I use the word “playground” for a reason though as using the internet for free speech frequently causes people to revert to playground tactics and that is rather unfortunate. Grown adults go around name calling, nit-picking and in general poking at people in ways more cruel than they ever did as children when they simply didn’t have the wits or vocabulary they do now, but the tactics are the same, childish. The bottom line is that it isn't about what you say, it's about how you say it and if you're standing in a sandbox pointing your finger at everyone else and screaming profanity so loudly you can't even hear what anyone else is saying it somewhat strains credibility.
Speaking freely is our right, and that is good but what we say says far more about us than it does about anyone else. People in internet forums and chat rooms can get so pre-occupied with their right to say anything they want that they have trouble staying on point with whatever the subject matter is that they are addressing. I have seen entire conversations derailed by arguments over who is right and who is wrong and what's interesting is that in a majority of those conversations it's over a topic where the issue itself has no “right” or “wrong” answer and in some cases, no real “answer” at all. Often there are just varied and valid opinions that would make for interesting conversation if they were ever discussed. In the real world folks might say that they respect the opinions of others and just don’t agree with them, but get those people on the internet and suddenly it's all black and white, one side or the other, a line in the sandbox you'll be berated for being on the wrong side of.
There is no “agree to disagree” on the internet, instead it tends toward argue to agree, the only problem is that often the agreement part is totally missed because of the focus on who can be the most insulting, cynical and snarky. In many disputes people are so blinded by the petty arguments they don’t realize that on the actual point, which they generally stray so far from they all but forget it, they actually agree. The whole thing has me wondering why people are so obsessed with finding the things that separate us rather than the things that connect us.
Actions speak louder than words but on the internet that's is all there is, words. Sure, there is YouTube but that is still just talking heads, words. The reader/viewer isn't privy to the author/youtubers actions on a day to day basis. The vegan with the leather handbag and fur coat or the environmentalist tagged in photo after photo with a plastic disposable Starbucks cup. All too often the very same people who tout their abilities as teachers or even gurus behave in ways demonstrably the opposite of who and what they are pretending to be. Of course a lot of regular folks do the very same thing, become someone else on the internet, someone untethered by the codes of conduct one adheres to in the real world. It doesn't have to necessarily be about any specific issue, in the bigger picture it's more about treating others with basic human decency. Which brings up the point that free speech is a basic human right, a human right and yet human decency is too often removed from the equation.
Still, free speech is free speech, which means one can use whatever tactics they see fit. So go for it, speak your mind! Be free! That right is a wonderful thing, it has been fought over and hard won, we would be crazy not to exercise that right. Bear in mind though that how one does it also speaks, it speaks to what kind of a person you are. Nit picking at specific words taken entirely out of context or using abusive tactics is a choice. Name calling is a choice, belittling another is a choice. These choices say more about the person making them than they do about the person being nit-picked, belittled or called a name. Indeed, people have died for the right to free speech and if what they died for is what I too frequently see going on in the real world as well as on the internet, those people are probably rolling over in their graves.
Despite the fact that how people react to our tactics and our words is their own choice, not ours, our choices are also abundantly clear. Are we having an intelligent debate or a ridiculous, off topic argument? Being polite doesn’t require one to change their point of view or concede to anything. Being a decent human being doesn't make you weak or stupid. We are, each of us, through our words and our tactics speaking very loudly about what kind of people we are. Often it is said that each of us puts our energy “out there” into the universe, what are we putting “out there” then? That is also our choice, another freedom we have is to make that choice a good one, one that doesn’t end up being to our detriment in the long run.
doesn't mean you're sexy,
Just because you're cynical
Doesn't mean you're cool.
You may tell the greatest lies
And wear a brilliant disguise
But you can't escape the eyes
of the one who sees right through you.
In the end what will prevail
Is your passion not your tale.
For love is the Holy Grail,
Even in Cognito.
So better listen to me, sister,
and pay close attention, mister:
It's very good to play the game,
Amuse the gods, avoid the pain,
But don't trust fortune, don't trust fame,
Your real self doesn't know your name.
And in that we're all the same:
We're all incognito.”
― Tom Robbins, Villa Incognito