California Freemason asked Masonic youth to weigh in on the following topic:
As technology advances, more of our social interactions take place through smartphones and computers. From Facebook to chat rooms, from Snapchat to Instagram, how can we show respect for the people we encounter digitally – and why is it important to do so?
Congratulations to Lindsea Friesen of the International Order of the Rainbow for Girls, Central Coast Assembly No. 92 on providing the winning entry:
A Light Amidst the Darkness
by Lindsea Friesen
Many of our social interactions occur online, from posting on Facebook and Twitter, to commenting on YouTube videos; however, it is almost impossible to avoid seeing some form of negativity. So, how can we be a light amidst all this darkness? To learn how to spread positivity on the Internet, we should first understand why people act with such animosity online.
There is a certain appeal to anonymity, either by appearing anonymous or by hiding behind an avatar. You may believe that you can say whatever you want without consequences; that no one will know you were the one who sent that comment. This opens up a Pandora’s box of sorts: Many “negative” people wouldn’t say half the things they post online when interacting IRL (in real life), but anonymity allows them to project personal problems onto others. Being mean online can be quite cathartic and can temporarily boost self-esteem. But this feeling is short-lived, and being unkind can not only hurt the victim, but the commenter as well. Psychologists have found that those who are rude on the Internet are likely to become more aggressive in their everyday lives. Plus, having a negative outlook on life in general can considerably shorten your lifespan.
The solution to combatting online negativity is simple: Don’t put up with it. If you see a rude comment or status, ignore it. If it is offensive, report it. If a person is continuously spreading negativity, block him. Negativity cannot be stopped, but choosing to participate in it is exactly that: a choice. Spread positivity instead. Before posting, ask yourself, “Could this offend someone?” If the answer is yes, even if it’s just one person who may be offended, don’t post it. And, if you see people being bullied online, reach out to them. Chances are that they feel like they are fighting a virtual battle alone. Just knowing you are there for them can give them the strength to report their problems to someone who can help. Studies have shown that more than 50 percent of teens have been a target of cyberbullying. The same study also says that half of those who are bullied don’t reach out for help. Will you choose to be a bystander, or will you, in the words of Maya Angelou, “Be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud”?