What happened to human decency? There was a time when decorum played a vital role in our society. We thought before we spoke, and we actually considered the consequences of our words and actions.  Many blame the disappearance of valor on the advent of the Internet. But is the Internet the cause of society’s visceral conduct or is it simply a conduit? I am more inclined to lean towards the latter. There are many factors that are contributing to the implosion of our humanity, but today, we’ll focus on the Internet.

Here is a thought to ponder: The Fall of Man began with Adam and Eve’s decision to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Well, today, we could say that it seems as if history is repeating itself.  Our vehement pursuit of information has taken us into uncharted territory.

The Internet is laden with all sorts of information–some good; some bad.  However, the sheer presence of information does not always equate to knowledge.  Information is simply raw data.  Knowledge and wisdom is the prudent application of information and the distillation between fact, fiction and opinion.

One of the greatest reasons why the Internet serves a great conduit for the breakdown of decency is because it is anchored by anonymity.  Even when sites are hosted by well known companies, we never really know who sits behind the screen.  Almost every company and every individual has an Internet persona/alias. Social media platforms and website comment sections allow us to hide behind our usernames and spew our opinions under our veiled protection.

Like with anything else, anonymity, when used appropriately, could be beneficial. Whistleblowers and tipsters use anonymity to defend the truth and expose wrong doing. Not everyone is brave enough to oppose evil face-to-face, and that is okay.  In a functional society, we need these types of system in place to maintain order.  Anonymity has also been used to advance and prosper others.  For example, many well-intentioned, good people have made anonyomous donations and gestures for benevolent purposes.  While there are some benefits of anonymity, if we are not careful, it could be dangerous.

Anonymity = the state of being anonymous (secret, nameless, featureless, unidentifiable)

Loosely defined, anonymity is hiding or covering the truth (or a lie).

When something is covered, it is veiled. It is in a darkened state.  Darkness, by definition is the absence of light. Light is representative of truth, goodness and purity.  However, with anonymity, there is a temptation to stray from truth and honesty, which appeal to our primal affinity for darkness. The Internet’s inherent anonymity could potentially satiate our basic appetites for wickedness and cruelty.  Moreover, recent online cultures enable us to be reckless with our careless words because there is little accountability for those who hide behind the armour of user/screen names. In a rather paradoxical way, the anonymity provided by the Internet perpetuates self aggrandizement at the expense of common courtesy and decency. In fact, it’s easy to dehumanize others for shares and likes when we don’t have to look them in the eyes, or face any consequences. In today’s society the old adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words may never hurt me,” has never been further from the truth. Words are weighty and consequential. The power of life and death is in our words (the tongue).  Hopes, dreams, aspirations, failure, fatigue and suicides have all been triggered or ignited by words.

So what do we do? The truth is there is no easy, singular answer to yield a resuscitation of decency. However, a good start is individual accountability. Each person has to be responsible for his or her words and actions. While we might not be able to change anyone else, we can definitely change ourselves.

Advertisements