Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Loss of Civility on the Interactive Internet

"Before you write a comment to one of the blogs or internet bulletin boards remember that you are a person of faith, make the sign of the cross, and then write your comment."This was the plea  of a  follower of the premier Catholic internet site of the Seoul archdiocese.

The Korean language portal site of the Seoul archdiocese, "GoodNews" (, with its interactive bulletin board is a cause of concern to many: it is still buffeted with the abusive language of the netizens. Because of the efforts that have been made since the site went online in 1998, there have been conspicuous changes for the better but personal attacks and ideological battles continue. Even those who go to the site frequently are surprised by the comments that are submitted, causing many to wonder how persons of faith could possibly write such words. The article in the Peace Weekly discusses the problem, which is common not only in Korea but  possibly wherever you have interactive dialogue on the internet.

Many write to say they came to the site to hear about Church reportage, but found, instead, participants hurling insults at each other. A typical comment:  "I was hoping to find a Gospel message or some spiritual help but found only inappropriate  content, which was disappointing."

The site has over 300,000 members, and about 100 join daily. According to the conditions of use, those who are responsible for the site have the right to erase objectionable material and refuse the use of the site to the offenders. But the site's reason for being is to encourage the netizens to speak out freely, which might explain why efforts to regulate from above are makeshift and rarely enforced. The article suggests that those using the site should do the regulating and see to it that the users follow rules of internet etiquette. The team leader said, "It is necessary to respect the freedom of those participating, but it is important to have more constructive  comments on the Church and faith life than abusive ideological battles." He added that the site is, after all, the face of the Catholic Church in Korea.

The sensitivity of  Koreans  not to inflict pain on another is evident in everything they do--until, when seriously provoked, someone loses his cool and explodes. But it is  doubtful that the feelings of discontent will have any  effect on the way future comments are made. There is, however, still hope expressed by some that in some future time we will learn to be more civil to others we disagree with.


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