The internet is a boon to anyone seeking information. With a click of a mouse, one may connect with endless libraries, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and directly to people and places throughout the world. It offers unlimited discourse between people of all races, beliefs, locales, and economic situations.
In the early 1980's I logged onto electronic bulletin board systems (EBBS) where we shared ideas and information with the world. Most of that intercourse was civil. Personal attacks were unheard of.
Journalism has always included personal attacks, some far, far worse than what we see today. How can the media not be biased? It is owned by individuals with beliefs who hire those with similar ideals to write and spread opinions similar to theirs.
Until several years ago, the press and broadcast media held a primary place in the spreading of information. However, this leadership is being overshadowed by internet websites and Blogs (Web Logs or online journals). Some of these blogs have more followers than many large city periodicals or viewership of certain television and radio sources.
And then, there are electronic discussion forums. These forums cover the entire spectrum of ideas and information. If you have a special interest, hobby, or career field, there is a plethora of forums just for you. They also deal with age, ethnicity, religion, and yes, politics. Many newspapers provide forums for their readers to exchange information.
But, the most expanding area of information exchange takes place in the area called Social Media. Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, indicates that;
Social networking now accounts for 22% of all time spent online in the US.
A total of 234 million people age 13 and older in the U.S. used mobile devices in December 2009.
Twitter processed more than one billion tweets in December 2009 and averages almost 40 million tweets per day.
Over 25% of U.S. internet page views occurred at one of the top social networking sites in December 2009, up from 13.8% a year before
As this information is three years old and the availability of devices for accessing social media has blossomed beyond belief! These figures have to be far below current 2012 figures.
There are so many social media services that I don't know where to begin. Facebook. Twitter. Linked In. YouTube. On and on and on. Have you ever seen four people sitting at a table in a restaurant, each of them busily texting on their cell phones? Are we losing the art of talking to people face-to-face?
And yes, there is a very important upside to this social media! Witness some recent instances where people did some truly horrid and stupid things and were caught in the act by someone recording it on a cell phone, then sharing that information with the world. What would have happened if some alert individuals had not taken the time to record the act?
However, the use of pseudonyms to hide one's true identity is bringing about a dark and dangerous side to this amazing tool. When one individual does not like the viewpoint or information you are sharing, instead of responding with a counter argument or logical explanation, the responses are far too often personal attacks and name-calling, some of it even degenerates into gutter language and libelous charges.
This is not to say that such extremism has not existed before now. There were and still are many groups and organizations that do not tolerate any but their own opinions and beliefs. But, with but a few months to go until the 2012 General Election, those extremists have expanded their efforts a hundred-fold in order to force their beliefs upon the rest of us. We are no longer just Americans. We have to have hyphenated designations and names. There are the horrid rich who gained their evil fortunes using the poor and downtrodden. There are the poor masses with no chance in life if it not be for government largess. All blacks are liberals. Only certain few Uncle Tom African-Americans are conservatives and they are blasted for being so. Every well-to-do white person is a greedy individual who cares for nothing but themselves. The vast majority of middle-of-the-road Americans are simply too stupid to make their own decisions.
When and where does this stop? Does it always get down to a legal charge or suit to abate the vitriol? Does the blame game ever stop?
I will openly admit I am writing this because I have recently been the recipient of vile and vitriolic attacks in the electronic forum of The Review/Journal newspaper in Las Vegas. I have been called a variety of names that would anger any non-saintly person. My wife, who has never expressed a single opinion, has all but been accused of being an illegal and a prostitute. And the R/J continues to let it happen – another example of just how deep into the mire the media has sunk.
I sincerely hope that somehow we will find a way to make our way back to a point where we discuss our differences in a reasoned, well-though-out, and civil manner.
Sadly, I am not keeping my fingers crossed.