Saturday, July 9, 2011
Whether it's social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter, portfolio management sites like Flickr or DeviantArt, or even just creating and managing a list of favs on sites like Youtube, most of us are involved in some way in these massive sub-communities on the world wide web. And it's pretty obvious to most of us what advantages this easy access to an incredible amount of content that these online communities offer. However, one of the problems that arise from the sheer size and amount of the content that is available, is that sites like Facebook or Flickr for example, do not have the means to evaluate and regulate every single photo, video, or blog that is uploaded. The daunting task of trying to review every single piece of content added to the 750 million Facebook profiles for instance, would be close to impossible. You'd need a large team of monkeys. So sites like these have passed off a large portion of the responsibility of policing the communities content to the end user. You and me. So I ask the question... are YOU qualified to do this?
For anyone who hasn't had a chance to see the episode of South Park where Eric Cartman is deputized, the end result, although entertaining, is a mirror for what I believe is happening in many of our online communities, and unfortunately, are growing attitudes beyond the anonymity of the internet. Cartman immediately begins abusing his power and authority. He is clearly not qualified or trained to make the important decisions necessary to police a community. His tactics are thuggish and he merely abuses everyone simply because he can. Cartman falsely believes that because he has been granted this power, that his authority is immediately respected and not earned.
I've stated this many times and in many different forums. My policy is "If you don't like it... don't look at it." Seems simple enough. We do this everyday without thinking about it. For instance, if you are a little squeamish about some of the violent interactions between animals that are often shown on channels like Nature, or Discovery, then I would imagine that right before the Lion rips out the throat of a Thompson's Gazelle, you'd probably change the channel. We make decisions about what movies to watch, what magazines to buy or what music to listen to based on our own personal tastes which are inevitably linked to our moral sensibilities. I would hope that most people would not make the conscious decision to watch a horror movie, and then complain to the management afterwards because they saw blood in it. That would just be asinine. So what I don't understand is why when we see something we don't like on a site such as Facebook, why do we not just keep on truckin' as we would if watching TV? I think our friends Lord Acton and William Pitt have the answer to that question.
We've become a community of wimps and winers. We believe that for some reason out of the almost 7 billion internet users world wide, our individual delicate sensibilities are not allowed to be trampled on for any reason....EVER. We believe that 'our' morality is the only one, and the correct one. So instead of clicking, Next, Block, Unfriend, etc, it's more satisfying to impose our own brand of Officer Eric Cartman justice and bully our internet 'Friends' into following the moral and aesthetic code that we deem acceptable. This was hard lesson learned by a group on Facebook who's content was removed after complaints were filed because there were photos of women breast feeding on the page. This begs the obvious question... what were these people doing on a page about breast feeding, if they are offended by the concept? I think one of the worst aspects of this blatant censorship imposed by amateur, self-righteous, incompetent, thugs, is that it is done anonymously. I think there would be a lot less 'judging' going on if the person had to stamp their name beside the fact that you reported someone's photos for example. Instead these acts are effortlessly carried out by cowards and goons.
For this reason, sites like Facebook, Flickr, etc. have become increasingly less appealing. I don't want to be part of a community that encourages the cowardly and anonymous enforcement of censorship and moral judgments without any chance for an open debate and a clear cut guideline for what is acceptable and what is not. And therein lies the problem... who is going to decide what is acceptable and what is not for the World Community? It's an impossible task. Unless of course you're one of the people who like to police the internet on sites like Facebook for content that you deem unacceptable... then the answer is easy. Then the answer is whatever you say it is. I can't even begin to imagine where that kind of mentality comes from. Ah yes... Lord Acton, you are correct once again.