Digital Citizenship

by Adam on December 10, 2012

With so much information flying around the digital ether these days, it’s easy to get caught up in the fact that over 1 billion people are now using the internet. This includes everything from looking up information, to posting to blogs, to participating on social media networks. As the ability to take part in these conversations continues to expand, and more voices come to the fore, it seems we mistakenly take for granted the power that our digital citizenship affords us. And while access is now more about economic factors more than anything else, I would argue that the openness of the internet should have boundaries.

Internet access should be a privilege, not a right (or a matter of economic means).

Some people may call it censorship, and it likely flys in the face of our First Amendment rights. But, there are so many people out there that share online without thinking about the impact of their words, or who do so maliciously as a way to hurt or offend others. And I would imagine that a big piece of this is the ability for people to sit behind their computer screens, anonymously, and feel like they are publishing out to the void without any repercussions.

The problem is that for the vast “bigness” of the internet, it’s an incredibly small place. While there’s so much content and it’s harder to discover, with all the connectivity of digital channels, content finds its way out to larger audiences (especially the stuff that raises eyebrows).

Instead of just turning our heads and feeling like this has to be the new norm (perhaps because we don’t want to infringe on other people’s rights), what if those folks who couldn’t play nice had their digital citizenship revoked? Or at least suspended? Of course, I’m not advocating that everything shared online always has to be positive or nice or non-confrontational  But, there’s a big difference between that and what’s being shared online now, which is all manner of derogatory and insensitive perspectives from narrowly-focused viewpoints.

Will this ever happen? No. Is it really the solution? Probably not. But it’s interesting sometimes to think forward and wonder whether all these “rights” we take for granted won’t someday become more limited as our population continues to grow. I’m not saying that’s going to help anything, but in a world as vast as ours, I would hope we could use the internet to bring people together rather than pull them apart.

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