Don't be a d*ck online
“It’s a shame we even have to discuss.”
That was Will Smith’s reflection in his song If You Can’t Dance (Slide) from his 2006 album Lost & Found.
What followed was advice for dancing which still rings true today:
There's no lip biting or pelvic thrusts, I mean, you think that move will put the sting on her?
You too close. Tryin' to put a ring on her? You don't know that girl, don't cling on her, And don't put your thing on her, cool?
But we are not here to discuss dancefloor etiquette today. I want to make a suggestion for 2021 which also falls under the category of things it is a shame we have to discuss; namely, behaviour online.
In simple terms, in 2021, try not to be an ass online. The online world is a space we all have to share, so let’s not make a mess of it.
The internet has become how we do almost everything in our lives, from shopping and holding work meetings to catching up on and discussing the latest goings on in the world. Unfortunately, the ‘open season’ aspect of online opinions has led to a massive reduction in the quality of debate and discussion about what is going on, why it is happening and what we can do.
Maybe it is a saturation of opinion? Maybe it is the reduction of discussion to 140-character snippets? Almost certainly, it has something to do with a shift in desire from engaging and debating those you disagree with, to seeking cheap likes from those who already share your view.
But in 2021, please can we do better? If anything, the actions of the last few weeks and the gaping divisions in society around the world – especially in the US and UK today – show the devastating effect this debasement on online debate has had.
People are either slinging pointless insults or saying things they know not to be true in order to get a rise or get a cheap cheer from those who might believe it – or choose to do so.
If you’re going to discuss politics or current affairs (or anything else for that matter) online then please remember a few simple points:
Not everyone who disagrees with you is an idiot, or a bigot.
Don’t call someone a fascist or a Nazi because they don’t share your view. For starters, calling someone a Nazi online has become a lazy internet shorthand for ‘rise of the dickheads’ to the extent that the term risks losing its very real and serious meaning.
Listen to those who do not agree with you. You will be better placed to disagree with them if you understand what they are saying.
And, most of all, remember that most people are not bad people in their own eyes. In their heads they have a reason for what they believe. Understanding that will help you, whether you come to sympathise with their conviction or you better understand how to argue against it.
Granted, some people are trolls, but once you identify them just let them stay growling under the bridge.