Digital citizenship is how you choose to act and represent yourself online. Good digital citizens don’t do things online that they would not do in person. If getting into arguments, cussing people out, and just being all-around hateful doesn't sound like you, why do it online?
If your grandma could see it, would you really be talking to someone that way?
Strong digital citizenship is something that many of us are constantly working for in today’s digital society. With the amount of time people spend online every day rapidly increasing, it can become easy to get comfortable and relax into the feeling of being just a username rather than a real person. This mindset is deceptive because the things that you say or do online can often hold the same weight as your actions in real life. Making this mistake can be very harmful to yourself and others.
A common occurrence for many social media users is disagreeing with something that they see on the internet. Just imagine that someone was dissing your favorite band. You could leave a comment on that post expressing your disagreement in a respectful way, and someone could still respond in a negative and hateful way.
While it might be easy to get drawn into an argument in a situation like this, it is important to remember how that portrays your digital character. If you react angrily online, you are contributing to creating a negative space. If people see you being rude or hateful online, they may feel comfortable being rude and hateful to you. This situation can escalate to the point where your social media is filled with nothing but negativity.
You might even feel angry after you've gotten offline, carrying that negativity with you to the people you are with in real life.
Keeping a negative attitude online can impact how other people choose to interact with you in person. If someone from your school recognizes you from your social media, and you’re a negative person online, this could cause people to want to dissociate from you because they see it as a reflection of your true character.
This also goes for participating in negative social media trends like the “devious licks” or the “salt and ice” challenges. While these types of videos may garner attention online, challenges like these show how little you care about yourself and your surroundings.
If someone sees a video of you damaging a bathroom, why would they ever want you at their house where you could ruin their bathroom or other private property for social media clout?
Your online actions can also follow you years down the road. In today’s hypervigilant society, people are constantly getting canceled over things that they did or said years ago. “It was only a joke” isn’t a good defense of bigoted behavior.
Many celebrities are guilty of this, like Shane Dawson who used blackface for humor, and Justin Trudeau, the Canadian Prime Minister, who used brownface for a Halloween costume.
Remember, freedom of speech and expression does not excuse you from the consequences that you may face as a result.
There are many instances of negativity online and sometimes it is hard to get away from. One thing I encounter a lot online, especially in video games, is hateful behavior and sometimes outright racism. While these people feel comfortable because they do not have a face attached to their username, their speech makes a serious impact on people, both by influencing other users to spread similar bigotry and by harming the targets of their hate and ignorance.
While you’re certainly free to say whatever you wish, you don’t have to blurt out absolutely everything you feel or think. Take a beat and decide whether it really needs to be shared and how it might affect other people.
While social media may seem insignificant compared to real life, it makes a real impact and can have lasting consequences. All in all, it is important to remember that:
It is important to conduct yourself in a positive way, to create a positive digital world for you and everyone else. To learn more about what it means to be a good digital citizen, explore #ICANHELP’s events and available courses.
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