The Internet And Its Lack of Social Etiquette

Photo Credit: anndouglas on Flickr

I’ve recently taken more notice of individuals on the internet who spend a great deal of time picking apart bloggers. There are even websites devoted to this. In order to justify what these people are doing, I’ve heard the statement, “If they [bloggers] are going to put it out there, they are going to be judged.” And, “They wanted the attention! Now they can’t handle it?”

These justifications don’t even begin to make sense to me. Furthermore, I think they miss the point of blogging.

I began blogging openly not because I wanted attention or recognition, but because I wanted to keep in contact with family and friends who didn’t live nearby. As time went on, I also found blogging to be a useful way to connect with others I would not normally have access to – typically others in a similar stage of life as me and/or looking to exchange information about parenting. Suddenly I was no longer a lonely mom living in isolation and trying to raise my child in a better manner than I was raised! I had a community of people at my fingertips at a time when I rarely left the house for fear of disrupting the nap routine.

I had always loved writing just for writing’s sake. But writing online – blogging – gave me a sense of community that I was lacking in my life.

Don’t get me wrong – I like to be recognized for my writing ability or smarts or whatever! Compliments make me feel good! I bet it works that way for most people. But if I only wanted to write – without that connection to others – I would write a book, not a blog.

I blog for community.

I do not blog to improve upon my writing or gain notoriety – those are side effects.

Now, let’s think of blogging in terms of other social activities. A blog post is a way to begin a conversation, just as if I were to broach the topic using my words, in person. I am usually more than happy to have more people join in the conversation – on my blog or in person. I’m a fairly friendly and chatty girl, after all. What I don’t expect is to be judged OUT LOUD and disrespectfully for what I’m contributing to the conversation. This would not be tolerated in person, in my space – a person who offered that kind of verbal assault would be summarily removed from my house. If it was a public place, I would take my leave of the conversation. I would disengage and go on with my life, although I might be a bit miffed at the person’s lack of social etiquette.

After all, it’s simply impolite to make judgmental comments about someone within their presence – especially without being invited to do so. Everyone’s heard “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Not everyone agrees with it, but most operate within limits.

Sure, we all overhear things said by a group in another booth at a restaurant, and most of us have our own thoughts or judgments, but do we start a conversation within earshot of them about what awful people we think they are? HELL NO. We mind our own goddamned business and continue on with our meal – focusing on OUR lives. We might, in the privacy of our cars or homes, make comments about what we heard and gossip about it. But most people – even those severely lacking in social grace – aren’t going to be rude in person.

In the “real world,” there are pretty immediate consequences for being an asshole, such as people avoiding you. Online, this behavior is not only tolerated more, but it’s even commended as “constructive criticism” in some cases. You don’t have to be a psych major to know that slinging insults about another person’s life decisions isn’t constructive – it’s hurtful!

So, why is it that on the internet it’s okay to throw social etiquette out the window? Does the switch in mediums – from speech to written word – really mean it’s suddenly perfectly fine to openly criticize others?

And why is there no recourse online? Why do these websites get away with supporting and encouraging this kind of vitriol – even while bullying is being squashed in schools and workplaces more than ever?

Should bloggers be judged, criticized, and their reputations ruined just because they put their thoughts down in writing and some people disagree with them? Should they lie down and take it?

Should the blogging community tolerate it?

15 thoughts on “The Internet And Its Lack of Social Etiquette”

  1. I think this is a great post. It’s really those “trolls” that lurk around the internet that have nothing better to do than attack others. I think most people who are respectful and have some sense of etiquette and social maturity do not go onto people’s blogs and attack them, I mean what is the point? If I don’t like what someone said on their blog, I just don’t read it. It’s sad that people hide behind their keyboards and screens because they don’t have the social maturity to actually have a respectful conversation with someone else and be willing to agree to disagree while still treating the other person as a fellow human. Fortunately on my blog I have not had any trolls but I of course moderate my comments just in case. I have seen a lot of damage done with the troll behavior, for example the reputation of my son’s school was totally ruined on one blogsite by people who were criticizing it and had no idea what they were talking about online and didn’t even have kids attending the school. anyway, thanks for hearing me on my soap box. and thanks for bringing up this important topic.

  2. I totally agree, Crys. I’ve never understood sites dedicated to bitching about certain bloggers or trying to prove what they post are lies (and some of them go through ALARMING trouble to do so). It’s not fair and I wish it would just STOP.

  3. it’s people everywhere, not just the internet. People are rude and insensitive and selfish and self-centered IRL. why single out the internet?

  4. This is a great post, Crys… very well thought out. This is one reason I’m not too sad that I don’t have much internet time now. I rather like being away from it all.

  5. Bravo!

    I recently made the mistake of reading the comments on a local news story. I can’t decide which is more horrifying– that people still feel this way in the 21st century, or that they might be living across the street from my children. It used to beget the Great Internet Debate, but I find myself making better choices nowadays.

    I don’t understand why people need to shove their awesomeness in the general public’s face, and/or declare their superiority over everyone else on the interwebs. Low self esteem? The lack of anything substantial to say? Or, and I expect this to be uncomfortably close to the truth, because people flock to drama (the internet version of onlooker delays, you know).

    I must admit I blog, but have done not-much to build a community: 1) I’m lazy like that, and 2) whenever I dip a toe in I feel like I’m transported back to high school. I liked high school okay– but once was enough.

  6. I just wanted you to know that I am in love with this post. More people need seriously need to think about their actions online just as they would in real life. Very well put!

  7. I’m not one to shy away from confrontation or differences of opinion. In fact, I’ve been known to call out people on my blog, or to leave straight forward comments on someone else’s blog. That said, I do it respectfully and as myself. I think what bothers me most is the anonymity associated with these types of sites. We should all be offered the opportunity to face our accuser.

  8. What baffles me is that the same people who talk about how lame a blogger is for talking about their life and experiences seem to find nothing strange about how much time THEY have devoted to picking said blogger apart. I mean I have seen people on some of these sites who have clearly spent a LOT of time researching the people they claim to think are so horrible. Mind boggling.

  9. You know, I have been thinking about this a lot lately. I got directed to this site(that will remain unnamed as I don’t want any more attention given to it) whose sole purpose is to bash bloggers. Wtf? Why would someone create a place like that? I read some of the comments and they made me sick. Have a dialogue with the blogger in the comments or by email if you have beef with them. It’s like these little pockets of nasty that we need to combat with positivity and support.
    And you’re right, we do need some where to take internet issues and complaints. It’s time to get civilized, people.

  10. The blogging community should not tolerate it – but I’m not sure exactly how we can fight against it.

    On a personal level, we can each individually vow to not get involved with sites like that, or with hurtful conversations that we wouldn’t participate in face to face. But the truth is that most of us are already doing that, right? I mean you and me and the commenters up above making a vow like that won’t change anything, because we aren’t participating in that nonsense anyway.

    It is very discouraging. Hate sites give me a huge pause when it comes to writing on my own blog. It is scary, really.

  11. I really don’t understand negative comments on blogs. A blog is by definition the writer’s personal thoughts and opinions. If you don’t like their thoughts and opinions, why would you want to read their blog anyway? Whatever your beliefs are, there is cetainly a blogger out there that shares them.

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