“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” Carl Sagan
Let me just begin by saying I absolutely love the Internet! In my humble opinion, it is the greatest purveyor of information since the printing press. How blessed we are to live in an era of great innovation. Although I am an oldie but goody, I welcome the discoveries which assist me both personally and professionally. Over the last ten years, the utilization of the world wide web has grown exponentially. Could any of us have imagined we would be LinkedIn, googling, tweeting or using Facebook to connect with long-lost friends? Before this century, did we even know the definition of a blog? What about using email versus snail mail? How about texting not just for casual talk but for confirming professional appointments? At one time, I would have cringed if such a suggestion was made, but now it has become a method of convenience, easy confirmation and a great saver of time! I cannot imagine life without my iphone, ipad and PC.
In this era of enlightenment, what could go wrong? Well…many things. With light, there is always darkness, and one must prevail against abusing a gift to humankind. In fact, if misused, it could create permanent damage for one’s personal and professional reputation. As I have mentioned in other posts, the Internet never forgets, and in some cases, perhaps, never forgives.
Like laws, boundaries are important. Human beings are flawed simply because we are human beings. Some are inclined to push a boundary at one time or another, but many of us at least try to exhibit decorum when interacting on social media. What about those who do not? When I ask that question, one might assume this pertains primarily to the younger generation. Such is a false premise! There are those adults who believe they can act on impulse and cross a line which might not have been done without the faux belief in anonymity and protection of the Internet. These individuals often seek out the vulnerable or search for illusive happiness believing they can “have their cake and eat it too.” No can’t do! Because of the very nature of the Internet, the truth often rears its head.
Younger and older people often take “selfies” scantily dressed if dressed at all. These photos do not disappear. Even with the belief of taking a temporary pic through “snapchat,” people forget someone can quickly click a photo of the image before it disappears. The Internet and its reach appear to be infinite.
I raise the issue because it is important for people to remind their children as well as themselves to be especially cautious using the medium of virtual communication. Judgement, impulse control, thoughtfulness and civility must be maintained to the best of one’s ability. Just because we are impermanent, one can no longer assume it applies to our communications. In addition, guilt by association may create damage. A few years ago, a disturbing picture of a New England Patriots’ cheerleader surfaced on Facebook. It displayed her holding a sharpie next to a man with offensive markings. She denied being involved, but based on the pictures, one could not determine the truth. Consequently, she was removed from the team, and the information with her name is imprinted on the web forever. Besides humiliation and exposure, you wonder how it has continued to impact her.
With the holiday season in full gear, prudence must remain steady. Many will imbibe at holiday festivities, and inhibitions will diminish which can result in at-risk behaviors. Let us face the fact that most people have some tendency towards being voyeuristic and under certain circumstances exhibitionistic. Alcohol will only magnify such proclivities. It is all the more reason to remain circumspect.
As we celebrate the holidays and look forward to 2016, let us remind ourselves of the blessing of the Internet and all it has to offer. Still in its infancy, this innovative tool is truly a marvel. Who knows where it will take us. The possibilities appear to be limitless. With such a creation, there is ever more reason to be optimistic for humankind. As we give thanks and revere the universe’s offerings, we must continue to tread carefully, maintaining boundaries in this boundless era.