Fighting Fair on the Internet – Part 10 | That Would be Harsher Punishment for Internet Defamers Stan…

For many reasons the movie Ms. Congeniality with Sandra Bullock has been a long time favorite of mine.   Especially when she answered the question “What is one of the most important thing our society needs?” with “That would be harsher punishment for parole violators Stan…and world peace!”  I’m pretty sure since that movie first came out in 2000 I have been remixing that one-liner to fit my varying smarty pants comeback needs.  In fact, in muddling to myself just this morning after reviewing some dyspeptic online commentary I determined that I would answer the question “That would be harsher punishment for internet defamers Stan…and world peace!”  It’s true…internet defamers and harassers really do suck.

In my line of work, and in my every day life, I see people being nasty to one another online – and sometimes people really cross the line and forget that words do hurt.  Sometimes I wonder what happened to the good old fashioned “take it out behind the barn and duke it out…looser buys the other guy a drink” form of justice.  Back in the day (and I really hate saying that because I am not THAT old) if anyone ran their mouth in person like they do today online – man, they’d get a beat down and, quite honestly, they would have probably deserved it.  To make matters worse, you get the morons that jump on the keyboard warrior band wagon without having the first clue about what is REALLY going on and they either share the crap out of the false stuff or otherwise join in on the bashing.  When is enough, enough?  What the hell happened to the human connection and manners?  So much of society needs a good metaphorical kick in the teeth.  The First Amendment doesn’t shelter you from false and defamatory statements nor should it be abused as a license to be a jerk-face.  Unfortunately, unlike the “old days,”  it no longer hurts to be stupid and run your mouth.

Indeed I am a Section 230 Communications Decency Act (“CDA”) supporter, because I don’t think that websites should be held liable for the stupid crap that other people do; after all, that mentality is akin to an over weight person blaming the spoon manufacturer for making a spoon that they can use to eat and get fat with.  “…but, but, the spoon made me fat!”  And to those who just read that and got all defensive – clearly my reference isn’t to those who have medical issues or things outside of their control.  I’m talking about the person who is heavy because of purposeful overeating, failing to do exercises, etc.  Sometimes life happens.  We get busy and fail to take care of ourselves as we should but we can’t blame the spoon manufacturer for it.  The spoon didn’t make us fat.  We have no one to blame but ourselves.  This is absolutely no different and trying to hold websites liable for the stupidity of third-parties is asinine to me.  Yes, yes, I am well aware that the CDA protects websites from liability from third-party content, however, it doesn’t seem to stop people and attorneys from filing frivolous lawsuits…but I digress here.  That is another story for another day.  However, I do think that there should be some serious punishment for all these people who purposefully go out of their way to post false and defamatory information about others…the same goes for harassers.  Perhaps if these people got hit harder in the pocket book or were forced into doing community service – like helping with anti-bullying and harassment initiatives, maybe THEN it would slow down. There just needs to be more education and more deterrents.  It’s far too easy to sit behind the keyboard and be mean.  MEAN. PEOPLE. SUCK.

Until next time friends…

 

 

 

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Fighting Fair on the Internet – Part 9 |Troubles with Defamatory Online Reviews and Content Scrapers

Content scrapers are problematic for authors, defamation plaintiffs and website operators alike.

There is no doubt that there is typically a clash of interests between authors, defamation plaintiffs and the operators of websites who host public third-party content.  Authors either want the information to stay or be removed; defamation plaintiffs want information removed from the website(s); and website operators, such as many of the online review websites, fight for the freedom of speech and transparency – often arguing, among many other things, that the information is in a public court record anyway so removal is moot.  These kinds of arguments, often surrounding the application of federal law know as the Communications Decency Act, or Section 230 (which arguable provides that websites don’t have to remove content even if it is false and defamatory) are playing out in courts right now.  One example is the case of Hassell v. Bird which is up on appeal before the California Supreme Court relating to a posting on Yelp.  However, in spite of these clashes of interests, there does seem to be a trend emerging where the author, the plaintiffs, and the websites, are actually standing in the same boat facing the the same troublemaker.

Providing some background and context…

COPYRIGHT AND POSTING AN ONLINE REVIEW:  Many people are familiar with the term “copyright” and have a basic understanding that a copyright is a legal right that is created by the law that gives the creator of an original work limited exclusive rights for its use and distribution.  Wikipedia has some decent general information if you are interested in learning more.  For example, a guy who I will call John for the purpose of this story, can get on a computer and draft up a complaint about Jane and her company XYZ  before he posts it online on a review website.  As it sits on John’s computer as written, John would own the copyright to that information.  When John decides to post it online to a review website, depending on the website’s terms of service John may have assigned his copyright rights to the website in which he was posting on.  So either John or the website may own the copyright to that content.  That point is important for a few reasons, and there are arguments for and against such an assignment, but those issues are for another article some other time.

DEFAMATORY POSTING IS PUBLISHED ONLINE:  Continuing with the story, let’s say that John makes a bad call in judgment (because he hasn’t sat through one of my seminars relating to internet use and repercussions from the same, or hasn’t read my article on not being THAT guy, and doesn’t realize how bad doing this really is) and decides to post his false and defamatory posting about Jane and XYZ to an online review website.  It’s totally NOT COOL that he did that but let’s say that he did.  Now that posting is online, being indexed by search engines like Google, and anyone searching for Jane or XYZ might be seeing John’s posting.

WHAT TO DO WITH THE DEFAMATORY POSTINGS:  The internet tends to work at lightening speed and John’s post is sure to be caught on to by Jane or by someone who knows Jane or her company XYZ.  As an aside, I always recommend that people and businesses periodically, like once a month, run searches about themselves or businesses just to see what pops up.  It’s just a good habit to get into because if there is a problem you will want to address it right away – especially you think it is false and defamatory and want to take legal action because there are pretty strict statue of limitations on those – in many states only providing one year from the date of publication.  When Jane learns of the posting, maybe she knows who John is by what was said in the posting – and maybe she isn’t sure who posted it – but either way chances are she is likely going to seek legal help to learn more about her options.  Many people in Jane’s position will want to threaten to sue the website…but it’s actually not that simple.  Why?  Because unless the website actually contributed to writing the stuff, which they most likely didn’t, then they can’t be held liable for that content.  That’s the law here in the United States – the Communications Decency Act.  Fortunately, while online defamation is a niche area of law, there are many attorneys who are well versed in online defamation around the country that are able to assist people who find themselves in this kind of a situation.

So by now you are probably wondering how in the world a defamed party and a website could both be standing in the same boat.  I promise I am getting there but I felt the need to walk through this story for the benefit of those who don’t work in this field and have little to no clue what I am even talking about.  Baby steps…I’m getting there.

A FIGHT FOR REMOVAL:  As I pointed out in the beginning, arguably under the law, websites don’t have to remove the content even if it is found by a court or otherwise to be false and defamatory and that leaves plaintiffs in an awkward position.  They want the information taken down from the internet because it’s alleged to be harmful.  What can be done all depends on the website the content is on.

REPUTATION MANAGEMENT:  Many people think that reputation management is the way to go.  However, while reputation management can be helpful in some instances, and I’m not trying to knock those legitimate companies out there that can definitely help a company with increasing their advertising and image online, many find it only to be a temporary band-aid when trying to cover up negativity.  Similarly, in some cases, some reputation management companies may employ questionable tactics such as bogus DMCAs or fake Court Orders.  Yes, those situations are real – I actually just presented on that topic to a group of internet lawyers less than two months ago and I caution anyone who is using or considering a reputation management company that guarantees removal of content from the internet.

