I grew up in a small town, I saw the good, bad, ugly and beauty of knowing your neighbors and that they in turn knew you. Good because people would help each other, usually without asking. When we were low on groceries a bag full would appear on our doorstep or be placed in the back seat of the car (no one locked doors in those days). Good because when I fell while bike riding, two people called my mother as I was limping home. They told her that I had been hurt and didn’t want a ride. She met me at the door with a medical kit. “Good” because we are “in it together,” we have an obligation and duty to help each other since someday we may need help.
Virtually impossible to hide anything or keep a secret because everyone was always up in your business. Bad for anyone seeking privacy. Bad for introverts who didn't desire attention. Bad for selfish people who don’t want to help others. Ugly for people who tended to make mistakes that aren’t easily forgiven. Ugly would be the rumors, even though they were usually based in truth. If your reputation were tinged, people would shun you. Sometimes the shunning would be extended to your family, though they did nothing wrong. You would not be welcomed or invited to activities. Neighbors would be begrudgingly polite but it would be obvious that you were not liked. No one would tell you why even when you asked for an explanation. The isolation would be devastating.
I have always been a bit of a “square peg” I never matched the expectations of a “round hole” small town. I didn’t feel comfortable with the conservative culture and some of the small-minded residents. I was told not to ask so many questions. I didn’t fit in but I miss the beauty of the quiet. The beauty of knowing people and being comfortable with the rhythm of life. Safety of stability. Beauty can create unattainable expectations if you’ve never lived in a small town. I yearn for the closeness but feel wary of the razor’s edge. Humans are complicated flawed creatures. We ironically err when we assume otherwise. No one is perfect. Period. End of Discussion.
However, the Internet is bringing us back to the village. We are not limited to geography but by access to technology, knowledge how to utilize the technology, and shared values. The Wild Wild Web can be vicious when it spreads false rumors or seeks to harm. Everything that you say and do could be posted online forever. No way to erase mistakes. Apologizes may be ignored so you cannot correct your blunder. Cameras are everywhere recording your every breath. Fear can spread like fire. It is much more vicious than a physical small town.
Misinformation can be framed in a way that it sounds legitimate. It is impossible and probably unethical to block negative attitudes but lies should be prosecuted. The same laws that apply to the printed and broadcast media world should apply to the Internet. We are stymied by artificial international boundaries. Thus, we have to create an online culture that rewards positive behavior and ignores the negative. Don’t reward nasty people who seek chaos and harm. Don’t pass on rumors until you can verify that it is a real fact. Don’t fall into the trappings of being a bully. Be good to your online neighbor because we all reside on this planet. We dwell in the Internet Village, let it be good and beautiful.
Ima for Mayor.
© 2012 Ima B. Musing