I spend a lot of time on the Internet. I use it predominantly for work. But I also use it to feel connected to friends, family, and like-minded individuals, as a way to share what I am passionate about, as a source of inspiration, and as a way to both feel and distribute joy. In my mind, we have a tremendous moral and ethical responsibility when using the World Wide Web and we need to be cognizant about what we are doing at all times.
So much good happens on the Internet. There are times when I am browsing through my Facebook news feed, or poking around on Twitter, or sharing a piece of my day on Instagram and I feel pride and joy and HOPE. I’ll see a cheeky message or video from Kid President that will make me smile and remind me that there are helpers and healers of ALL ages amongst us. I will see the poignant and tender images posted by Humans of New York. Or I will see the journeys of my friends who are saving dogs or writing books or following their passions. Or people who are surviving cancer and supporting charities. And then there are the family photos and life milestones that people share with such glee. Those things, among others, light me up. Those things make the Internet a special place.
And then there are those times—and those people—who unfortunately use the Web to hurt and to embarrass. To shame and to bully. And to commit horrible and unspeakable acts against humanity.
We can be incredibly brave and vulnerable on the Internet.
But the Internet also makes it easy for us to be cowardly and cruel.
I pride myself on being 99% responsible on the Internet and with my online presence. I certainly have an awareness and most of my activity is meant to empower and uplift all people who come in contact with it. But, I too have made mistakes. I have over-shared. I have allowed myself to publicly put someone in their place on Facebook. I have been snarky and sarcastic. And I have riffed off more than one fiery email without thinking it through. The instances are few and far between, but I still need to be accountable for them.
So many people get Internet-induced amnesia and they simply FORGET. They forget that this cyber world that they are hanging around in is not a hypothetical place with robots and aliens. It is a REAL place where countless people congregate every minute of every day. We forget that the people—the humans with eyes and ears and hearts—on the receiving end of your texts, Tweets, and keyboard strokes are REAL people with REAL feelings. Feelings that are impacted by our actions and our energy.
We FORGET that it is a monumental privilege to be able to sit, largely untethered, in our offices and our Starbucks and on airplanes and be able to effortlessly put endless streams of intent and energy out into the world. We FORGET that this undeniably intertwined force of ethers and broadband connections has an actual heartbeat and can take on a life of its own. We FORGET that there is colossal power in the broadcasting of our lives and our opinions on the Interwebs. We FORGET that we are either building people up or tearing them down, either helping or hurting, and often the difference between the two is minuscule at best.
We don’t stop to consider that we never once did anything to EARN this power we wield with our fingers. We don’t need to procure an advanced degree or certificate. We don’t need to wait for a formal decree handed down from an elder. All we had to do was have the money to purchase our gadget of choice and have the capacity to tap into a network, dozens of which appear on every city block.
And mostly, we fail to acknowledge that with tremendous power comes tremendous responsibility. We’re disregarding the fact that our moral compass is defined by what we do with our power — even on the Internet.
Can we agree that not every thought we have, every experience we’ve endured, and every belief that we vehemently believe has to see the light of day? Just because something materializes does not mean it needs to be shared. We are losing the ability to control the synapse that filters thought from action. Things we would never say face-to-face or admit to in person are being carelessly carried through fiber-optics like a dandelion puff in the wind.
We’ve become energetically disconnected from what we are doing, our brains have checked out, and our thumbs are running the show. We’ve got a massive case of Keyboard Courage and it’s reaching epidemic proportions. Don’t believe me? Take a lengthy scroll through your news feed, read the comments section in a message board, visit a site like ask.fm or Yik Yak, read your children’s text messages, or stay plugged in to social media during an election year (when the vitriol is typically at an all-time high).
There is a common misconception that what we do on the Internet doesn’t matter. That feeling probably stems from the fact that we can’t physically SEE or HEAR or FEEL the ramifications and reactions of the people on the receiving end of our Internet energy. But, just because we can’t see something doesn’t mean it’s non-existent.
Example: If a person scribbles a racial slur on a wall or building and nobody was around to see it, did it still happen? YES! And someone is bound to be either directly or indirectly hurt or offended by it. And yet another will be tasked with cleaning it or covering it up. There is a ripple effect. There is an energetic shift. There are consequences.
Example #2: You go onto a message board or one of those lowly “anonymous” Web sites like ask.fm and you, under the cloak of anonymity, post a message in which you slut-shame someone, or insult them, or say something infinitely damaging like “you hope they die.” Did it still happen even though you think it can’t be traced back to you? Of course it did! Will you cause someone pain or sadness or anger or despair? Absolutely! Will there be consequences? Of course there will! Maybe not for you, but certainly for the people who are reading it because you have transferred your toxic energy onto them and they were powerless to stop it.
Whether or not you are willing to admit it, EVERYTHING we do and EVERYTHING we think has a direct impact on the energy and the vibration of the planet. The things you put on the Internet literally CHANGE THE WORLD. We have got to commit to better energy.
Let me put this another way. You spend the day at the beach. You bring a picnic lunch and a bunch of beers and at the end of the day, too lazy and sunburned to care, you leave your trash on the beach. Nobody SAW you leave it there and you never give it a second thought once the trash leaves your hands. But, there it is. You littered. And that trash is going to go on and have a subsequent impact. Wildlife might die. Someone might cut themselves on your debris. The delicate ecosystem might be thrown off balance. Someone else is going to have to pick it up. You never gave your actions another thought…but you were careless and they lived on. It’s the same with what leaves your hands on the Internet.
Bottom line: what you say and think and type matters. It matters a lot. The way we exist in our physical, spiritual, and cyber worlds can either be based on love and kindness OR on hate and fear. The things we spread never spread as fast as they do in cyberspace. So let’s do the prudent thing. Let’s do the humane thing. Let’s do the RIGHT thing and start accepting responsibility for the energy we bring to ALL our spaces. Because the fact of the matter is that we have no right to be launching weapons of mass destruction with our thumbs. If we are coming from a place of insecurity, jealousy, anger, criticism, or fear, we need to keep those emotions confined within our own physical space— not unleashing them on society—until we have the ability to deal with them accordingly.
Cyberspace is infinite and the responsibility lies with all of us. As such, I’d like to invite you to take my “Power and Privilege of the Internet Pledge.” I want to see this become a movement. I want to see it shared on social media — at least as much as videos about kittens and dancing babies. I want people hanging it on their refrigerators. I want parents giving it to their children. I want it recited in schools.
Our energy matters, particularly on the Internet, and it is time to launch a grand-scale raising of the world’s collective vibration. Whether or not we want to admit it, we all play a part.
Please think about this as you go through your day. Take the first step to be kind and responsible. And then take the step after that and the step after that. This new world we are spending so much time in depends on it.
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