348/366 – Real Internet Courage
A common accusation I see on the internet these days is that people are just “hiding behind their computer screens” and typing stuff to one another, as if to imply that they’re not the type of people who would type the things that people are reading if they were in someone’s face. The idea is that bravery would imply a sort of fearlessness to say what you can and be able to back it up, or that you aren’t afraid of consequences that happen from the things that you’re typing.
But that’s not real bravery online. It might seem like it is, but in the jungle of the internet, where people can and often do say the things that they want without fear of real and actual reprisal, that doesn’t take much bravery. Bravery on the internet at least at a baseline level of participation isn’t a big requirement. You can talk about what you want online in whatever space you want, and there are certainly rules in some places but not in all of them. If you want to find a place where you feel like you can have an honest opinion, they aren’t hard to locate.
Real internet bravery and courage comes from other places. Ironically it doesn’t come from saying what you want but having the conviction to know when and where to say it, and to endure the kinds of things that can happen to you if you expose yourself as someone who is “out there” and front-facing on the internet. If you’re a Community professional or a marketing person or an activist or any other position that requires you to speak up loudly and often, and to take action based on that, it can be very hard to do the job that you do when the inevitable consequences of that happen – anger, harassment, even at times death threats – some of which come from people who may call you afraid or fearful of someone’s opinion when in fact they are afraid of what you represent and what you do that might disrupt their worldview, or in the case of chronic harassers and online inflammatory individuals, how you tell them “no” regarding how they think you should behave or act.
I think I see more examples of internet bravery every day among people who don’t have to say explicitly that they are being brave (though the occasional reminder is not necessarily a bad thing). People who have to put up with others that don’t agree with or don’t like them, people who are fighting passionately for a cause that sometimes is more stressful than any regular job, and people who might have been through so much but who are still struggling and aspiring to do better and bust through hard times to the other side of the fence. These people are the ones who have real courage – especially when others ironically tell them that they should be or are afraid of something that they shouldn’t be.