There’s a song my friend Karen taught me, which we teach the preschoolers at church. It goes, “If you can’t say something nice, SHHHHH, say nothing…” It occurs to me that although this is a great lesson for young children to learn, many adults need to take it to heart as well, especially when it comes to online behavior.
I’ve always thought if you wouldn’t say/do/support something in real life, in front of your friends, family, coworkers, church, why would you say/do/support that online? And yet, that’s exactly the standard many people seem to hold…online counts less than real life. There are accounts of children being bullied online by peers and parents — sometimes with horrific results. And there are Facebook groups that “jokingly” ask God to take the life of the President of the United States. I don’t care how you feel about the President, this is NOT OKAY.
On Saturday, April 24, 2010, I will be joining other like-minded individuals who are logging out of Facebook for 12 hours to protest this lack of civility online. Everyone has a slightly different reason for supporting this cause — some people believe Facebook should take a more active role in deleting groups like the one I referenced above. That’s not my reason, because to me that smacks of censorship, and I do believe in free speech.
No, my reason is this: Facebook shouldn’t have to make a decision about deleting such groups, because common human decency should prevail in the first place. I realize this makes me an idealist and a dreamer (two things I’m rarely accused of being!), but that’s what I believe. BE AUTHENTIC. If you wouldn’t say it in real life, don’t say it online. There are human beings on the other end of that online connection — too often we forget that fact.
(Sadly this isn’t directed towards the barbarians who are just as awful in real life as they are online. They wouldn’t listen anyway.)
So, please join me, if not in the Logout for Civility that occurs tomorrow, then at least in a second thought before you post something you wouldn’t ordinarily say out loud. Because…
If you can’t say something nice, SHHHHH, say nothing.
Take a bit of good advice, SHHHHH, say nothing.
Think of something good to say, that’s the way to follow.
If you think unfriendly thoughts, just close your lips and swallow!
If you think it over twice, and you can’t say something nice,
Then don’t say anything at all!