Why the internet has made me try to be a better person.

Want me to trust your integrity? Just tell me your name.your-beliefs-dont-make-you-a-better-person-your-behavior-does

In the past couple of weeks I’ve been told to ‘get a life’, that I’m ‘naïve’ on more than one occasion and it’s been applied that I’m stupid, I’ve even been accused of being ‘paid to promote’ a ‘greed’-driven project. All of these have come from twitter accounts or Facebook pages that sound as if they are representative groups but use the words ‘I’ and ‘me’ which suggest they are just individuals with an axe to grind, and without an individual’s name they may be, for all I know, anonymous out of choice and accountable to no one. Either way, anonymity doesn’t inspire me with confidence in their authority.

Because, when I think a wave of opinion is misguided, misinformed or  verging on immoral I will step in, not to say “YOU ARE WRONG”, but to ask the question: “how do you know you are right?”

It’s not that I’m an antagonist person, because I like to think I’m pretty ordinary. You might pass me on the street, and I won’t stand out with a ‘get-me-noticed’ outfit or confident swagger. I chose a quite, peaceful life slipping by unnoticed in the crowd, but not anonymous.

My blog posts, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn have left my virtual footprint and I’m global. Whether I like it or not, I’m out there and Google will find me. Articles I’ve written, stuff I’ve liked or shared all give away little details of who I am, where I live and what I think.  So, each time I put my own name into a search engine and I’m surprised by what I find I’ve become ever more cautious.

I began blogging because I wanted to get the personal thoughts structured into words and out of the muddled rambling of my head. It disciplined me to be coherent, thoughtful, and certain. I don’t claim to be right but the aim is to present my own viewpoint, how I see it and why. People may, or may not, agree with me, it doesn’t really matter that much, but it’s heart warming and affirmative when they say they share some sentiment with what I’ve said. If, I’ve put into words what they also thought and they choose to come back, then I owe them decent writing at the very least.

Staying within the realms of personal territory is fairly safe, but lately I’ve been venturing into the minestrone soup of public opinions.  Other people’s ‘truths’ or ‘lies’ float like pasta noodles or ‘holier than thou’ chunks of farmer’s market brought veg. Don’t you know that holding strong beliefs doesn’t automatically give you the right to claim to be a better person if your actions are still dubious.  I sip carefully to separate, over tongue and through the teeth, the beliefs and opinion from the facts and research in an attempt to find the meaty chunks of substance and flavour.  I don’t want to have knowingly or deliberately posted inaccuracies as the truth and I aim not to carelessly dismiss opinions that are different to my own. So unless I’m very certain that I can back it up what I’m saying: personally, I won’t post.

Posting on the Internet, therefore carries responsibility.  For me, it’s my integrity that matters most and this makes me better mannered online than I might be in person. Overtime I’m becoming more of a stickler. It matters that I’m not going to be ashamed in some future time for what I’ve said. Blog posting takes time and effort to be sure and confident in its content. Even now my 140 character tweets can take a lot of writing and editing before I press the send button on them, because the throw away, unintentionally defamatory remark could be the thing that someone, one day, drags me into court for.

Clarity is not an absolute and it’s the possibility of what I try to make clear being misinterpreted that’s scary. Lift one or two of my lines, quote me and mix the order and it can change the emphasis, twist what I’m saying and alter the context of the truth.

So, I’ll only share the things I like; want to endorse or I think them funny enough to make a friend laugh. I won’t share anything with a negative message, even where I might share the sentiment.  Have you ever questioned where these negative scare stories come from? When it starts appearing on your Facebook page or twitter feed it’s likely it’s sponsored and you have to ask who’s posting this stuff and why?

Shortly after the announcement of Nelson Mandela’s death, for example, pre-prepared posts began to appear on twitter and Facebook, which said that David Cameron was a hypocrite to say that Mandela had been an inspiration to him. I found this offensive and I said so. Not in defence of Cameron, for me that had nothing to do with it, but because  Mandela’s legacy of integrity mattered to me.  I believe that coercing opinion by distorting  the true facts is disingenuous, and  a reflection of a suspicious soul.

These were my main reasons:

1) It devalued an event of the century, the death of one of the world’s greatest leaders, through using it as an opportunity for dirty and underhand political mud-slinging.

2) It was unforgiving in tone and was directly opposite to what Mandela said: ‘until you learn to forgive you cannot be truly free’. So the origin of these posts had not been inspired enough themselves to learn from Mandela’s example.

3) It suggested that our elected politicians are not afforded the liberty that the rest of the human population has. That they may grow, learn and change their opinions from ones they may have held over 25 years ago. Quite frankly, if we don’t want politicians to change their mind we might as well say goodbye to democracy.

Recently I also found the content of my blog on another site. The owner of that site wished to remain anonymous and they never contacted me for permission or asked if I minded. I suppose they thought, if the linked it to my blog and gave my name that would be fine as they hadn’t claimed to have written it themselves. I did mind because the topic I had written about, and my own hard spent time researching, was mine to choose to post, to edit or delete as I saw fit. Once my words were on someone else’s site I’d lost control of them. If I had second thoughts I’d lost my power to revoke.  I can change my mind, and if presented with new and compelling evidence, I’m very prepared to say that my previous view was wrong, so 25 years later I don’t want a previous idea twisted, taken out of context and brought back to haunt me.

Put simply, I don’t wish my integrity to be in question. I’m happy that you may need to know my actual name. However, I have problems trusting  spurious sources that hide their real identity behind something else.  I guess they may have good reason to hide.

So question yourself, who will trust you when you are suspicious of everyone else and is the choice to be anonymous an honest thing?

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