In her media column for the Century last month, Kathryn Reklis, a theology professor at Fordham University, wrote about the many times a day that social media asks her to watch a video and feel something. “You too will cry after watching this . . . 90 percent of people cry,” the Facebook post tells her. She argues that, while kitschy, these videos contain the power of shared feeling, and shared feeling is a step toward empathy and a further step toward compassion—and so, in essence, a social good. I am not sure I agree.
It's hard to know what to do and what not to do on the Internet. These are new forms of communicating, so we're trying out different rules of engagement. Often our social behavior forms by what gets on people's nerves.
We're making up the rules of Internet engagement as different platforms evolve. So I figure it's always good to check in with some experts to find out how things are developing. Conventions usually come about when irritations arise, so I asked a few friends what vexes them.
I frequently encounter rudeness on the Internet. When I do, I want to say, “Didn't anyone teach you any manners?” And then I realize that the rules of engagement are all different on the Internet. In fact, we’re kind of making them up as we go along. So, I asked a few friends for advice.
I always savor the chance to speak with Dr. Meredith Gould. She is a sociologist who has written nine books. She is also deeply in love with the church. We used to live in the same general area (before I moved to Chattanooga), so I would drive to her apartment for home-made soup and advice.