A WEBSITE’S INTERNAL POLICING:  The same law that protects websites from liability for third-party content is the same law that encourages self policing by providing for editorial discretion on what to post and not post.  As such, some websites have taken their own proactive approach  and created their own internal policing system where, depending on the circumstances and what was written, the website might find that the posting violated their terms of service and, within their discretion, take some sort of action to help a victim out.  Not every website has this but it’s certainly worth checking into.

COURT ORDERS:  Remember, a website, arguably per the law, doesn’t necessarily have to take a posting down regardless of what the court order says.  Shocking, but this has been found to be true in many cases around the country.  So what do websites do?  Here are a few scenarios on how websites might consider a court order:

  • Some websites will, without question, accept a court order regardless of jurisdiction and remove content – even if it is by default which can mean that the defendant didn’t appear and defend the case.  It’s worth while to note that some people won’t appear and defend because: 1) they never got notice of the lawsuit in the first place; 2) they didn’t have the knowledge to fight the case themselves; and 3) they didn’t have the resources to hire an attorney to fight the case – let’s face it – good lawyers are expensive!  Even cheap lawyers are still expensive.
  • Some websites will remove a posting only if there is some sort of evidence that supported the court order – like the defendant appeared and agreed to remove or even if there is a simple affidavit by the author who agrees that the information is false and is willing to remove it.
  • Some websites will only redact the specific content that has been found to be false and defamatory by the court based on evidence.  This means that whatever opinions or other speech that would be protected under the law, such as the truth, would remain posted on the website.
  • And still, other websites won’t event bother with a court order because they are out of the country and/or just don’t give a crap.  These types of websites are rumored to try and get people to pay money in order for something to be taken down.

COURT ORDER WHACK-A-MOLE WITH SEARCH ENGINES LIKE GOOGLE:  One of the biggest trends is to get a court order for removal and send it in to search engines like Google for de-indexing.  What de-indexing does is it removes the specific URL in question from the search engine’s index in that particular country.  I make this jurisdictional statement because countries in the European Union have a “Right to be Forgotten” law and search engines like Google are required to remove content from searches stemming from Europe but, that is not the law in the US.  The laws are different in other countries and arguably, Google doesn’t have to remove anything from their searches in the US.  Going back to our story with John, Jane and company XYZ, if Jane manages to litigate the matter and get a court order for the removal of the URL to the posting from search engine index, then, in theory, Jane’s name or company wouldn’t be associated with the posting.

Now this all sounds GREAT, and it seems to be one of the better solutions employed by many attorneys on behalf of their clients, BUT there are even a few problems with this method and it becomes a game of legal whack-a-mole:

  1. A website could change the URL which would toss it back into the search engine’s index and make it searchable again.  The party would either have to get a new court order or, at least, submit the court order again to the search engine with the new court order.
  2. If sending the Court Order to Google, Google will typically post a notice to their search results that a search result was removed pursuant to a court order and give a link to the Lumen Database where people can see specifically what URLs were removed from their index and any supporting documentation.  This typically includes the court order which may, or may not, include information relating to the offending content, etc.  Anyone can then seek out the court case information and, in many cases, even pull the subject Complaint from online and learn exactly what the subject report said and learn whether or not the case was heard on the merits or if the case was entered by default or some other court related process.  Arguably, the information really isn’t gone fore those who are willing to do their homework.
  3. The first amendment and many state privilege laws allow the press, bloggers, etc. to make a story out of a particular situation so long as they quote exactly from a court record.  No doubt a court record relating to defamation will contain the exact defamatory statements that were posted on the internet.  So, for example, any blogger or journalist living in a jurisdiction that recognizes the privilege law, without condition on defamation, could write a story about the situation, post the exact content verbatim out of the court record as part of their story, and publish that story online, inclusive of the defamatory content, without liability.

The up-hill battle made WORSE by content scrapers.

With all that I have said above, which is really just a 10,000 foot view of the underlying jungle, poor Jane in my example has one heck of an up-hill battle regarding the defamatory content.  Further, in my example, John only posted on one review website.   Now enter the content scrapers who REALLY muck up the system causing headache for authors, for defamation plaintiffs, and for website providers like review websites.

CONTENT SCRAPERS:  When I say “content scrapers,” for the purpose of this blog article, I am referring to all of these new “review websites” that are popping up all over who, to get their start, appear to be systematically scraping (stealing) the content of other review websites that have been around for a long time and putting it on their own websites.  Why would anyone do this you ask?  Well, I don’t know exactly but I could surmise that it: 1) content helps their rankings online which helps generate traffic to their websites; 2) traffic to a website helps bring in advertising dollars to the ads that are running on their websites; and 3) if they are out of country (which many appear to be outside of the United States) they don’t really give a crap and can solicit money for people who write and ask for content to be taken down.  I sometimes refer to these websites as copycat websites.

CONTENT SCRAPERS CAUSE HEADACHES FOR AUTHORS:  Many people have their favorite review website that they turn to to seek out information on – be it Yelp for reviews on a new restaurant they want to try, TripAdvisor for people’s experience with a particular hotel or resort, or any other online review websites…it’s a brand loyalty if you will.  An author has the right to choose which website they are willing to post their content on and, arguably, that decision could be based in part on the particular website’s Terms of Service as it would relate to their content.  For example, some websites will allow you to edit and/or remove content that you post while other websites will not allow you to remove or edit content once it is posted.  I’d like to think that many people look  to see how much flexibility is provided with respect to their content before they chose which forum to post it on.

When a copycat website scrapes/steals content from another review website they are taking away the author’s right to choose where their content is placed.  Along the same lines, the copycat websites may not provide an author with the same level of control over their content.  Going back to my John, Jane and XYZ example, if John posted his complaint about Jane on a website that allowed him to remove it at his discretion, it’s entirely possible that a pre-litigation settlement could be reached where John voluntarily agreed to remove his posting or, John decided to do so on his own accord after he cooled down and realized he made a big mistake posting the false and defamatory posting about Jane online.  However, once a copycat website steals that content and places it on their website, John not only has to argue over whether or not he posted the content on another website but also may not be able to enter into a pre-litigation settlement or remove it at his own direction.  In fact, there is a chance that the copycat website will demand money in order to take it down – and then, who knows how long it will even stay down.  After all the copycat website doesn’t care about the law because stealing content is arguably copyright infringement.

CONTENT SCRAPERS CAUSE HEADACHE FOR DEFAMATION PLAINTIFFS:  As discussed within this article, defamation plaintiffs have an up-hill battle when it comes to pursuing defamation claims and trying to get content removed from the internet.  It almost seems like a losing battle but that appears to be the price paid for keeping the freedom of speech alive and keeping a level of transparency.  Indeed, there is value to not stifling free speech.  However, when people abuse their freedom of speech and cross the line online, such as John in my example, it makes life difficult for plaintiffs.  It’s bad enough when people like John post it on one website, but when a copycat website then steal content from other review websites, and post it to their website(s), the plaintiff now has to fight the battle on multiple grounds.  Just when a plaintiff will make headway with the original review website the stolen content will show up on another website.  And, depending on the copycat website’s own Terms of Service, there is a chance that it won’t come down at all and/or the copycat website will demand money to have the content, that they stole, taken down.  Talk about frustrating!

CONTENT SCRAPERS CAUSE HEADACHE FOR REVIEW WEBSITES:  When it comes to online review sites, it’s tough to be the middle man…and by middle man I mean the operator of the review website.  The raging a-holes of the world get pissed off when you don’t allow something “over the top” to be posted on their website and threaten to sue – arguing you are infringing on their first amendment rights.  The alleged defamation victims of the world get pissed off when you do allow something to get posted and threaten to sue because well – they claim they have been defamed and they want justice.  The website operator gets stuck in the middle having zero clue who anyone is and is somehow supposed to play judge and jury to thousands of postings a month?  Not that I’m trying to write myself out of a job but some of this stuff gets REALLY ridiculous and some counsel are as loony as their clients.  Sad but true.  And, if dealing with these kinds of issues wasn’t enough, enter the exacerbators, i.e, the copycat websites.

