Under the Sun
Meanness doesn’t dull the shine of the Web
Try hard enough, those of Gen X and older, and you may be able to recall darker days before the indelible brightness of the Internet brought the world to a desktop, when profound technology had yet to shrink distance, had not widened perspectives through a global array.
When all mail was snail and all ware for verbal communication were hard, before satellites bounced cellular radio waves through the atmosphere and beyond.
Even a semi-Luddite like me appreciates the personal and societal benefits of new connectivity. I still marvel at what the Web enables now and look forward to expanded possibilities. I feel fortunate to be witnessing the transformations, but I also realize that the changes can take us back into the darkness if we let them.
Though my life's work is completely about communication, information and distribution of ideas and thoughts, Web technology has opened windows to displays of disorderly conduct. Governed only by an individual's sense of propriety, or more often a lack of it, and masked by the anonymity of the Internet, a lot of people feel they have license to cut loose.
There are no boundaries. Everything is fair game for verbal assaults. Consider reactions to reports about the newborn Hawaiian monk seal abandoned by its mother. Can anything be as noncontroversial as wildlife experts trying to save a member of an endangered species so closely identified with its namesake islands? Who would take issue with that? Well, lots of people do, judging by recent postings, but in truth they are not so much concerned about the seal as they are about scoring points against some else.
After light-hearted initial remarks, the postings deteriorate. A venue intended for rational discussion collapses under the weight of ridiculous, unrelated sniveling.
Posts about more consequential events unleash vitriolic criticism with little understanding. It isn't unusual for the posting party to have misread given facts, injecting off-kilter venom regardless.
Remarks include the "pox on all your houses" variety, often from those whose Web identities indicate they are from out of state. With no stakes, claims or investment here, they heap abuse anyway.
Though I'd seriously recommend these guys find something useful to do, I wouldn't want to see them cut off. For one thing, they can be ignored. For another, it is interesting from time to time to see what Hawaii matters look like from the outside even if what they know about the islands rests in a narrow frame of reference.
While it is discouraging to discover there are so many unschooled posters showing incredible meanness and stingy spirits, they are nullified by others who have thoughtful opinions and viewpoints that illuminate.
For every remark blaming Myanmar villagers for their own fate because they live in areas vulnerable to devastating cyclones, there are far more offering help and sympathy. Kindness and tolerance break down knobs of racism and hate.
The Web promises and delivers too many good things — an online education for children in poverty-plagued regions of the world, intriguing life stories from an aged woman in Istanbul, glorious artwork from a cartoonist in the Bronx, folk music of Mongolia and Celtic musings — that cannot be spoiled by the dark side of the unenlightened.
has been on the staff of the Star-Bulletin since 1976. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org