My motto in life is a verse from a song by an artist named Trevor Hall. It very simply says, “Love all; serve all; create no sorrow”. Reflecting upon this statement may bring about a flow of deep thoughts but you may not consider that this saying could relate at all to a person’s activity online. However, when conducting my research on digital citizenship, this is the first thing that came to my mind.
Digital citizenship is composed of not only the things you say online but also the things you share, the “reactions” you have to someone else’s comments or posts online, how you say things, how often you check in somewhere online and much more. As our society has evolved through technology I have to wonder if we have also evolved or grown in our sense of responsibility, respect, and kindness. The first part of my motto “Love all…” should be quite easy to comprehend and interpret you might think but I often see things online that make me doubt that as people we live our lives in a way that truly reflects this command. When we write posts on Facebook about how our spouses or significant others have done something to upset us or how we are having a falling out with a family member or close friend, are we really expressing love? When we chastise our friends on social media because of their political views are we loving them? Is it okay to call someone a jerk or another less appropriate expletive just because they “stole” our parking space? If we shouldn’t treat each other badly face to face, why should we treat each other badly online? It’s not just shameful to humanity to behave this way but it also reflects negatively on us as individuals. When a prospective college or employer searches online for clues as to who we are as a person are they going to come across some post or comment calling another person a nasty name or defaming their character? If so, how do you think it will affect their decision about us? I see so many young girls especially nowadays who attack each other on social media sites. I so badly want to jump in these conversations and ask them to think about how they are making themselves look to others, how they are breaking each other down, how it would feel if someone did that to them. If only we would take the time to truly “Love all”.
The next part of my motto, “…serve all…” tells me not only should we be kind in what we say but we should strive to HELP each other. I recently heard a great example of this in George Couros’ video that gave me great hope. Have you ever seen someone post a status online that just screams, “Help me! I’m sad. I’m scared. I’m angry. I’m alone”? What if you saw a post like this and ignored it and later found out that person harmed themselves or someone else? So many times, the clues are there telling us that someone we know needs help but we simply ignore those clues. Maybe it’s because we don’t know how to respond or maybe we’re scared to make it worse. My personal rule is that if I see someone saying things online that make me believe they need some kind of help or even just a word of encouragement, I respond. Whether it’s just a kind word or simply saying, “Call me if you need anything”, I make sure they know I am here to serve them. I think if we all did more of this online, the first part, “Love all…” would come a little more naturally for us.
“…create no sorrow…” seems like a very broad or generalized statement and maybe that’s why I love it so much. This can cover all bases of sin whether it be online or in real life. If we were to go back through each moment in our lives and analyze them, how many times would we see ourselves causing someone else harm? When I say harm I mean physical harm, mental or emotional harm, or even financial harm. This relates back to my last paragraph about serving others but it goes even deeper. We live in an age where nearly everything is online and nearly everyone is self-involved. As good citizens of real life society and online society we need to take caution not to say or do things that may cause someone else sorrow. Of course we all have a right to speak our minds and express our unique opinions but we need to be responsible and respectful enough to censor what we say so as not to upset another person. Cyber-bullying has become so prevalent and widespread that I often feel like we don’t even know it’s happening. This phenomena can affect anyone from any age group, any gender, race, religion, or background. We all need to think before we speak and react.