. Wallace Jackmon, a psychologist with Avera.
Dr. Jackmon says it's not just bullies who lack manners online, the everyday soccer mom can just as easily lose her temper.
"It can be anything from a sports topic to obviously politics and religion, sexuality those types of issues are going to be hot topics for people full of emotion and they're going to respond accordingly." Said Dr. Jackmon.
KSFY News is no exception. Even discussions on our Facebook page have sparked some hateful comments.
"Yeah, ya build a Walmart and that's when the whores come in, next thing you know there's money missing off your dresser and your daughter is knocked up... I've seen it a hundred times." commented one Facebook user.
"It was Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!" Said one woman.
"Who cares anyone who plays African handball are raging homos!" Said another man.
Social networks have allowed us at KSFY to engage our audience like never before, but completely opening the discussion has sometimes created more problems. Our goal is to give people a platform so we can hear the voices that otherwise would go unheard.
"We're not all going to stand up inside a board meeting or the city council and speak our mind but we will definitely go on Facebook where he can't be seen and will try to gather a mass movement." Said Berg.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but that doesn't mean it's no holds barred online.
"Today people have their own Facebook page and therefore they are under the assumption and believe strongly that it's their space to do with what they want." Said Dr. Schlenker
In most cases, online you are free to voice your opinion and Facebook can be your own public street corner. But just like an actual street corner, if you use it to harass or threaten others, your perceived freedom of speech will get you in trouble with the law. That's where the analysis of risk aversion comes into play.
"Which simply means when you put something out there voluntarily into public space you need to be ready to accept risk for it." Said Dr. Schlenker
You have to own the words you speak as well as the ones you type. Even the movie about Facebook's creation has a scene discussing this very topic
"The Internet isn't written in pencil Mark, it's written in ink and you published that Erica Albright was a b**** right after you made some ignorant crack about my family name, my bra size and then rated women based on their hotness." Says the character Erica Albright.
As Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg learned, what you type can come back and haunt you. It's not as simple as deleting a post or tweet.
A good rule of thumb is to think twice before pressing send and ask yourself is this something I would say to the person face-to-face? We can garner healthy discussion online, that is if we don't abuse the power the Internet and social networks have provided.
"We always need to ask ourselves the question, just because we can do something, should we?" Said Dr. Schlenker
It is said, the pen is mightier than the sword, but the keyboard may prove mightier still.
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