To begin with, website operators that have been around for a long time have earned their rankings.  They have had to spend time on marketing and interacting with users and customers in order to get where they are – especially those that have become popular online.  Like any business, a successful one takes hard work.  Copycat websites, who steal content, are just taking a shortcut to the top while stepping on everyone else.  They get the search engine ranking, they get the advertising dollars, and they didn’t have to do anything for it.  To top it off, while the algorithms change so often and I am no search engine optimization (SEO) expert, I suspect that many of the original websites may see a reduction in their own rankings because of the duplicative data online.  Reduced rankings and traffic may lead to a reduction in revenue.

I like to think that many website operators try hard to find a happy medium between freedom of speech and curtailing over the top behavior.  That’s why websites have terms of service on what kind on content is allowed and not allowed and users are expected to follow the rules.  When a website operator learns of an “over the top” posting or other situation that would warrant removal or redaction, many website operators are eager to help people.  What is frustrating is when a website feels like they are helping a person only to get word days later that the same content has popped up elsewhere online – meaning a copycat website.  In some instances people wrongly accuse the original website for being connected to the copycat website and the original website is left to defend themselves and try to convince the person their accusations are inaccurate.  There is the saying of “no good deed goes unpunished” and I think that it is true for website operators in that position.

As the new-age saying goes “The Struggle is Real!”

I don’t know what the solution is to all of these problems.  If you have kept up with this Fighting Fair on the Internet blog series that I have been working on over the past year, you know that I REALLY disapprove of people abusing the internet.  I support the freedom of speech but I also think that the freedom of speech shouldn’t give one a license to be a-hole either.  I don’t know that there is a bright line rule for what content should and should not be acceptable…but as Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said in Jacobellis v. Ohio back in 1964 to describe his threshold for obscenity, “I know it when I see it.”  For me, after having seen so much through work and just in my own personal life, I think that is true.  My hope is that if I keep talking about these issues and hosting educational seminars and workshops in effort to raise awareness perhaps people may join my mission.  I firmly believe that we can ALL do better with our online actions…all we need is a little education and guidance.

Until next time friends…

 

Fighting Fair on the Internet | Part 8 – Don’t Be Sheep – Think Before You Click or Opine

The Information Highway Turned into a Mis-information Highway.

When did everyone lose their minds and all critical thinking skills?  Are we nothing more than mindless drones who forgot how to conduct any research?  Did they stop teaching these skills in school?  And who in the heck decided it was a good idea to create a bunch of fake garbage and post it to the internet just to see how gullible everyone is or use it as a mechanism for revenge?

Before you share – be proactive and conduct a little research. THINK before you CLICK and SHARE.

Some of these examples may be older, but it’s going to prove a point:

No, Mark Zuckerberg is not giving away his stock to you people who share the message on your page. No one gets something for nothing…and what you are assuming he said isn’t what he said. No…it’s not been confirmed by some news station either.  Did you actually see it on the news?  No – don’t share it “just in case.”

No, Facebook is not likely to start charging for its use. Are you serious? They probably make way too much money off of advertising and selling data that you all give for free when do anything on the website…including playing all those mind games to find out what personality you have or what your first Facebook picture was.

No, Facebook isn’t going to make everything you posted public…which is comical because if its online, in a sense, it is already public…but that’s a different story for a different day.  I’ve seen so many copy and paste different versions of a privacy scare (privacy hoax) that suggests the information was seen on the news and that if you copy and past some crap that talks about the UCC 1-308 and the Rome Statute you are advising Facebook that you don’t give them permission to use your data and that it is private and confidential.  I’m sorry, but friggen really?  You all have Google…how about learning what UCC 1-308 and the Rome Statute even refers to before making yourself look like a bone head and sharing it with other people who will do the same bone head thing by accepting it as gospel and sharing it – you know, “just in case.”  Is the “just in case” one’s way of saying I’m way too lazy to research this, but since it uses legal words it must be legit, so I’m going to share it anyway?  FYI – The UCC stands for the Uniform Commercial Code and governs the sale of goods and other commercial transactions like processing checks, etc.  The Rome Statute has to deal with International Criminal Court.

No, Walmart is not likely to give you hundred dollar gift cards for sharing stuff on your page. Nope, Target isn’t likely going to do it either. What a brilliant subliminal advertising ploy that people are playing into though.  It gets so many to share their name brand all over the internet without them having to do anything or spend any advertising dollars.

No, you’re not likely going to be given a chance to get a new car if you share some advertisement that was probably created by basement boy with time on his hands who wanted to see how many people would share his inside joke on your page.  Did you bother to check in with the company to see if it was a legitimate offer they were running?  Mmmm, my guess is probably not.

No, Redbull isn’t made out of “bull semen” or “bull pee.” It’s made up of all kinds of other things, including synthetic ingredients that arguably may not be the best for you but come on… bull semen?  Seriously?  Who comes up with this stuff?

No, your favorite “news” station isn’t telling you everything you ought to know.  Indeed, your favorite news station has clipped, edited and skewed what was REALLY said…so you better go find the whole debate or story, educate yourself by taking the time to watch the whole thing (pray it was live otherwise it’s likely been edited to fit an agenda), and THEN form an opinion – to do anything less is to allow yourself to be swayed by only a tiny piece of information that may, or may not, have been taken out of context. Don’t be sheep.  It’s amazing how many people take Main Stream Media (MSM) for the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  Having been interviewed a few times by MSM for different stories I can tell you the final product is swayed, chopped, hacked bullshit that looks and feels like a whole story – but it’s not.  In fact, in my experience, it’s actually quite different.

No, a headline doesn’t always reflect the story.  Ever heard of click-bait?  That headline that get’s your attention, because it sounds like a train wreck, is often misleading as to what is actually written in the article.  If you are going to click on that advertising dollar generating article, at least don’t be lazy.  Read the entire article, and even then, take it with a grain of salt because it’s probably not the whole story.  Don’t just read the headline and then share it will all your friends making assumptions based upon the headline alone.

No, that review you read may not be legitimate.  Even if it is in multiple places all over the internet – it could all still be the same author or content scrapers.  I’ll talk about that more in another blog eventually.  Yes, many people write honest and legitimate reviews for legitimate reasons BUT just like you see on social media, there are review trolls.  Review trolls are the people that suck at life so bad that they have to resort to making up or drastically embellish stories about their exes:  ex-business partner, ex-employer, ex-employee, ex-boyfriend/girlfriend, ex-husband/wife and even former friends or family that they aren’t getting along with.  Some people even resort to making up crap about themselves to gain sympathy of others (playing a victim is so easy these days) or might resort to making up stories about their competitors – because well, some people can’t stand to see others do better than them and misery loves company.  Be sure to take everything with a grain of salt and remember to conduct some research – after all what you read (be it checking up on a person or a business) could be entirely made up and once it’s up…it can’t always come down.  That goes for you too Human Resource hiring managers…

No, that meme that someone put together with their phone, incorrect math, spelling and all, isn’t necessarily true.  I can understand sharing the funny ones for humor or satire, but some people post that sh!t like it’s the TRUTH!  Holy cow – anyone can make that stuff up and then ya’ll go sharing it like it was written in the Encyclopedia Britannica.  Oh wait, some are too young to even remember actual fact books like that.  And when did “meme” even become a word?  Seems about the equivalent of the  so called words “bae” and “fleek” to me.  I wonder if my parents thought the same thing about the use of the word “rad” back in the 80s – but then again, at least “rad” was just the shortened version of “radical.”  That at least made some sense.

