Children can turn mothers into monsters
Even cute babies have ugly mothers. That’s how it was in the Bonds Baby online beauty contest last week, when things got so nasty the police were called in.
Outraged by a computer glitch which interrupted voting for their precious widdle sweedies, spurned mums turned on other chubby-cheeked cherubs in the running.
“Bonds Australia not Asia” was the charming comment posted beside a photo of two-year-old contestant Lilli, who shares Asian and European heritage. One baby copped “a child only a mother could love” and another was labelled an “ugly duckling”.
Can you imagine walking up to a new mum with a pram and proffering those kinds of opinions in the street? Not likely. In fact, we’re more inclined to go the other way, goo-ing and gaa-ing at weird alien little critters that really won’t look pretty until they’ve gained a few pounds.
When it comes to forgetting our social graces in the online world, though, a few bitchy comments about baby snaps are the least of our worries.
Can you imagine knocking on the front door of a married man or woman (your childhood sweetheart, perhaps) and starting a flirty conversation that leads to an affair? In the real world, it wouldn’t happen in a million years. In the UK, a divorce firm claims Facebook flirting is leading to 20 per cent of marriage breakdowns.
One poor woman even learnt of her impending divorce via Facebook, when her husband updated his ‘status’ to read: “Neil Brady has ended his marriage to Emma Brady.”
There are no stats (yet) on internet infidelity leading to divorce in Australia. But Adelaide divorce lawyer Alicia Furman, of David Burrell & Co, says Facebook is increasingly used as a tool by clients to find some sort of proof if they suspect their partner of cheating.
“People do tend to vent or post inappropriate material on Facebook if they’re unhappy,” Ms Furman says. “Where clients might once have used a private investigator, they now do their own sleuthing online. Often, we’ll receive printouts of online material to support a Family Law case.”
Can you imagine attending a funeral and shouting obscenities about the deceased in front of grieving relatives? Happens routinely online. The family and friends of Adelaide car crash victim Corey Siemers were forced to petition Facebook after cyber vandals set up their own page mourning the loss of “bogan” Corey’s Holden Commodore.
When two children were murdered in the space of a week in Queensland last year, cyber vandals posted shocking images of child exploitation, pornography and bestiality on sites set up to mourn the victims.
Likewise, when American TV correspondent Lara Logan was sexually assaulted in Cairo last month, even supposedly intelligent US commentators used Twitter to suggest she deserved it.
It all makes you wonder what people are thinking when it comes to the online world. And as it turns out, maybe they’re not thinking that much at all.
Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, says the Internet “seizes our attention only to scramble it”. In doing so, it encourages skimming and multitasking while ignoring those parts of the brain used for reading and thinking deeply.
“Researchers say that we need to be quiet and attentive if we want to tap into our deeper emotions,” Carr recently told The New York Times. “If we’re constantly interrupted and distracted, we kind of short-circuit our empathy. If you dampen empathy and you encourage the immediate expression of whatever is in your mind, you get a lot of nastiness that wouldn’t have occurred before.”
There’s no doubting the magnificence of the internet. The capacity to obtain information on even the most obscure of topics, to support and to educate, to unite for a common cause – it’s almost unfathomable.
But wouldn’t it be a tragic irony if this new-found access to unlimited information somehow limited our capacity to think for ourselves – and to feel for others.
Thought for the day: when clicking on the computer, don’t forget to engage the brain. And never hit ‘send’ in anger.
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