BRUTALLY FRANK: Internet Etiquette, Keyboard Warriors, and Internet Accountability

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By Francis Baraan IV

A long time ago, our ancestors fought wars and battles face-to-face with ancient weapons like swords, spears, shields, bows and arrows. Never in their wildest dreams would they imagine that in the 21st-century era, wars would be fought anonymously over the wide expanse of the internet.

Of course, the peons or pawns sent off at the beginning of battles are now called keyboard warriors and they’re truly invested in winning whatever argument they’re engaged in through memes and arguments.

On a lighter note, have you ever heard of the term “Keyboard Warrior”?

It’s a name that coined for “A Person who, being unable to express his anger through physical violence (owing to their physical weakness, lack of bravery and/or conviction in real life), instead manifests said emotions through the text-based medium of the internet, usually in the form of aggressive writing that the Keyboard Warrior would not (for reasons previously mentioned) be able to give form to in real life”, according to the Urban Dictionary.

In this modern-day and age, swords, arrows and spears aren’t needed anymore if you want to participate in an internet war. All you need is a computer or smartphone, an internet connection, and most importantly, your words.

Words are now the most potent weapon used by people engaging in heated discussions all over the internet. After all, sword without an “s” is word.

When we think of the internet, troll wars are brought to mind with hundreds and thousands of different anonymous users engaging in word wards with each other to gain the upper hand in any argument.

There’s a certain kind of comfort in hiding behind the glowing screen of your computer or smartphone.

When you create an anonymous account in any social media platform like Facebook or Twitter, you can use it to stalk your ex, start an affair with a pretty coworker, voice an unpopular opinion or support a despised political candidate. You can go through any online forum, discussion board or blog to leave unsavory messages or to vote in online polls over and over again. The activities for a Keyboard Warrior is an endless array of possibilities.

The internet is a safe haven for everybody and it offers safety in anonymity for everyone else. There are no rules, policies, or safety nets for users so there are also no penalties for said users who want to create hundreds of different accounts in all types of social networking websites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr to name a few.

With this kind of protection in place, users who have malicious intent are free to create dozens of different accounts that they can use to harass, dox and stalk other users. They eventually evolve in Keyboard Warriors and internet trolls who are always up in arms to promote and defend their cause whether or not it’s as insignificant as the latest weather report or as important as a politician’s campaign platform.

These Keyboard Warriors seem to be everywhere online and anyone can be tough behind a computer screen with thousands of kilometers between them and the person that they’re attacking that protects them.

Oftentimes, they lack the right information, facts and research so they lose sight of the topic at hand or cannot comprehend the bigger picture. They like to comment on topics without reading the complete news article or researching the sources. They prefer to formulate their opinions based on the headline, and then post nonsense comments on the issue.

The internet offers the veil of anonymity to everyone. You have the choice of showing your authentic self or creating a whole new identity entirely with a new set of principles, morals and norms.

The Keyboard Warriors often fall into a predictable pattern of behavior when they’re online like deliberately provoking other online users with nasty comments then bite back in retaliation. When they resort to these base verbal attacks, they’re effectively diverting the attention of the other users from the main topic of discussion.

The protection of the internet truly makes it easy for Keyboard Warriors to dissociate from their true identity and to create a new one to openly defy acceptable behavior in society.

It’s like standing in the middle of a massive rally in EDSA wearing a mask with a thousand other people wearing masks to provide anonymity as well as gain courage so it’s easier for these kinds of people to harass, provoke and act with malicious intent towards others.

We should also ask ourselves, “If they want to raise an alternative perspective or share an unpopular opinion, why not provide the facts and construct a logical argument?”

Of course, the answer is that they’re not interested in that. They want to perform for thousands of other users by using negative posts, aggressive replies and resorting to throwing vitriol to the people they’re talking to when they run out of arguments to gain more traction as well as attention.

Since this is the internet, there’s no censorship, guidelines, or even etiquette in place unlike in traditional media so fake news, harassment and viral content with inappropriate or sensitive topics runs rampant thus promoting a culture of fear, uncertainty and distrust in authorities and other established media platforms like radio, television and newspapers.

Therefore, there’s no way to rein in the distasteful, unsavory side of the internet as well as keep Keyboard Warriors accountable.

As the 21st century progresses, we’re seeing a breakdown of the traditional rules and regulations inherent in our society because we’re seeing a rise in a more casual culture.

As Uncle Ben in the Spiderman movie once said, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

It’s important to note that practicing etiquette, even on the internet, will promote accountability as well as common decency in order to enjoy the features of the internet responsibly.

It’s crucial to understand that promoting accountability for all internet users will eventually lead society into engaging in more refined and intelligent discussions without the need to hide behind the glaring computer screens. So it applies to our activities online as well.

Of course, the most basic form of etiquette we should practice is to think before we click.

In the distant future, these people who assume their identities as Keyboard Warriors who tirelessly create fake accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and whose idea of a fun hobby is to harass others — will get what they deserve when the veil of their precious anonymity is lifted and pushed away.

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