As a society, I feel that we need to stop being so damn lazy and accepting garbage, including MSM stories, posted on the web as truth without question.  I’ve seen so many accept anything that is written on the Internet as gospel and then share and opine based on, well…nothing but bad information. WTF?  You might as well take your brain out, play pat-a-cake with it, and stick it back in as mush.  You were given a brain…so use it!

Until next time friends…

 

Fighting Fair on the Internet – Part 7 | Freedom of Speech – the Double Edged Sword

If you’ve been keeping up with this Fighting Fair on the Internet blog series you know I believe that: the Internet sucks (well, it can suck); we as a society have lost the human connection and mannersopinions are like poop (we need more courtesy flushes); no one really likes the person who crosses the line onlinewords DO hurt; and that my hope is that people can dig down and make America KIND again…and that really goes for the rest of the world caught up in the three-ring circus without a ring-master that is life.  This of course begs the question: what is the root cause of the problem?  I could run a poll of 1,000 different people and I suspect I could get 1,000 different answers to that question.  So let’s look at one concept:  Freedom of Speech.

I know this is a huge topic and there is no way I could touch on all aspects but recently a situation occurred that made me look at both sides of the freedom of speech coin.  Sure, I have thought about it a lot – especially given the nature of my line of work – but this was different.  You know, the funny thing about freedom of speech is that rarely does one dislike it unless and until something is said or written negatively about them or it otherwise provokes negative emotions within.  And, I suppose it goes without saying, that what one person finds offensive will often not be the same, at least to the same degree, as the next person.  I believe that each person and their perspectives are shaped by their unique set of circumstances in life – upbringing, religion, education, and personal life experiences.  For example, one who may have been brought up in a family where there was domestic violence in the home may have a much deeper and more passionate emotion on the subject than one who didn’t have such trauma in their life growing up.  Someone could joke about it to someone that hasn’t experience it and it may come across funny.  However, the same joke to the person who has experienced it may not find it so funny.  The thing is, there really is not a “bright line” rule and therefore leaves a lot of room for disagreements.

Let’s look at freedom of speech in a social context:  Typically if something is said more generally – it’s likely to be less offensive to an individual.  Someone might say “I don’t like the president!” and while some people may disagree with that opinion they are not likely to take it personally.  That’s because  it’s not about them personally.  But what happens when criticism is directed towards a specific individual?  I don’t know a single person that likes criticism of any kind.  True, some people take criticism better than others but still, even constructive criticism, can take a toll on one’s emotional well-being depending on how the information is presented.

I don’t think Newton’s Third Law: “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction” applies only to motion.  Think about kids on the playground; one kid says something mean or does something mean to another kid, the first reaction, right or wrong, for the kid on the receiving end is to do something mean back – whether it be harsh words or physical violence.  The internet has, in many respects, become a giant sandbox full of bratty little children – except, most people interacting online aren’t “children.”  Someone expresses their negative opinion, or worse – maybe makes up some kind of total BS, about someone online and then what happens?  The person who got called out, out of hurt feelings and anger, will likely come up with something equally as mean, or worse, back.  It’s like a perpetual fight that never seems to end, and, worse yet, the playground fight is online, for all to see, FOREVER.  Then what sets in is the fools remorse that I talk about in my presentations and briefly in my article that speaks on the topic of crossing the line online…and many times there isn’t much that can be done about it.  You can’t un-ring a bell.

Final thoughts:  Be careful with your words in person, and especially online.  It’s okay for you exercises your free speech right to voice your opinion about things, but if you do it about someone specifically, right or wrong, you should be prepared and understand that there is a good chance that the person who you wrote about may exercise their freedom of speech, possible with “playground tactics,” to come back with the same, or even worse, reaction.  And remember, not all opinions are created equal.  Sometimes it’s okay to give an opinion a “courtesy flush.

Until next time friends.

 

 

Fighting Fair on the Internet | Part 6 – Make America KIND Again

 

It has been a while since I have written anything on this topic…but having seen so much chaos go on online today that it sparked my desire to write.  In the wake of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election these are my thoughts as they relate to what kinds of sentiments I have seen portrayed online:

Remember, the key to your happiness does not lie with having a female president or a male president…happiness begins with YOU; choosing to be happy and find the good in any set of given circumstances is solely within YOUR power.

My heart hurts for those who are feeling a sense of hopeless and despair in the wake of this very heated election…and to each of you I’d give you a huge hug if I could because no matter what…we are ALL in this together and we will deal with things as they come TOGETHER as a nation.

People always fear and fight against change…no matter how big or small the change is. That is human nature. It probably goes without saying but just think about the way we all went about business before technology.  I can recall what it was like trying to explain to the older attorneys that I worked with that we had to change over and adapt to new technology.  Attorneys by nature tend to be stubborn and I can tell you that the attorneys that I worked with, no matter how great of lawyers they were, the ones that were older were worse than mules!  This, conceptually, is no different but in the end, IT WILL BE OKAY. WE WILL ALL BE OKAY.

Please stop saying if you supported this candidate or that candidate you are (enter here any of the stupid words and phrases that the media has spewed at you for two years – most of which many had to look of the definitions of and or didn’t look up the definitions but would repeat).  Seriously, stop.  How does that help anything?   Really…stop and think about it. How does labeling and calling names help anything other than your own ego?   The same goes with saying “I’m moving to Canada!”  The truth is, you probably aren’t moving to Canada and, if you do, good luck on their citizenship process – by the time you become a citizen this election term, plus half of the next, will likely be half over.

People make choices and decisions based upon their personal life experiences, beliefs, upbringings, faith, education, etc.  No single one of us has had the same experiences and therefore we are all going to look at this world, including politics, a little differently. IT’S OKAY TO SEE THINGS DIFFERENTLY! Different doesn’t mean wrong…it’s just different.

No president can make you a kind person.  No president can make you a loving person. No president can make one have a sense of self-respect or morals. No president can give you the drive and determination to want to work hard and go after your goals.  Indeed, they can encourage those things, but it’s UP TO YOU to make your life better and to make yourself happy regardless of the circumstances.  Don’t place the power of YOUR HAPPINESS into someone else’s hands…you will wind up disappointed.

It’s okay to be apprehensive. It’s okay to be a little emotional. We are all human, and if you’re reading this, you are probably a fine human with many wonderful qualities.  At the same time, none of us are perfect so I give you this thought:  Being bitter and shitty to other people, friends or strangers in person or online over your differences, only prolongs YOUR unhappiness…and really says more about YOU as a person than it does anything else.

There is a reason I have this entire blog series about “Fighting Fair on the Internet” and all of this has made an excellent case study and proves my point – we have lost the human connection and it’s time to bring it back and relearn and implement some manners. Being silent when you want to verbally throat punch someone isn’t weakness…it’s called GRACE, and grace my friends, is a strength that few today seem to possess.

I have read today some really UGLY reactions to the outcome of last night’s presidential election.  On the other hand, I have read some of the most BEAUTIFUL words by friends who, while disappointed with the election results, found hope and a willingness to move forward…recognizing that we are all in this together and we, together, can do great things. To those people…thank you for share the kind words and inspiration.

Be HUMBLE. Be KIND. Be UPLIFTING instead of degrading. INSPIRE others to fulfill their dreams and realize their full potential. EDUCATE when education is helpful but not just to be “right” or vengeful for self gratification.  Let’s make America KIND again…and KNOW that the POWER for all of these things lies within YOU.

