Monday, January 25, 2010

Everything in Moderation

By Cathy of Alex

Recently, I was in an online chat room with a couple of friends. For one of my friends, it was her first time in an online chat room. The chat room had about 16 people.

Later, via Google chat, the “newbie” asked if her experience in the chat room was typical. “Are people always “chatting” (typing) over one another?” “Are there always multiple conversations (threads) at once?”

I answered: “Yes” to both questions.

Online conversations have a potential for the same lacks of etiquette we may experience in any good “old fashioned” verbal conversation with a group: interruptions, rudeness, erroneous assumptions, lack of listening.

I don’t know if its that people are ruder online than they are in person, but I think the anonymity of much online dialogue gives people a greater license to act uncharitably towards others. We have aliases, we are in different states, different countries, we’ve never met in person, and unless we have a webcam, we don’t get the verbal clues that are sometimes necessary to understanding the position of the speaker.

In online world of blogs and chat, I’ve noticed that people don’t always address the question or comment on the post. It’s almost that they don’t read the post. Maybe they didn’t. It seems that people just want to “hear” themselves speak and air an opinion-even if it has nothing to do with the subject at hand. Are people lonely? Maybe. But, there is a new freedom along with the new community provided to us by life online.

Modern office life requires a lot of online NetMeetings or WebEx meetings; more workers telecommute. Online meetings are organized and I’ve never been in one that involved people talking over each other, or interrupting rudely, or failing to answer the question. Yet, these lapses of etiquette often happen online among strangers.

Perhaps the answer is moderation. Office online meetings are moderated. Even if they weren’t, there’s the powerful necessity of saving ones career that forces manners in situations where you may feel like breaking free of etiquette if you could.

Some chat forums are moderated too, but moderation may not be enforced.

In any case, moderation is what is needed; it’s what we all need. We need moderation in ourselves even if there is no external moderator. As a Christian, I accept that I have the moderator that is God. Unfortunately, it seems that at many online forums, CHRISTIAN forums at that, people forget that God is, and should be, the moderator even when there is no human in the moderator role present.

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