A new world calls for me to follow
A new world waits for my reply
A new world holds me to a promise
Standing by, standing by ….
I was listening to the opening from Jason Robert Brown’s Songs For A New World and I couldn’t help but link the lyrics with the newest frontier known to man. Not space, not the undiscovered leagues under the sea – something far more enticing, far more immediate and far more terrifying: The World Wide Web.
We are, I am absolutely sure of it, just scratching the surface when it comes to the online world. My parents have recently discovered the world of facebook, many of my friends are new to twitter, and while having an internet connection is almost mandatory in schools, businesses and homes these days, we still don’t really know how to use it properly. Or safely.
What I find absolutely incredible is how many people are constantly connected in this ‘New World’ of ours. There are thousands of millions of people using the internet everyday - probably more – and how many are using pseudonyms to communicate with each other? How many create anonymous accounts on facebook, twitter, discussion boards to put their two cents out into the ether?
More than I am comfortable with, that’s for certain.
Ironically, with the invention of the internet the work of a very private (yet well known) figure has become increasingly prominent: the prolific writings of ‘anonymous’. Over the centuries, ‘anonymous’ had given us a myriad of lovely quotes often used on greeting cards and bookmarks. Now, anonymous also gives us rude, scathing, derogatory, slanderous remarks about anyone and anything that anonymous has an opinion about.
Now, I’m all for free speech – I believe that healthy discourse is necessary in the world. But I am absolutely certain that ‘free speech’ doesn’t extend to writing nasty remarks on social media platforms behind a false name, and expecting the world to be ok with it. It’s instant hate mail on a colossal scale.
Yes , yes. Hate mail existed before the internet. But think about it: if someone wanted to send hate mail back then, there was a real commitment involved which included writing the venomous remarks and buying the postage stamp to send them.
How does this relate to the arts? Well, in more ways than I had initially thought. Looking back at Jason Robert Brown’s lyrics; the more I ponder them, the more I see a connection to ‘heat of the moment’ posts on the internet.
It’s about one moment
That moment you think you know where you stand
And in that one moment
The things that you’re sure of slip from your hand
And you’ve got one second
To try to be clear, to try to stand tall
But nothing’s the same
And the wind starts to blow
It’s that moment when you read an article and you are enraged by it. When someone ridicules an issue you are passionate about. When someone write a sequel to your favourite show, and you are incensed by the idea! You log in to your anonymous twitter account, write a message and BAM!
…You’re suddenly a stranger
In some completely different land
And you thought you knew
But you didn’t have a clue
That the surface sometimes cracks
To reveal the tracks
To a new world
In one moment of fury, anger, frustration – many people write messages and posts which, in days gone by would have stayed hidden on a sheet of writing paper in their desk draw, never to see the light of day. Now, with the immediacy of social media platforms, a split second is the difference between calming down and tossing the remark away, and the entire world reading your comments online. The surface cracks and we see the tracks to the frightening world before us.
If you are about to anonymously post something demeaning, belittling, sexist or outright nasty, then think twice. Surely there are more useful things to do with one’s time. If you wish to put your name to it, then at least you are taking responsibility for your comments and the world knows YOUR thoughts.
Like I said earlier, I am all for free speech. If you don’t agree with something – be constructive in your feedback, and be transparent. If you really feel strongly about something, surely you are willing to put your name against your claim.
In my opinion, there should be no hiding behind false names, ambiguous titles and anonymous accounts. Feeling emboldened by the anonymity only fuels poisonous attacks, but remember that everything on the Internet can be traced in the end!
This brave new world should be used for good, especially in the Arts World. Publicity, social comment and discourse, reviews and previews are all readily available on the internet seconds after events take place. My hope is that we use the resources given to us wisely and fairly, so that the world is not only better educated in online etiquette, but also so that we may continue to share our passions with folk across the globe.