Until next time friends…

P.S. – If any of this resonates with you, or you agree with that I have said, please consider sharing this article and/or leave me a comment.

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Fighting Fair on the Internet: Part 5 | Words DO Hurt

13139249_10153931221552819_4713360848051877835_nToday, while taking a mental/emotional break from the negative stress and duties that my line of work brings to me, I stumbled across this picture on a social media post.  The quote “The tongue has no bones, but it is strong enough to break a heart.  So be careful with your words.”  Given all that I have experienced in life, and all that I see through my career path right now, I can tell you that this is such a powerful and true statement.  Words do hurt…and while the focus used to be on what is being said verbally, now with a majority of our communications being electronic and we have seemingly lost the human connection because of it, now more than ever, it counts for the written word as well.

STICKS AND STONES:  Yes, I am well aware of the old saying “Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me.”   You know, to an extent that is true.  People can say what they want but it’s not like anyone is going to take away your birthday with words.  I also think that people need to have a certain level of a thick skin and ability to cope because some people are just giant jerks…but life does go on.  People grow up, people learn to move past their own hurt that causes them to feel the need to hurt others, they learn from their mistakes, change their attitudes, break bad habits, and so on.  So to all the “suck it up buttercup” minded people…I can agree…to an extent.  I wouldn’t have gotten as far as I have if I let everyone who said an unkind word to me really get to me.  In fact, in some instances, it was only fuel to my fire for working hard to become better…better at whatever they were trying to tear me down over.

IT’S A DIFFERENT WORLD: At the same time, we are living in an entirely different world today.  We have adults who don’t really understand the types of bullying and harassment that can go on now.  Consequently that means that when their children, or grandchildren, or nieces and nephews, come to them with problems relating to bullying now…they don’t really have an idea on how to address it.  Heck, I know a lot of adults that don’t even know how to address it because it’s not just an issue targeting youth – many adults are now the subject of attacks, be it personally or maybe through reviews of their business.  Now, of course, there is some basics and wisdom that we can all draw upon from when we were young…but there are other dynamics that are involved.  It’s not because us “older” people are stupid and don’t know what it is like to be bullied – it’s just different…and in many cases, way worse than any of us ever had it growing up because we didn’t have all of this instant access and technology.  More and more we are hearing stories of kids killing themselves because of bullying.  I’ve read the stories – it’s heartbreaking.  And why?  What is the root cause?  Is it because the kids are being coddled too much and lack coping skills?  Or is it because of the new ways that people are being targeted through the use of technology and the seeming inability to get away from it?

STORY THAT CHANGED MY LIFE: Coinciding with this exact topic, many years ago, in my early 20s (before all this social media stuff) I had a friend forward to me an e-mail that had been circulating.  My friend knew that I had been going through a rough time in my life and I was struggling with my own reactions to what others were saying to me.  Up until that point, there were times that I could be equally unkind to someone when pushed.  Nevertheless, that one silly little e-mail, for whatever reason, resonated with me and forever changed the way I thought about the words that I would speak (or write) to someone.  Because it was so impressionable upon me I will share a version of the same “Nails in the Fence” story here:

There once was a little girl who had a bad temper.  Her mother gave her a bag of nails, and told her that every time she lost her temper, she must hammer a nail into the back of the fence.

The first day the girl had driven 37 nails into the fence.

Over the next few weeks, as she learned to control her anger, the number of nails she hammered into the fence each day gradually dwindled.

She discovered it was easier to hold her temper than it was to drive the nails into the fence.

Finally, the day came when the girl didn’t lose her temper at all, and she went to find her mother…

When she proudly told her mother that she was able to control her anger, and didn’t need to hammer any more nails into the fence, her mother suggested that she now pull out one nail for each day that she was able to hold her temper.The days passed and the girl was finally able to go back to her mother and tell her that she had pulled out all the nails from the fence.

The mother took her daughter by the hand and together they went to the fence.

She said, “You have done well, my daughter, but look at the holes in the fence.  The fence will never be the same again. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like these ones that have been left by the nails.  You can put a knife in someone and draw it out.  But it won’t matter how many times you say I’m sorry, the wound will still be there.  A verbal wound is as bad as a physical one.”

When I read that story, I realized that I was a lot like that little girl in the story.  In conversations with friends about life I have repeated versions of this story to explain my way of thinking and why I don’t “fight back” sometimes.  After all, when you are in an argument there is nothing more frustrating than when someone gets silent and gives the “silent treatment.”  But to be honest, my silence is out of respect.  Respect for myself, and respect for the person I am in a disagreement with.  You see, I remember every harsh word uttered to me by those I loved the most.  I also remember all the harsh words that were uttered to me by people I didn’t even care so much about.  What I learned from this, through self reflection, is that people will likely remember any words that I say out of anger…even if I later apologize, because I remember.  What I don’t really remember is all the times people were silent.  I rather people struggle to remember all of the times I got silent rather than live with scars from harsh words that I could have said when I was angry.

TAKE A BREATHER AND BE MINDFUL OF YOUR WORDS:  When you are dealing one-on-one,  with someone in person, it’s always important to be mindful of your words…regardless of age.  Children are the most impressionable.  Furthermore, understanding that we are living in a different world, where written words can be out on the internet FOREVER, it’s important that each of us take extra care in what we write.  You might be angry today, but as with all things in life and as my grandfather used to say, “this too shall pass.”  Before you go all keyboard warrior on someone, take the time to calm down, breathe, and determine if what you are about to write will REALLY serve a purpose that is positive down the road.  If the answer is yes, chose your words wisely and remember the “Nails in the Fence” story.  If the answer is no, let go of the ego, and remain silent.  What you write today can haunt you, and someone else, for life…and life is way too short to live with that kind of a burden.

Until next time friends…

P.S. – If any of this resonates with you, or you agree with that I have said, please consider sharing this article and/or leave me a comment.  I’d love to hear your feedback and/or about your personal experiences.

 

 

Fighting Fair on The Internet: Part 4 | Crossing the Line Online – Don’t be THAT Guy!

If you have been keeping up with this Fighting Fair on the Internet blog series (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 you are already aware that I think that most of the issues we see happening today are due to the increased use of technology, the loss of real human connection, and that so many people give opinions that really are nothing more than a “turd trophy” and should be “flushed” down the proverbial toilet.  So many people have developed some odd level of narcissism wherein they feel compelled to step into a conversation, not involving them, and render some kind of a comment, often from a place of needing to be “right,” that really does nothing but perpetuate negativity in one form or another.  This type of action is akin to the bumbling belligerent drunk guy (or girl) at the bar who walks up to a table of friends having a conversation and adding in his/her “two cents” (that’s my sarcastic way of saying the person said something offensive) based on a single sentence that was overheard.  No one really likes THAT person at that point in time.  After all, no one asked stumbling Captain Drunko, who might smell like a soggy bar towel, to come interrupt the conversation to give his polished turd trophy of an opinion…and a lot of times either THAT person ends up getting kicked out of the bar, getting their butt kicked, or THAT person feels like a total d-bag the next day once his/her friends informs him/her of the prior nights “entertainment.”  Maybe you have seen THAT person before.  Maybe you have even been THAT person a time or two.  Perhaps you have been on both sides of that coin in the past.  Regardless, and I pass no judgment here – crap happens, but you know what I am talking about.

Just as there can be consequences for being a belligerent and obnoxious drunk person at a bar (getting 86’d, getting your butt kicked, having the law get involved and possibly having to pay fines, and what I call “fool’s remorse”) there can also be very similar consequences for what you write on the internet.  I am not going to touch on the problems that can arise for people who get online and write a truthful account of a situation; that, along with many other issues, are for later parts to this series.  What I am going to get into here, in a very broad sense, is what can happen when you cross the line when posting online.

