Posted by: ourvoicestogether | September 10, 2007

Facebook and Dialogue

An entry from Our Voices Together intern, Jillian Vicinanza:

Trying to understand cultural differences seems extremely difficult for young people today. Many biases and prejudices are formed early, and due to the present state of the world (war, poverty, terrorism) people have a lot of anxiety when it comes to dealing with the unknown.

Facebook, and other groups like it, were created under the guise of keeping people “connected”. But we are not connecting. Facebook does not allow for intelligent dialogues of open-minded people to discuss cultural differences in order to form better understandings and informed opinions. Instead, the impersonal and unemotional nature of the internet seems to heighten existing aggravations and exacerbate hateful and even violent feelings.

Religion, particularly in today’s society, is a topic discussed heatedly among many young people. But instead of sitting in circles around campfires, passing the baton for a chance to speak, many opinionated and ill-informed youths are rushing to their key boards, pounding out hateful speech with half-formed ideas based on a limited amount of knowledge and almost no real-life experience. They desecrate God and religion, and insult other young men and women for having faith, which incites people to an enraged defense.

A major problem is that there no shame available to people online. No shame in sounding unintelligent. No shame in hurting another person. There is no level of self-consciousness because we are not a “self” when we are on Facebook. We are unable to realize the impact of our words on “real people” because Facebook isn’t “real people”. Facebook is a poor representation of who really are, or in some cases, who we want to be.

These hot-tempered people claim to be enjoying their right to “free speech”. But are their words free under the confining and suffocating nature of the internet? It seems that the cold, faceless, void of information that keeps us “connected” is only causing further alienation, misunderstanding, and hatred between people of different backgrounds. So what do we do?

We need to come together as the future leaders and teachers of the world, and start a movement for understanding, unity, and peace. We need to break down the barriers of cyber space. We need to humanize each other. When we do engage in online dialogue, let us be aware of the words we choose, the messages we send, the people we touch. Let us remember that we are not speaking to computers, but to human beings. We have feelings, and the feelings we foster now are of immense consequence for the future of our world.

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