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 Bridget Carlson of the International Order of the Rainbow for Girls, Red Bluff Assembly No. 42 on providing the runner-up winning entry:
As technology increasingly occupies a large portion of our social lives, we often forget that our reputation online becomes our personal reputation. The broader the audience that our status updates, Tweets, Snapchats, reblogs, and Instagram posts reach, the faster information spreads. When we can send a message to a friend as fast as our fingers can type, why wouldn’t we want to keep our messages positive? I know I do.
Who doesn’t see negativity spread through the Internet daily? In the latest news, we regularly hear about racial and religious slurs coming from political leaders, deadly car wrecks caused by intoxicated teens, and the murders of transgender young adults, not to mention the “war” over marriage equality. In a world where hate and injustice spread like wildfire, how do we, as Masonic youth, stand up for what is right while upholding the reputations of our organizations as well as our own? As a Rainbow Girl who has come across many distasteful people in my lifetime, I have learned that it is important to know that a disagreement or a person’s bad attitude shouldn’t hold you back from treating them with respect and kindness.
I will never forget my first time at Grand Assembly in Fresno. What really stood out was not all the amazing things we did in the arena, the delicious luncheon, or even the bonding time with the girls in my assembly; it was a small moment that occurred when we first arrived. One of the Rainbow adult chaperones in my assembly went to check in at our hotel, and the lady running the front desk was being very rude. Instead of giving in to the instinct to be rude back, my Rainbow adult simply smiled and told the front desk attendant that she hoped the attendant would have a wonderful rest of her day. Then, for the first time in the 15-minute interaction, the attendant smiled back. It was that moment when I learned that not all unpleasant experiences have to be reacted to in an unpleasant way.
As I’m sure you may have heard from many Internet safety programs, what goes on the Web stays on the Web. Could you imagine the latest argument you had with a friend or family member being plastered all over your school halls? How would you feel? Probably not good. We often say things we don’t really mean during fits of anger. Usually those harsh interactions are either lost in time or become learning moments for us to reflect upon. But with the Internet having the memory of an elephant – and then some – shouldn’t we be even more careful about the words we choose to share online?
Last but not least, the decisions we make today sculpt our future and will represent our characters for years to come. So, if you can choose to metaphorically walk away from an argument or a confrontation online, I would suggest you do so – with your head held high.