Opinion: Behave responsibly online
A new survey shows that many M.A. students have seen conflicts taken online; several admit it’s easier than dealing with people face-to-face
Meera GoswitzTalon staff writer
As you walk down the hallways, you know people are looking. They are wondering about that vague, but spiteful message one of your friends posted on your wall last night. Or maybe, they are wondering what you meant by a certain status update.
Does this situation sound familiar? To many teens, it does. The Internet is a whole new platform for people to communicate on, but as with many devices there are negatives. Social-networking sites like Facebook and Twitter allow friends to easily communicate, but they can also allow fights to escalate in a public manner. You may be reading this and thinking, “This never happens to me. Maybe I’ve seen it happen, but my friends and I are never involved.”
“In my interactions with students,” said the Rev. Dan Bergstrom, Minnehaha’s chaplain, “this has hurt and cut people deeply. The problem is more widespread than most of us are aware of.”
Minnehaha juniors and seniors took a survey from November 22 to 24 about the Internet and its effect on teens. When asked, “Have you even seen anyone at M.A. take a private dispute and make it public online?” 70.6% said yes. When the students who said yes to the previous question were asked, “Have you ever done this?” 82.5% said no. In other words, 29 (eight females and 21 males) out of 235 students answered yes to both questions. Students have observed negative behavior online and while they may be unwilling to admit to this themselves, they have advice on why this happens and how to stop this.
Across the board, students said that people post negative comments online, because it’s easier than saying them to someone’s face. In the survey, students were asked, “Why do you think most people post negative things online? Why no face-to-face?” A senior girl wrote, “Because it’s easier to say things to people, especially mean things, when you’re not in front of the person.” A junior boy responded, “Because they are afraid of [face-to-face] communication. [Face-to-face] is more personal, you can’t just log out of the real world.” Some mentioned that there are not accountability factors online.
“The further detached we are,” said the Rev. Bergstrom, “the more likely we are to say something inflammatory. The accountability factor isn’t there, which is why people think they can get away with it.”
Students also said that people like the attention that they get for posting something mean online and some even feel that posting something online is more humiliating. A senior girl said, “They want everyone in their social network to see the drama that’s going on in their life in order to receive attention and sympathy.”
Most students said that treating one another respectfully online isn’t too hard and that using common sense would solve a good number of problems. Others said that using sites like Facebook for socializing instead of dealing with private issues would keep conflicts off the Internet.
Although Minnehaha may not have the huge issues that other schools face related to cyber bullying, it happens. You may think you’re innocent, but reflect on the past. Have you ever posted anything that may hurt have someone, even if it was unintentional? Many of us have done that.
On the Internet, where one can’t interpret body language, a joke may be taken as an insult and a harmless status update could permanently damage someone’s self-esteem. Everything posted on the Internet can be tracked and copied, even private messages. Before posting, take a second and think about what you are saying.
“We live in a world where you push a button, and you can’t take it back, it’s done. It’s there for eternity,” said the Rev. Bergstrom.
Nobody likes seeing a cryptic status update when they know it could be about a friend or even themselves. If you have a conflict, talk it out face-to-face instead of spreading it all over the Internet. Many students spend their school day with a Christian attitude, but what happens when they go online? That behavior shouldn’t be turned off when the computer is turned on. It may seem tempting to resolve issues online, where it is less intimidating, but in the end, the best choice will be talking face-to-face.
After reading countless statistics, facts, and advice, your head may feel like it’s about to explode, but it comes down to this: think before you post.