Manners maketh man
Am I the only one who has noticed that we’re becoming so negative online? Snide arguments on issues in comment sections, online forums, and the like have overridden otherwise innocent platforms. Facebook and Twitter, in fact, have both been afflicted with a serious case of internet trolls. Even world leaders share the same vulgarity. Sometimes I can’t help but wonder: How much of what we say online would we actually be willing to say in real life?
But this is not to say that dissent and discourse are not important. It’s the manner in which these are carried out
that calls for a discussion on whatever happened to good manners. More importantly, since when have good manners become irrelevant online?
The introduction of the first iPhone was a milestone for tech-savvy millennials. To this very day, millions of people from all over the world still gather in long queues just to get the first glimpse of a new technological masterpiece. But the interest in technology and its inseparable constituents grew proportionally with the rise of a less than humble attitude.
Technology is now being blamed by many as one of the chief causes of our growing incivility. The older generation likes to trivialize the newer generation’s attachment to technology,
saying that all of these innovations are simply distractions.
But much of the issue doesn’t necessarily revolve around technology and social media itself; instead, it lies with the approaches people have adapted in response to these growing trends. Technology doesn’t cause anything per se. It’s not an actor in society, nor does it maintain a position of power. It also doesn’t have the ability to exercise freedom. It is ourselves that do things with technology, and ultimately we let it change our lives whether we like it or not.
Take YouTube, for example. About 4.9 billion YouTube videos are viewed daily, making it one of the biggest social media corporations in the present time. But YouTube has shifted from its original intention of purely sharing videos to becoming a discursive sphere for people worldwide at the same time.
The infamous comments section has not only gained attention for being a source of humorous insights; it has also been labeled one of the most toxic cesspools in social media. No video is spared the racist, sexist, and outright disgusting comments that plague and vilify an otherwise harmless platform. It just goes to show that the origin of incivility is not in social media and technology itself, but in the people that have been allowed to abuse such a privilege.
The cyberrealm lacks the nuances that we experience in face-to-face exchanges. This reality eventually waters down our accountability for our actions. The internet has indeed reduced limitations on many things. It has reduced limitations on being rude to other people and leaving snarky remarks for them to see. It has also made it easier for certain affairs to be highlighted and for other individuals to interject their own opinions into these matters. The reason we’ve become so rude is this: We’ve been given more avenues to express our true feelings without having to face the consequences in a direct manner. Users now hide behind fake names and accounts, concealing their true identities beyond the screen. Gone are the days when we sweat, when our feet go cold, and when our face turns red when confronted. We can now easily hide behind a computer screen so we feel like we can still protect what’s left of our own dignity.
When entering a world of endless possibilities, it’s hard to completely regulate the things that surround us. The instant factor of social media allows it to be a place of quick thoughts, leaving no room for reservations. An unassuming opinion on a current issue often leads to a brawl. While scrolling through my Facebook news feed, it’s hard not to see an intense argument between friends or a toxic discussion among peers. Nowadays, it’s also hard not to witness ill-mannered and vulgar remarks from world leaders online.
Technology and social media can definitely amplify our emotions, regardless of what the situation may be.
Politics is perhaps another cause of our growing incivility. People are divided between political colors, and disagreements on certain issues break relationships both temporarily and permanently. Sometimes the dispute begins in social media and continues in real life.
Social media and politics have painted themselves to be a toxic mix, with each side in a political issue strongly accusing the other of folly, so that the objective truth becomes the main casualty in the battle royale. It’s useless to be a defender of the truth when you can always belittle your opponent without thinking about the repercussions of your actions.
There is nothing wrong with emotion-laden discourse, but it should never be exchanged for logic. Once we dilute ourselves to mere fallacies like non sequiturs, sweeping generalizations, and the notorious ad hominem, we become more than hypocrites. Our growing incivility is not brought about by the fact that social media has taken over our minds and fingers; it’s provoked by an absence of agency and a lack of proper motivation to preserve good manners. We must remember that we participate in discourse to achieve a public good, not to belittle others and boost our egos. There is more to argumentation than just self-gratification.
Promoting constructive public discourse and a healthy online environment is important, but this cannot be achieved until we arrive at the public consensus that there is an imminent problem that needs to be addressed. Harry Hart from the film “Kingsman” said that “manners maketh man,” but I’m sure he’d also agree with me that it’s better to just have good manners because they cost nothing, and defamation lawsuits cost a fortune.
However, I could be wrong. Maybe everyone has been rude all along, and it just took social media for our true colors to be revealed. Or maybe there is still an inherent good in all of us, and we just need to preserve it for the sake of our own humanity.
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James Vincent Natera, 18, is in Grade 12 at Paref Springdale School.
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