I was prompted to write this article after a friend of mine told me about his younger sister who posted a “hate comment” on a friends youtube video and consequently they no longer talk, even after a year.
We are constantly told that the internet is shortening our memories. Twitter renders us incapable of reading and digesting over 150 characters of information at a time. YouTube videos train our minds to absorb 5-10 minute videos and we loose concentration if we try to watch anything longer. This is an oft preached message by learning support experts and the like, and it may well have some substance.
However surely the message parents and experts should be getting across to kids using the internet, is that the internet makes it much harder for people to forget. If you change your Facebook status you can delete it, but it will still have been seen by any number of people. If you put a Youtube video it is easy enough for anyone to download it and then redistribute it, anything you do on the internet is pretty much sealed in stone. If someone wants to record something you have done or said it is simple enough with any number of ways to screen shot, download and redistribute data. I am concerned that the focus on how the internet can shorten our attention spans is being drilled into parents and young people, when there is often little said about how we conduct our selves online. Yes we are told not to post things we will later regret, and there have been examples of how a Facebook update can cause you to loose your job, but kids who are using the internet at a very young age, much younger than my or any one else reading this’ generation. As people begin using Facebook at a much younger age, and any other website be it social networking or not, I think there should be a greater emphasis on making sure that they realise that posting a spiteful message on Facebook may be forever recorded and even it does not seem serious at the time, people are prone to over react, and will not forget as easily if some record of that insult remains.
So next time your about to comment on a status just think about it, I hate how people over react to things on the internet like this, but my friend’s story reminded me that people do sometimes take it very hard. Even if you have a thicker skin the other person may not, and may take an immortal Facebook comment much harder than if you had said it to them, even jokingly.