Keep a Civil Cybertongue

In less than 20 years, the World Wide Web has irrevocably expanded the number of ways we connect and communicate with others. This radical transformation has been almost universally praised.

What hasn’t kept pace with the technical innovation is the recognition that people need to engage in civil dialogue. What we see regularly on social networking sites, blogs and other online forums is behavior that ranges from the carelessly rude to the intentionally abusive.

Flare-ups occur on social networking sites because of the ease by which thoughts can be shared through the simple press of a button. Ordinary people, celebrities, members of the media and even legal professionals have shown insufficient restraint before clicking send. There is no shortage of examples—from the recent Twitter heckling at a Web 2.0 Expo in New York, to a Facebook poll asking whether President Obama should be killed.

The comments sections of online gossip sites, as well as some national media outlets, often reflect semi-literate, vitriolic remarks that appear to serve no purpose besides disparaging their intended target. Some sites exist solely as a place for mean-spirited individuals to congregate and spew their venomous verbiage.

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