On Thursday, I attended a function that the Social Media Club of Des Moines and Character Counts in Iowa launched called “Reveal Your Character.” The purpose of this initiative is to reel in the vitriol that has started to encompass the internet, including blogs, social sites, and message boards.
Adding in the recent rashes of suicides due to cyber-bullying and denigrating harassing comments, the light bulb has finally been turned on and people are starting to realize just how far the bottom has fallen in society with respects to being civil and fostering dialogue that doesn’t cross into the Twilight Zone of shouting matches and crude behavior.
It’s about damn time. Long before this initiative, I have written in the past about curbing bad behavior. In fact, the title of this blog was going to be “Civility is Not Dead”, but as I started blogging this site, it became clear that there was more topics to write about besides civility and character everyday. The least read posts on my blog is when I write about civility.
That’s telling and sad.
For full disclosure, I freelance blog for Juice and offer comments on stories on the Des Moines Register’s website as well. I have seen enough uncivil and demeaning comments over the 4 years I’ve been writing for Juice and on the Des Moines Register, it makes me sick. When message boards started popping up after the creation of the internet, I used to be one of many millions of anonymous posters with a fake name. I learned quickly on that in order to gain traction and build a good reputation, I need to back my opinion and observations with facts, write with clarity, and show respect when someone has a dissenting opinion.
When I began blogging for Juice in 2006, part of the deal was that I had to stop hiding behind an anonymous fake name or handle when it comes to posting. Every word that I type out on this keyboard will have my name attached to it, like an electronic signature.
In certain cases, SportsJournalists.com, a website board for mainly print journalists, they have to use handles as a way to protect their real identities from being revealed and thus putting them at risk to be outed. Some media members like Dave Kindred, Elliotte Friedman, and Gregg Doyel will frequent and post comments on the site with their real names.
When people do not “police” themselves when they communicate online, things get out of hand quickly and there’s no way to stop it.
Hopefully with the “Revealing Your Character” initiative, small steps can be taken to clean up the junk.
Yes, the First Amendment is an important tool to voice opinions, but there should be restraint and common sense when utilizing it. That means you can disagree without slandering, threatening, and being a fool.