By Caleb Keith –
The Internet is amazing. Endless streams of information are readily available for everyone to enjoy. Our computers, phones, and for some even our wrists are ringing and buzzing all day as new information streams to our devices. In addition to receiving information the Internet has given every man and woman the freedom to be a creator and distributor. Whether it is a simple Facebook post or a regularly scheduled blog, everybody has a voice. With how simple it has become to express that voice, it is easy to forget just how powerful it is. For example, even The Jagged Word reaches thousands of people per month. The voices of all the authors jettison across the web falling onto readers across a large spectrum of categories. In return readers receive something that books, magazines, and journals do not offer in the same way; a response back to the author.
However, this brave new world comes with responsibility as well as freedom. Perhaps as we all set loose our thoughts and emotions on the Internet, we need to consider that with every keystroke another person’s reputation could be on the line. There is a fine line between engaging in meaningful conversation and becoming an Internet Troll. If you are not familiar with the term, a “Troll” is somebody who uses the power of their voice on the Internet for the sole purpose of attacking and degrading another person or group of people. At times, I have been a Troll.
Authors ought to question and define the purpose of their article before setting fingers to keys. So too, commenters hold responsibility. This is because comments can be as damaging as the articles they mean to address or correct. I have often been the worst at this. I have a horrible track record when it comes to “letting the comments fly,” as it were. My family can personally attest to my inability to sense when I need to stop talking. Perhaps because I know I am guilty in this regard (and many others), I am acutely tuned to notice when a comment has gone beyond correction and into merely hurtful words.
This week Taylor Swift stopped a multi-billion dollar company from not paying artists. Her words online had an impact. Recently, I wrongly allowed words I wrote in a moment of passion to upset even some of my closest friends. For that I am sorry and I ask forgiveness from those I offended. I learned a valuable lesson through that experience. Words on a screen have an incredible reach, so we all need to mean every word we say. My words online have an impact. Additionally, I have learned that my words need to be tempered with a sense of graciousness and not malice. We cannot forget that behind the words on the screen sit people whose lives, jobs, and reputations can be impacted by what others cast upon them online. I think we should all take extra caution to not be a Troll and to be gracious and forgiving when others go too far. Most importantly we can all keep blogging, keep posting, keep commenting, and together hone our skills of Internet communication so that when our voices are heard across the web it’s for reasons that we are proud of. Maybe we all need to hone our Internet voice so that we are not only insightful, interesting, and corrective, but also gracious, kind, and thoughtful. I know that I need to do this. What do you think?