GETTING 86’D:  So you spout off and you get “kicked out” of the joint.  This seems like the least of potential problematic ramifications and maybe you don’t care if you get banned from a particular chat room or social media outlet.  In today’s technological world, chances are you’d just find a way around the system anyway.  I personally can think of many options and a lot of them are hard for any typical website administrator to actually detect and keep up with.  Nevertheless, if you have spent a lot of time building up friends, connections, adding photos or other content that may no longer be on your computer/phone, etc. this might be detrimental to you.  That cute picture of you and granny that you posted to your private account before she passed away or that video of that baby’s first steps…GONE FOREVER…if you do something that results in your account being suspended.

GETTING YOUR BUTT KICKED:  Just like the drunkard at the bar who gets out of hand with the wrong people can wind up on the receiving end of a serious butt kicking, when you get online and start spouting off, you never really know who you are spouting off to and what kind of a person they are.  It’s made even worse if you are like most people and don’t control your security settings on your social media very well.  Chances are you give out WAY too much information about yourself.  That is another topic for another day.  Nevertheless, you would be surprised at how much information people can gather from the tid-bits that people just leave open to public access.  What happens if you spout off and the person happens to be some major creeper with bad intentions?  They figure out who you are, who your friend and family are, and eventually where you all work and live.  Are you okay with that?  Okay…for all you tough guys out there saying you’d just meet them at the door and shoot them (hey, I support the Second Amendment too)…let’s be real here.  There is always the possibility that someone could come find you, or your unsuspecting family, and do something.  There is enough chaos on the news to prove that there are crazy people out there willing to go to drastic extremes.  I don’t know that I need to go on here…you all get my point.

THE LAW:  This is the one that I see the most of due to the nature of my position in the legal field.  If you get all worked up about something and then get online to spout off, especially if you embellish the story or otherwise purposefully tell a lie as a way to “get even” with someone for something, chances are, eventually, you are going to have to face some legal consequences for that.  Generally speaking, unless the account you give is opinion or is 100% the truth, what you say “can and will be held against you in a court of law.”  The most common cases in these situations are defamation actions that may be associated with additional causes of action depending on what you say.  Yes, there are defenses to defamation actions (truth and opinion being a few of them) however, so many people seemingly are confused about the difference between a statement of fact and an opinion.  Just because you say “In my opinion…” and then go on to make some sort of allegation doesn’t necessarily make that statement an opinion.  Remember, you have the right to free speech, but that is not absolute.  Just as you can’t run into a movie theater and yell “fire!” you can’t commit defamation without a very real potential for legal consequences…typically expensive ones.  You work hard for your money…do you really want to have to give it to the person, and their attorneys, that you were mad at in the first place?

FOOL’S REMORSE:  We have all done something at one or another that we aren’t exactly proud of.  It’s even worse if whatever occurred happened in public.  There is a reason that a lot of us “older kids” say that we are sure glad that were were “young and dumb” before smart phones and social media were around.  No seriously, it’s true!  Some things just DON’T need to make it to the public!  This whole “social media” thing has become, well, too social.  It  seems like long gone are the days of keeping “dirty laundry” in the hamper where it belongs.  Now, if you have a dispute with someone, chances are, for better or worse, someone, somewhere is going to talk about it on the internet.  Further, now with the ease and convenience of being able to post online under the perceived cloak of “anonymity,” more and more people are openly hanging out their dirty laundry for everyone to see.  Hell hath no furry like the wrath of an angry ex…ex-boyfriend/girlfriend,  ex-husband/wife, ex-business partner, etc.  Instead of dealing with matters in private, people are now dragging their disputes online and saying things, usually based on emotion at the time, that can be very hurtful.  To top it off, once something is up online, depending on where you put it, it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to remove.  Well, what happens when your feelings for that person change?  You know, like after you have had the time to calm down and truly get over those feelings?  If you are the “normal” person, whatever that means, you are probably going to feel bad about it…but you may not be able to rectify that situation.  Then, not only is the person that you decided to spew emotional word vomit all over feeling the pain, you are too.  It’s just not worth it!

This obviously has been a brief overview, however, I think it will probably resonate with many.  There are so many people going out and “running at the mouth” online before they really take time to consider the consequences of their actions.  These rants can impact not only you, but those around you.  Remember friends, in this context, temporary solutions can become permanent problems.  If you REALLY need to get something off of your chest, and want to write about it, go “old school” and grab a pen and paper!  Not only will you get the cathartic release from being able to get those emotions out on paper but it will also help keep you from getting into trouble.  You can always toss the paper in the trash when that emotion dissipates…  If that doesn’t work, save yourself a lot of grief by talking to a friend or family member that is going to help you calm down and steer you in a positive direction…  Oh, and watch out for those “friends” that want to instigate and entice you into being THAT guy.  In our bar scenario from above…that would be the friend that likes to order you shot after shot, get you riled up and push you into the crowd just to see “what happens.”  Yeah…that “good time Charlie” probably isn’t the right person to go to when you need this kind of help.

Until next time friends…

P.S. – If any of this resonates with you, or you agree with that I have said, please consider sharing this article and/or leave me a comment.  I’d love to hear your feedback and/or about your personal experiences.

 

Fighting Fair on the Internet: Part 3 | Opinions are Like…

OPINIONS ARE LIKE…

So we all know that old saying “Opinions are like a**holes, everybody has one.”  What they forgot to add to that sentence is “but that doesn’t mean that everyone wants to, or should, see it…or what comes from it.”  Let’s face it…we all have read something online and thought that whatever opinion was proffered was probably best reserved for the proverbial toilet and then flushed. Yes, everyone forms opinion about things, situations, people, etc.  I totally get that and I think that everyone is entitled to their opinions – positive or negative!  The thing is…no one really gets upset or annoyed by opinions that are positive (“I love this idea!  I’m going to try it!”) so let’s talk poop (“How can you think like that?!  You are such a moron and I hope people like you die!”).  If any of you read Part 2 of this blog series you will understand a portion of my theory on why people would even say something like that; they have lost the human connection and consequently manners and respect right with it.

NEGATIVE OPINIONS ARE LIKE POOP:  Where this introduction fits into the whole “Fighting Fair on the Internet” topic is the discussion on what one does after forming a negative opinion about something.  Do you flush it to the turd Gods where the stench of it can never be seen or smelt where only you really know about it (a courtesy flush, if you will) or do you pull that turd out of the can, place it on a silver platter on your front lawn, take pictures of it, and send it to all of your friends, and their friends, and their friends’ friends to see the massive heap of fly attracting dung pile that it is (i.e., post it somewhere on the internet)?  At this point you are wondering if I am talking about negative opinions or poop and the answer is both.  We can all use a little humor and relatability when discussing topics like this.  Surely there are some instances where they are both useful and serve a purpose, but generally speaking, when spread around too much and too thick…the usefulness is overshadowed by the stink and flies that are attracted to it.  Ewww!

