I’ve been fortunate enough to have had access to “cyberspace” since the late 1980’s. Back then there were two principal internet providers, CompuServe and America Online. Mosaic (the progenitor of Netscape) had not been created so there were no graphic browsers. All exchanges were text based and there were fairly strict codes of etiquette shared and agreed upon by most people who were “online”. As with all things change was inevitable. Due to the advent of HTML and rapid growth and evolution of computer technology various rules of etiquette came and went.
Many of the behavioral shifts were for the better. Individuals of varied cultural, political and economic backgrounds were able to interact in a manner that never previously existed. While there are many positive aspects to this phenomenon there are, unfortunately, quite a few negatives as well. One of these negatives is something that I have given the nomenclature the Cyber Vociferous.
Cyber Vociferous are individuals or groups who normally adhere fervently to the “norms” of society. They would never openly make pejorative statements about other genders, ethnicities or groups other than there own. They maintain a facade of civility and tolerance. However, with the illusion of anonymity that the internet now provides, there are millions of these individuals who believe they have carte blanche to espouse patently negative views. Were their identities not being shielded they would never make such statements.
We’ve all seen bulletin boards that mention an event that should have no relation to ethnicity yet ethnic slurs and comments are attached to it. For example, a successful and highly responsible college student was missing for several days. His parents were, rightfully, concerned that he was involved in some type of accident. As it turned out he was involved in automobile accident and his vehicle went into an embankment. He had been trapped inside his vehicle for several days. The authorities searched for him but did not locate him. Incredibly, he freed himself after several days and made it to safety.
When this was posted on news bulletin boards most of the comments were positive supportive ones. Never the less, because the student was Black there was a plethora of negative and outrageous comments made about the case. Issues that were not the least bit germane to what should have been a positive story of triumph and survival nearly tarnished it.
Some who perpetrate this type of behavior does so without the being cognizant of how many impressionable minds will be exposed to this negative behavior. They believe they’re “just having a little fun”. Of course there are many who do this because they have found an outlet to express their negative beliefs to an audience that they would not normally have access to. What should be or can be done one might ask. Outright censorship is not solution to Cyber Vociferous nor can it be ignored. What can and should happen is that individuals who make such comments should be corrected bereft of acrimony. Nothing is more disarming than when someone is admonished without the visceral reaction they are looking to illicit.