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The Internet Makes It Easy to Be Cruel

My friend Laura told a story the other day about two men she knows who are lifelong friends. They serve on a board together, and disagreed on an issue for the organization. According to Laura, the conversation when like this:

“I’m cancelling 20 years of our 40 year friendship!” said one friend to another after a disagreement on an issue today, pointing his finger for added emphasis. “Oh yeah? Which of the 20 years are you going to cancel?”

Afterwards, the two men were seen laughing as they left the room.

But that’s not what it’s like online. Go into a Facebook thread, a message board, or log onto Twitter and you’ll see people practically screaming at each other. They will make disgusting insults and horrific comparisons. There will be threats of violence and calls for others to join in the attack.

But these kinds of things don’t happen offline, or at least, not as easily. We tend to get along in person and sometimes be able to see other people’s point of view. And I’m not the first person to notice the Internet is filled with bad behavior [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8].

This is why I want to get together with people in person. When looking at a screen, it takes an incredible effort to see other people as human beings. It’s too easy to be cruel online.

But not in person. So let’s get together, and talk.

[1] Psychology Today in 2018.
[2] Mark Manson in 2017.
[3] Gothamist in 2012.
[4] CNN in 2011.
[5] TechRadar in 2009.
[6] The New York Times in 2007.
[7] The St. Louis Dispatch in 2005.
[8] Journal of the American Society for Information Science in 1998.

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