POOP CAN BE USED AS FERTILIZER:  I’m not suggesting that a certain degree of conflict and disagreement is bad.  Not all negative/differing opinions are unuseful.  Like the benefits of applying fertilizer to growing plants and crops, a certain amount of negative/differing opinions, if used properly, can help create and contribute to the free flow of worthwhile ideas and debate.  There is no value in stifling free speech and I think the First Amendment definitely has its place.  People should have the freedom of expression without oppression from government BUT that does not mean that people should use that as a license to be a “Richard”.  No offense to anyone named Richard.  If you consider that each person’s opinions is formed based upon their personal education, their experiences, their beliefs/faith and feelings you will then begin to understand, and perhaps appreciate, why opinions can vary so much.  Consider the stark difference in view points between the different political parties.  I think we can all agree that people’s opinions are all over the place when it comes to politics.  Nevertheless, it might be helpful to the greater cause and world of debate when a humanitarian who has worked with troubled youth in low income developments debates topics on poverty with a business person who operates within the same community that is trying to solve employment problems.  If people can come and debate issues with education, facts (and I’m not talking about some meme on Facebook where no one knows who developed it) and legitimate personal experiences, and check one’s emotion at the door beforehand, then some real progress could be made.  This is the “fertilizer” that I am talking about.  This is the good kind of poop – differences of opinion that could be perceived by some as negative; used sparingly to cultivate discussion and movement towards a common good.  The problem begins when people start turning their turds into trophys for purposes other than promoting good discussion.

YOUR TURD IS NOT A TROPHY:  I see it everyday – in my personal life and at work.  Someone is upset about something for whatever reason and rather than flushing those turds of negative, unproductive, opinions down the toilet they chose to go run their virtual mouth on the internet proudly displaying to everyone their smelly, fly infested, turd.  What is even more fascinating is that some people seem to display these piles of crap like a trophy and wear the stench as if it were a badge of honor.  It might be on Facebook, or Yelp, some blog or news thread, or some other online review/complaint forum.  Unless you are just a “Richard,” those who engage in this kind of conduct can’t really feel good about what they are saying.  So why does this happen?  Well, there are many philosophies, but I’ll talk about the few that I tune into:

  • EMOTIONAL OUTBURSTS:  All humans have some very basic needs and when those needs are not being met they tend to act differently.  Perhaps some people react negatively online because they are looking for attention.  Some might even say that these types tend to be a bit narcissistic and fail to consider that other people have opinions…and feelings too.  Others just are a little bit of a hot-head.  We all know at least one person that flies off the handle and says things without really thinking about what they are saying or the repercussions that can come from it.  Sometimes people’s emotions get the better of them and they do or say things that aren’t exactly becoming.  Those people tend to be remorseful later…but what happens when those outbursts are not contained to the private setting?  What happens when they post it on the internet for all to see…and then maybe can’t get it taken down?
  • ENTERTAINMENT FACTOR:  As twisted as it sounds, yes, there are people who actually go around being negative and mean just for pure entertainment.  Indeed there are those that carry the turd trophy and engage in the frequent displaying of turds.  These individuals are labeled by other onlookers in the online community as an internet “troll.”  What is rather sad is that trolls literally post inflammatory remarks merely to provoke readers into an emotional response to disrupt regular conversation for their own amusement.  Who has that kind of time on their hands?  Why would anyone purposefully hurt someone else for entertainment?  Trolls I guess…  Again, even trolls eventually get caught, are shamed, and/or feel remorse once their moral compass straightens itself out…and then what?  And again, what happens when the posting you made cannot be taken down if and when you want to?

Regardless of how it happens, the fact is, these actions are not nice (often causing harm, and possible liability, that many don’t think about until it happens to them or someone they love and care about and/or you get slapped with a defamation lawsuit) and when you do it in an online forum you are doing nothing more than displaying your turd trophy that no one wants to see.

FLIES ON TURDS:  It only takes one really stinky turd (negative opinion) to get the flies swarming.  Online, it seems that as soon as someone starts in with negative talk and opinions others feel comfortable in joining in the same bad behavior.  There are a lot of articles out on the internet about today’s “mob mentality”.  Anne Trafton, in a 2014 article titled “When good people do bad things” and posted to the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT‘s website, reported on the mob mentality topic and eluded to how people in groups will do things that are against their morals and standards due to, among other things, a “diminished sense of personal responsibility” for the actions of the group.  Its amazing how bad people can get when they perceive some level of protection by the group…and this takes place all over, including the internet.  I’ve personally seen one person post a comment regarding finding a dog a home and you had all kinds of opinions back and forth, including name calling, defending one side or another.  All I could think of was a crowd chanting “Jerry, Jerry, Jerry” on the  Jerry Springer television show.  Again, this was about finding a dog a home!  Seriously?  When did this sort of actions become the norm and quasi accepted in society?  Why is it that everyone feels the need to turn EVERYTHING into a Jerry Springer show?  If you do any reading online you know exactly what I am talking about; and some of it has become so bad that it’s like a train wreck…even the most conservative of people can’t look away.  It’s distracting…and moreover just wrong.

LEARN TO COURTESY FLUSH:  I’m all for people having opinions.  I even form my own turds on occasion but rather than being a “Richard” I do my best to stop and ask myself if my turd of an opinion is going to advance valuable commentary or not.  I get it, sometimes it is really hard to bite your tongue…especially in the “keyboard warrior” environment, however, if what you are going to say (your opinion) is mean, harmful,  amounts to bullying or harassing, and/or fails to promote legitimate truth (you know, a turd on a shiny platter) perhaps consider giving it a courtesy flush. We could all benefit from checking our negativity at the door.  Nothing good comes from being mean and harassing.  Nothing good comes from saying harmful things.  Nothing good comes from the publication of half-truths and false information.  If anything, in the long run, what you say could come back to haunt you days, weeks, years later…and you may be met with regret, social problems, and/or legal problems…all of which will be discussed later in this blog series.  It’s time to break the cycle…and through discussion, education, and tools perhaps we can start making a change one “post” at a time.

Fighting Fair on the Internet: Part 2 | The Loss of Human Connection and Manners

FIGHTING FAIR ON THE INTERNET: PART 2 | THE LOSS OF HUMAN CONNECTION AND MANNERS

MY MOMMA ALWAYS SAID:  Growing up in my household was less than desirable.  I saw all kinds of icky mean things that would have sent most children, according to statistics, into the justice system or result in some other “negative” situations.  I had first hand experience on what it is like to deal with the aftermath of violence…mental and physical.  Oh yes, I could share stories for days…and I did in some on topic college classes to the awe of many.  Yes, times were tough and I ask for no sympathy…I’m way stronger because of it and I think I can relate to others better as a result.  This is not to say that I didn’t struggle along the way.  The truth is, it took me a long time to get to a point where I was able to handle my own emotions and words in difficult situations but I like to think I do pretty well now as an adult.  Not perfect, because no one is, but certainly better at being more self aware.  So what does all of this have to do with “manners” and “fighting fair on the internet?”  Well, in my household, in spite of the serious chaos and desire to act up, my momma always taught me that saying mean and hurtful things was not nice and if you didn’t have something nice to say you shouldn’t say it at all – regardless of the medium.  Of course, back then, there was no internet.  I suspect many of us had parental figures who taught a similar lessons.  Sure, I was allowed to disagree, after all she had a very independent little girl on her hands who was all about speaking her mind (God bless my mother), but if I was going to disagree I had to have real reasoning and I had to be able to articulate it respectfully.  Name calling and being mean just to be mean was not acceptable.  Being a bully was not allowed.

RESPECTFUL DEBATES…A LOST ART:  This week alone I found myself explaining to friends that I perceive the characteristics of good manners and respect to have been lost by society.  Nearly three times this week I have found myself saying “Ah, respect…it’s a lost art.”  Of course I don’t believe this about all people.  I have met some incredible people who could debate respectfully…especially in the legal field.  One of the great things about the analytic mind is that it allows you to see things from different angles.  Oh yes, there is something to be said for those who can articulate and argue positions without resorting to calling each other a “flaming dodo head” just because they see something differently or dislike a particular situation.  Unfortunately, however, I don’t see these traits as the norm anymore.  Where in the heck did the human connection go?  Apparently out the window followed immediately by manners and respect!

