We are living in the current and ever growing 2.0 online community where there are many different types of online interactions for online users to communicate and discuss on certain topics among each other. Such online communities inclusive of online news sites, social networking sties, online video forums like YouTube and many more. All of the platforms of medias mentioned above have been trying hard to achieve a single common goal and that is to educate and inform its online users to share their opinions and comments in a valued, polite, inoffensive, educated and appropriate manner. Many have not seen or realize this as a serious problem, but the actual fact is such actions have already affected many individuals and as well as communities in general with regrettable consequences and outcomes.
Let’s take a look at the infamous story of Megan Meier, an ordinary 13 years old American old who committed suicide due to cyber bullying whereby her friends posted offensive and vigorous comments on her social networking page. Megan is weak and initially already has a depression problem because she is overweight. She had thoughts of killing herself in many occasions and as a result, she was undergoing medical consultations and treatments. Her friends insulted Megan by calling her names such as “Fat Girl” and “Bitch”. There’s a boy who Megan really likes, at first they are friends, but due to other friends’ influence, the boy started to ignore Megan after knowing she’s a loser. In the end, Megan could not handle the pressure and embarrassment; she committed suicide by hang herself to death in her closet (Selena 2008).
The problem here is that what to one person might be just a vigorous debate or insult, but to the other person, it could be seen as a wounding gibe (DeLoach & Greenlaw 2007). Again, to emphasize on the problem here, some of her friends who commented and said the nasty comments might find that it is not a big deal and they are just saying things and what they say over social networking sites are believed isn’t “real life”. Therefore, they simply think that social networking sites like MySpace is not real life and their comments would not be affective online as it is not “real life”.
New technology and communication systems have been introduced which offer a variety of ways to communicate to a wide variety of individuals. In particular the introduction of internet relay chat (IRC) has provided a way for interpersonal discussion on politics between geographically spread individuals (Hardy & Scheufele 2005). What is unique about the internet is that it combines elements of traditional media use and interactive exchanges among citizens. In advances in technology and an increasingly rich information environment of the Internet, this is expected to produce increased levels of political participation (Couldry 2009). For example, when a voter is exposed to a great amount of information, personal contact campaigning produces a voter effect, and on the contrary, when a voter is not exposed to a great deal of information, they will usually vote a straight party ticket, even if this individual was get in touched by a campaign workers.
In my opinion, I believe there should definitely be moderation on comment threats and open forums. It is indeed peoples’ right to freely give their thoughts and opinions over discussions. However, due to the lack of positivity in the society, most people tend to take advantage of the free space given by the internet and express their feelings without thinking twice the possible consequences and results it might cost. I strongly believe one should be fully responsible for their actions. If an individual has the courage to say certain things, he or she should be prepared for all the consequences and outcomes that it might lead to. In order to create awareness to the public on the seriousness of this, I believe appropriate laws should be implemented in offenders and only this; people will start to think before they do or say certain things. Also, to minimize on the problem, computer mediated communication systems should be implemented in public chat rooms and comment spaces. For example, restrictions of allowing users to type offensive words and as well as have the comments being viewed and examined by moderators before it is allowed to be share to the rest of the public.
Couldry, N 2009, ‘Rethinking the politics of voice, Continuum’, Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, vol.23, no.4, pp579-582.
DeLoach, SB & Greenlaw, SA 2007, ‘Effectively Moderating Electronic Discussions’, Journal of Economic Education, vol.38, no.4, pp419-434.
Hardy, BW & Scheufele, DA 2005, ‘Examining Differential Gains From Internet Use: Comparing the Moderating Role of Talk and Online Interactions’, Journal of Communication, vol.55, no.1, pp71-84.
Selena, R 2008, ‘Jocks Against Bullies’, Sports Illustrated, vol.109, no.1, pp10.