Don't let the pretty blue icon erase all courtesy

As usual, I need to protect the privacy of others, so I won’t be using any names in this post. But I had to blog about it, because I just don’t understand it.

I, like so many, am on Facebook. I have my author page, where you all can connect with me, but I also have my personal page for family and friends to connect with me. On my personal page, I am friends with someone I have known, quite literally, most of my life. We’ve known each other since 4th grade. We lost touch for some years, but she’s still a good friend.

She’s busy raising 3 kids, keeping a marriage and household running smoothly and working full time. So, like most women, she’s exhausted, and sometimes feels like venting a bit on Facebook. Last night when she did this, someone that she didn’t even know (a “friend” who’d been added while they both played one of the countless Facebook games) laid into her. This woman was incredibly rude – to the point of calling my friend a bitch, and even dragging my friend’s husband and other family into it.

What is it about Facebook, or even just the Internet in general, that causes people to forget common sense and courtesy? I mean, seriously – I have to wonder if this same woman would have walked up to my friend in a grocery store and said the same thing to her? I think the answer is “probably not.” Yet, everyday, people will be rude, insulting, and downright nasty online  when they wouldn’t in person.

If you don’t like what someone posts on their Facebook page, why not just ignore the post? Better yet, if they annoy you so much, why not unfriend (defriend? I’m not sure what the proper phrasing is on this) them instead? If you’re like the typical facebook user, you’ve probably got another 15,000 friends anyway. Okay, maybe not that many, but most do have a huge number of friends on Facebook – many more than they do in real life, in most cases.

Look, I get that it’s the Internet, and what people on the Internet think of us shouldn’t matter. But you might want to keep in mind that sometimes it does matter. And even if I don’t care what you think of me, consider this: you future boss, boy/girlfriend, and/or child, among others, certainly might. They might find your ruthless tirade filled with four letter words rather intriguing when deciding what they think of you. How will you explain to your boss that you can be polite to customers when you can’t even be polite to strangers online? How will you convince said boy/girlfriend that you won’t one day lay into them the same way you did that person online that you once played Farmville or Potland or whatever game you played with them (Yes, I know I didn’t get the names right – that’s because I don’t play them)? Even better, what will you tell your child when they one day present you with the awful things you once wrote to someone and then ask you how what you did is any different than the online bullying you told them was so wrong?

Everyone’s entitled to an opinion. But just because you’re entitled to one, and you have one, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to share it. It really is just fine to keep some of your opinions to yourself. Oh, and by the way, yes I do realize it’s hypocritical to be sharing my opinion here while telling you that you can keep yours to yourself. 🙂

I don’t know about you, but when I was growing up, I was always taught that if I had nothing nice to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all, and that I should treat others as I wanted to be treated. With the Internet, that all seems to have been forgotten. Maybe it’s time to remember. Maybe it’s time to make sure we’re teaching our kids those lessons.