The lovely suburban neighborhood we live in has its own Facebook page. It’s a good place to get an update about a missing dog or a school fundraiser. Neighbors share business information for reliable painting companies and helpful handymen. Folks will report the occasional rattlesnake bite or caution others about a bear sighting. In addition to all the useful updates I receive through following this group on Facebook, however, I am also privy to neighbor’s tirades about the HOA, the management company they hired, our waste disposal service, and the City of Littleton. Many days there is more drama on our neighborhood Facebook group than there is on any daytime soap opera on television. It can be like watching a train wreck with slightly less blood and gore.
I’m perpetually amazed, although mostly disappointed, by the vitriolic diatribes people will post on the Internet in a forum like our neighborhood one where they essentially then out themselves to their neighbors as hot-headed grumps with a poor grammatical skills. I know. I know. By posting my own harangue here about these people I’m essentially the pot calling the kettle out for its blackness. I prefer to imagine, however, that my verbal rants are at least a smidgen more coherent and a truckload less bitter.
What fascinates me is the way the Internet has opened up an entirely new avenue for people to share the worst of themselves with the world. Once there was a time when we might complain to a neighbor about something that annoyed us. Now we can instantly complain to an entire neighborhood. What people learn about us is no longer simply gossip. We can incriminate ourselves with lightning speed. We throw things up onto the Internet like we hurtle snowballs at a barn wall, expecting that our words like the snowballs will melt and disappear over time, but they don’t. The Internet isn’t ethereal. If you don’t believe me, just Google yourself and see what comes up. You might be surprised with how much a person can find out about you just by searching a few simple details on the Internet. What’s worse is that there is no context for the information that’s out there, so how people come to know us without actually knowing us is quite subjective.
Now, maybe some people don’t understand how they come across with instant media like a comment on a Facebook page. I’ll tell you this, though, from our little, innocent, neighborhood Facebook group, I’ve already formed a judgment about some neighbors without ever having met them. Their names and their nasty comments are etched into my brain. Is it right for me to form a judgement about someone before I know them? Of course not. But, it’s how things are now. I put my thoughts out there on the Web and people can believe they know me without truly knowing me at all. So, before you go off on some nasty tangent on Facebook (or any other trackable Internet site), you might take a second to contemplate whether what you’re saying is an adequate representation of who you truly are. You know, what my mother told me repeatedly as I was growing up holds especially true with the Internet. Maybe if you don’t have anything nice to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all?