Mean Tweets and Moral Cowardice


I’m working on a few different posts that will appear shortly, but I wanted to take a moment to share this video. One of the great benefits of the internet has been in empowering people to share their personal experiences with us, and challenging us to address the slimy underbelly of society. Some might refer to this as pop sociology, but I think it is a healthy form of participant observation and social experimentation.

In this video, men are asked to read aloud “mean Tweets” to the women who were the intended recipients. This is an innovative social experiment in which the men are proxies for the actual men (presumably) who sent the Tweets. The impact of these messages is clear. As a man, that others of my gender would respond in such a way to women turns my stomach.

Would the men who wrote the mean Tweets have responded in such a way if they actually had to face the person they were communicating with. Mmmm. Probably not most of them. The Twitter universe vouches a certain amount of anonymity that liberates many of us to express the contents of our more reptilian selves. When confronted with face-to-face interaction, norms and external controls do tend to mitigate our unsavory impulses. At least for most of us. I would hypothesize that those who sent these Tweets are likely boorish in real life. There may even be some louts who would be willing, if challenged to do so, to say the contents of these Tweets aloud.

The anonymity of the internet, however, does vouch significant freedom to id-vomit hateful expression. Thus the world becomes a significantly more ugly place. It is incumbant upon those of us who revel in this medium of expression to act responsibly when doing so, and to confront the moral cowards who abuse this resource. After all, attacking someone when there is no possibility of counterattack is the very definition of cowardice.

Some time ago I posted this meme as a good rule of thumb about sharing memes. Perhaps this should be extended to sharing thoughts on social media.


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