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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Keyboard Courage

July 22, 2015

Have any of you heard of a term known as "keyboard courage"?

Keyboard Courage is when a person uses the internet, social media, or discussion forum to talk about a variety of subjects that they might not have the courage to talk about in the real world.

And as I've come to discover, there are good forms of keyboard courage and bad forms of it.

First, let's start off with the bad type of keyboard courage. 

I'm sure most of us have been involved in social media groups and pages over the last few years.  It could be a forum for discussion on growing up in a small town, or being a fan of "Big Brother", or chatting about the million and one things one can do with cheese.  For the most part, these discussion groups can be a great way to meet new people, and can be a real icebreaker for those who may feel a little intimidated interacting with people in a social forum.

But sometimes you have that one person who feels the need to do everything possible to ruin that experience for everybody else.

And how, may you ask, do they do this?

Well, they launch personal attacks against someone else for not agreeing with them.  They post hateful messages attacking a specific group of people.  They post vague comments designed to get two people arguing with each other causing a free-for-all online, and they launch complete and total anarchy when it comes to following community rules.

Believe me, I've moderated a couple of these groups.  I've seen all the bad behaviour, and wore the T-shirt.

Now here's where the "keyboard courage" comes into play.  You see, people who do these sorts of things online would NEVER do them in their real life.  It's almost as if they have a Dr.Jekyll/Mr. Hyde personality, in that they act all sweet and kind to people on the streets, and then turn into a vile and disgusting pig the moment their keys hit the "QWERTY" row. 

Of course, some people who are fueled by keyboard courage to be a jerk online may only be using keyboard courage lite...after all, some of the worst offenders often sign up to these forums under ambiguous screennames or fake Facebook and Twitter profiles.

As far as I'm concerned, I don't understand people who go online just to be mean and hateful.  It's counter productive, and completely unnecessary.  And, I'll be honest with you...if a person is that mean online, I would not want to know them in the real world.  Their online persona could be a true extension of who they are in the real world.  Or, much worse, they could be absolutely sweet as pie in the real world, and they appear two-faced as a result.

Of course, sometimes, the keyboard courage that people suddenly develop behind a computer screen can come back to haunt them.  Case in point, the recent firing of a St. Lawrence College professor who used his Twitter profile as a way to make inappopriate and disgusting comments and was terminated as a result of his comments. 

In many ways, keyboard courage is a lot like alcohol.  With both, the more you have, the more bold you become.  But in the end, if you consume too much, you leave behind a trail of destruction and hurt feelings.  And sometimes you don't even remember what it is that you said or did until someone else points it out, and once that happens, they either get defensive, saying that it never happened, or they retreat in shame.

But there are some ways in which keyboard courage can be a good thing.

After all...this blog is four years of pent up keyboard courage!

You see, when I was growing up, I always felt as though I didn't have a voice.  Being the youngest person in my family, it was often hard to speak out when nobody took you seriously because of your age.  And not having a really strong support system at school and in the first few months of my job, it made it hard to communicate with people.

That's why I say that keyboard courage can be a good thing if used correctly.  I never use my blog to attack anybody personally (except for maybe Donald Trump - and a lot of the times, he asks for it anyway).  Instead, I use it to talk about things that I probably could never talk about face to face with someone.  It has always been much easier for me to communicate with people through written words instead of spoken words.  I don't know why that is the case, but I've always been that way.

I choose to use the power of keyboard courage to be a better communicator, and to meet all sorts of interesting people as a result of it.  I don't like using it to hurt people.

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