Until the birth of the Internet, privacy was what you made it for most people. Celebrities such as senior politicians, movie stars and sports heroes, their lives spilled over into the media, the media that helped them make their fame. They may have had the funds and opportunity to lead a dual life, a secret life divorced from the media, but for the main, if their lives were hyped up by the media, they sacrificed some anonymity in order to reap financial or other reward.
The average person could walk along any street away from their home, in any town, and unless they made an effort to appear conspicuous, they were as anonymous and private as they wanted to be. It was and still is accepted, that if you make no attempt to force yourself into the public eye, publicity will pass you by as silently as the clouds cover the night-time stars. We accepted that any photograph taken in a public place was as free from restriction, as if the observer was at the point the picture was taken.
Then, along came the Internet and introduced more people to the nasty side of normality. Normal people when talking to strangers were polite. If asked who they were, they could, and still can, tell a lie. It is normal to lie to strangers in order to protect yourself, your thoughts or your intentions. Telling a lie is not a crime for the most part.
If a person approached a total stranger, swore at them, called them nasty names and tried to assault them, that person would feel the force of reprisal, counter-attack or the hand of a police officer, and quite rightly so. Yet, with today’s internet demand for anonymity, that person believes he has a right to be obtuse, offensive and as mean spirited as he wants to be without fear of retribution.
Anonymity on the web is not a right, social values are not swept to one side simply because the internet occupies the time and space between the offender and the victim. If every person who used the internet did so in the knowledge that they could be held responsible for their foul mouthed unwanted interjections, the web would be a much nicer place.
If you would not say it in front of your aunt, you should not be saying it on the web to total strangers. I read an article on the internet pages of a national newspaper and was unsurprised at the vileness of the comments and the scathing attacks on the correspondent and other contributors.
Facebook and Twitter are laced with off colour remarks and opinions, filth, stupidity, foul-mouthed offensive remarks seem to be the norm in this day and age, civility for many seems to be consigned to the scrapheap. Is it time to remove the ability to be anonymous, and time to introduce responsibility for our words and actions on the net?