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Misconstruing Online Dialogue

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A cartoon about a dog on the Internet goes to show you never know who is on the other end of the line. There are many good people in cyber world, but there are also a lot of so-called “dogs,” too. They will manipulate you and tell you anything. Because they are behind a monitor and not face to face with you, they say what they like. They can insult, criticise, hurt, and stalk.

These people have this warped idea that because it’s on “the ‘net” it is not “real life,” and its ok to verbally harass. I agree that many of these social websites are not real life, but I do not agree its okay to insult, stalk, and harass others just because you are not face-to-face.

I have been a member of quite a few social websites over the years and I have seen how situations can quickly escalate and often out of nothing. One cause, which is apt to happen on instant messaging and comments, is the lack of vocal tone and expression in the written word. Sometimes, something you say — often an innocent remark — whilst laughing and joking, can look quite harsh and even insulting when in type.

Another cause I have found is the relationship between nationalities. We do not all have the same sense of humour. Us Brits, well we often insult one another; we say it in jest. Try saying the same thing to an American and believe me it can be easily taken the wrong way. One only has to view British comedy shows on Youtube to understand what I mean here. Likewise, something innocently said by an American to a Brit can sound quite blunt when viewed in type. Before you know it, what started out innocently grows arms and legs with bells on. Other people’s online buddies join in, and an all out war of insults and harassing ensues.

What can we do about this? Don’t assume everyone you meet has the same sense of humour. If there is any doubt, please stress you are saying something in jest, often you can just add an “LOL” (laugh out loud) at the end of your phrase, but use this wisely because some will assume you are laughing at them. Think carefully as you leave a comment and type an instant message so that it cannot be misconstrued. Instant messaging and comments on these sites are designed to be fun, and not insulting or designed to create drama.

You will still find there are some “dogs” in cyber world who seem to get a high from insulting and creating drama for others. By and large they are few are far between. You meet these in real life just as much as cyber life. Sadly, these people fail to realise that insulting, harassing, and stalking others on the net is just as evil as in real life. The thoughts are there and these negative thoughts can harm others just the same. One day they will realise this, for there is no escape from Karma. It is also a sign that denotes insecurity, jealousy, and immaturity.

You know you should always treat others how you yourself would wish to be treated. If we all did, this world — be it cyber or in real life — would be so much happier, don’t you think?

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About Astridestella

  • Dr. Juliann Mitchell, PhD


    So right on target. I agree I think sometimes the net brings out the worst in people because they can hide behind a computer screen. We have a saying at our house,
    “I’ve regretted many things in my life but I have never regretted being too kind.”

    Best wishes,

  • Martin

    well said as normal Maggie,,only problem i have is from the Girls?guys in Ghana/Nigeria,,who think i will provide aid to them

  • So true. Being online adds another thing to worry about in regard to your presence.

  • Carina

    I agree 100% on what you say.. I have always emphasised to my online buddies how words ‘come out’ differently when typed and even more to the reader,it has happened a few times to me, thank Goodness I managed to come out of these ok, however, they can turn nasty at times as you mentioned above… as for the word ‘dog’ I think we are putting down these beautiful creatures who will never degrade or insult us…
    great text Maggie!

  • Jessica

    i just wanted to say that i’m from the US and me and my friends jokingly insult one another CONSTANTLY – so i don’t really understand why you said americans dont do that.

  • Astridestella

    Hi Jessica, I am talking from experience and I chat to Americans all the time, and by and large I have found their sense of humour is quite different from British. Incidently that is not just my opinion, but one regarding TV producers etc. There’s nothing wrong with that at all. However we in the UK tend to send one another up all the time and I feel you are some of the minority. Your comment is coming across to me a bit on the defensive is that your intention? By no means am I criticizing Americans. Quote “Try saying the same thing to an American and believe me it can be easily taken the wrong way”.Notice I said CAN BE EASILY TAKEN. Therefore by your own comment here, there is a prime example of how written dialogue can be misconstrued.

    Thank you for your comment Jessica

  • yes I agree that internet communications (particularly instant messaging, email, forum comments), can often be taken the wrong way because of the slim channel of information that is available to the reader.
    It demonstrates the key role that non-verbal behaviour plays in our understanding of a message.

    We have a saying here ‘keyboard terrorists’ for those who seem to relish having a rant. It’s uncomfortable to see it happening to new members on our other (non-blogcritics) forums. For myself, I have learned the hard way to ‘think before I send’.