DISENGAGEMENT:  In an on point discussion this week I attributed this dwindling of respect and manners to technology and our loss of ability to be human; I mean really human, as in actually interacting with humans.  Think about it…most of our communications now are through some method of technology; and most don’t even involve actually speaking.  Instead of telling someone, to their face, that they are upset…they send a text message with broken language, odd use of capitalization and punctuation, and an abundance of emoticons or you get blasted on some form of social media or internet site.  We have become so reliant on technology that we have almost forgotten how to communicate and often feel really uncomfortable if and when we actually have to talk to someone else.  Do people even call in an order for pizza anymore?  We have all become so disengaged from other humans…

THE HABIT OF TECHNOLOGY: Next time you are out in public, look around at how many people are “together” but are totally or partially disengaged because they are too busy staring at a screen.  Maybe this even happens in your own home?  Until I started raising a fuss about it, and only because I became more self aware of the trap that I was falling into myself, it would be a regular and normal occurrence for myself and my significant other to be sitting on the sofa together, with the television on, but each also be totally engaged in something else online – be it reading an article or playing a game on our phones, tablets or laptops.  It’s a BAD habit!  It’s like one form of stimuli has become not enough…and we need more constant interaction in order to feel comfortable.  But we aren’t the only ones.  According to studies done by the Pew Research Center, “some 21% of Americans now report that they go online “almost constantly”  and “67% of cell owners find themselves checking their phone for messages, alerts, or calls — even when they don’t notice their phone ringing or vibrating.”  With all of this being online and/or constantly checking devices for messages, alerts or calls, it’s no wonder we, as a society, are no longer really connecting with people the way we used to.

WHEN HUMANS DO CONNECT:  Interestingly on point, I recently stumbled across the Liberators International organization who posted a video on their Facebook page showing an eye contact with strangers experiment posing the question “Where has the human connection gone?”  You are encouraged to link to and watch the short video for yourself, however, the idea was to have two total strangers sit and look into one another’s eyes for an entire minute.  The results…smiles, tears and/or hugs…from strangers.  So very amazing…and the facial expressions…so very telling and profound.

TIME TO MEND THE BROKEN:  The more we “connect” through technology and become akin to an individual island with a population of one the less we REALLY connect in a way where real emotion is involved.  The less legitimate human connection we have, the greater the opportunity for an IDGAF (I don’t give a F!) attitude to develop and the more opportunity we create for words and thoughts (mean ones) to flow without consideration for any consequences; for ourselves and for others.  Indeed, with the loss of our ability to really connect and communicate, we have also seemingly managed to lose the concept of manners and respect.  It’s time to figure out how to gain those characteristics back…one step at a time.

EXPERIMENT:  Try unplugging from technology (no cheating) during a time that you would normally “check in.”  This could be at home around family, at dinner with friends, or even just some time by yourself.  See how it makes you feel and what things around you you notice and report back.  I’d love to hear your feedback.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fighting Fair on the Internet: Part 1 | The Internet Sucks!

Okay, so I know that the title “The Internet Sucks!” is rather harsh, but lately that is how I feel.  There was once a time where the internet was used as an actual tool and not a weapon.  I recognize that to a great degree it still a tool because we can share thoughts, ideas, and solid information and we are all the wiser for it.  No longer do we have to go to the library to look things up or wait a year for something to be published.  Now, everything is at our fingertips within seconds and from an educational perspective, this is an awesome thing!  Even from the perspective of being able to share meaningful thoughts and ideas in a collaborative environment makes the internet awesome, especially when it is used for good and positive.  Of course it has also helped us reconnect and stay connected with friends and family who live across the globe…and for me I am thankful to have such opportunity.  Yes, there are countless reasons why the internet is still good – but that’s not what I am talking about – otherwise this would be a short posting about puppies, baby goats, and kittens.  What I am referring to is the other side of that coin…

As I scroll through all of the social media pages that are out there, reading the different postings regarding…well, just about anything someone happens to write about, I find myself being ever thankful that I grew up in a time when the internet wasn’t so poplar.  It seems that the information highways has become the “misinformation highway” and so many have become quick to believe and consequently “like” and “share” just about anything that is posted…no matter how ridiculous it would seem to anyone who actually stopped and thought about what they were reading for a minute.  Mainstream media wants so badly to draw attention that they will highlight situations that really shouldn’t be highlighted, and then often skew them, because it does nothing more than “stir the pot” and generate ratings.  I have often said those that “stir the post” should have to lick the spoon.  Top that off with the keyboard warriors of today who seem to thrive on being malicious turds and you come to realize that the internet has really become a hostile environment and people are legitimately suffering from it in many different forms.  Someone can’t even post a picture of a puppy without someone saying “that is the ugliest puppy I have ever seen” and go on to get into it with someone else over that comment.  who gives a crap if you think the puppy is ugly?  Why does your opinion on that matter?   Don’t get me wrong, I am all for the freedom of speech (and as a lawyer in my line of work I help advocate for it), however, just because something is legal doesn’t mean that you should push the boundaries just to say you could do it!  Freedom of speech shouldn’t be used as a license to be a dick!  At what point did people bypass the Golden Rule?  Further, and on point, not everything that you say (or write) is protected speech…but so many people forget that or have apparently never been taught that lesson in school.  In my best Mr. Mackey voice from South Park “Bullying is bad…mmmmkay.  Harassing someone is bad…mmmmkay.  Lying and making up stories is bad…mmmmkay. Sure there are exceptions – satire and the like…and that seems all pretty self explanatory to me…but perhaps what I consider common sense isn’t so common?

While the shift has been going on for some time it has only been in the last five years that I have really noticed the change.  Perhaps because I now deal with on a daily basis whether it be for work or I have it thrown in my face every time I read any thread, on any post, on pretty much any topic.  True, I could not read…but the inquisitive social scientist mind I have won’t allow me to simply just dismiss it.  As I see it, there seems to be a drastic increase of people who literally take offense to everything.  At the same time there is an equally drastic increase of people who think being a keyboard warrior troll is somehow productive and funny; and somewhere in the gap between the two extremes are those who can find a bit of humor in some good old fashioned ribbing but know when things have gone too far and won’t engage in those activities.  You know they types that I am I am talking about.  I'm just here for the commentsThey are the ones who literally post the “I’m just here for the comments” meme to a thread to show some level of participation without taking a side…  Why is that?  How has all of this come to be?  Why does everyone want websites that allow third-party content to be the “moral police”?  Even if sites were to start being the “moral police” where does one draw the line in the sand?  Shouldn’t society, as a whole, have a duty to raise awareness and police their own conduct?  Is it a fruitless endeavor to try and get people to police their own conduct or do people generally desire to behave in a positive manner but are just lacking in some basic knowledge and tools for real dispute resolution in today’s technological world?  I mean, let’s face it…it’s not like many of us growing up had parents in this particular environment to draw upon for examples of how to handle these kinds of situations; heck, the game Oregon Trail was considered cool technology I was young let alone the internet.

Through this series of blogs under my self titled topic “Fighting Fair on the Internet” I will discuss my personal viewpoints on these questions in a balanced approach in hopes to help raise awareness on these issues; offer discussion points and/or, at least, some food for thought on the related issues; and provide some general legal commentary and tips for what I call “fighting fair on the internet” along the way.  Of course, while I have some level of education in the social sciences, I certainly do not claim to be an expert…but I am fascinated by human nature and it seems to be such a very relevant and current issue in which I have had some level of experience with.  Stick around friends…I anticipate this is going to be an interesting ride!

Cheers!

Anette