31 March 2007

On kindness

I was got sort of bogged down in a debate on another blog for the last couple of days — really been on my mind. I still am not sure if I behaved in a way that I am proud of or not, but I am pretty convinced that it was best for me to stop. It's got me thinking that I would like to write a couple of longer posts on some issues that came up. The first one is this one: on computer mediated communication.

Obviously, I am very interested in CMC. Academically, I'm interested in grammar and narrative, but as a person who has been using a computer to communicate for 10 years now, I am really bothered by one thing: on the internet, people are not people. They are screennames. And you can say anything you want without ever having to see someone face-to-face. This is an incredible freedom, I think, but it causes us to be less careful about what we say than if, for example, you were sitting in my living room.

A while back on my old blog, I said that someone had deleted one of my comments on his site. I was upset and quickly wrote about it and linked his site on my mine feeling that justice had been done. I was surprised when he IM'd me and asked what I was talking about — he, of course, had done no such thing. He was terribly kind about it, but it really got me thinking about how quickly I had accused him and how quickly I had been mean and impolite.

Those are our key words, I think: mean and impolite. I live in a country where it is terribly important to be kind and polite and maybe it's getting into my blood. I just don't understand why the computer is an excuse to say things we wouldn't say in person. Or the computer allows us to be very rude to people we have never met. I think it has to do with consequences and how we mostly don't do evil because there are good consequences to not doing evil. On the Internet, those consequences are a little less clear. So that's where I wanted to start: kindness. We gotta be kind to each other.

Later posts on pacifism, compassion, and some other things.