Whenever something important occurs in the realm of politics, or news, or religion, many people who are in the habit of using the Internet are tempted to react to that occurrence by logging onto the Internet, and publishing their opinions. There is an immediacy associated with blogs and online forums that can tempt people who want their opinions to be known. Social media – including Facebook and Twitter – make it easy for us to respond to events in an immediate and public manner. This can be good in the sense that it hastens our interactions (assuming that haste is what we might call a ‘virtue’ in this context). But it can also be dangerous, or risky, for several reasons.

When we respond quickly to events that our happening in our world, we are able to increase the speed with which our conversations with colleagues take place. For example, our peers might read something we have written, and want to interact with us, and so they might respond with a written remark in the ‘comments’ section of our blog post. And yet, are we making the smartest or wisest decision when we so quickly take a public stance on a controversial issue? What if, by responding quickly in an online forum or on a blog, we fail to take the time to fully think through the problem at hand? What if, had we given ourselves more time to think, we had produced a more reasonable opinion, or stance?

And even if we do take our time to think through our position, a public stance can easily be criticized. Once something is written on the Internet, either by us or by someone else, it is there forever. Even if we decide to delete a blog post, or a comment in which we have taken a stance on a controversial issue, someone else might already have decided to take a screen shot of what we said. This means that even though it is deleted from our webpage or website, it still exists in cyberspace; someone else has a picture of it – an image. They can copy and paste it, post it on Facebook, spread it via other online platforms, like Twitter. In other words, there is always the chance that somebody might draw unwanted publicity to opinions, or stances, we reveal online.

This doesn’t mean we should never take public stances. Just like in the real world (or in everyday interactions with people) we should think before we speak, or write. We should consider carefully what we truly believe about a particular controversial issue. We should also weigh the pros and cons involved in making our beliefs public. Sometimes it is worth it to let other people know how we feel about an issue. Other times it is better, or wiser, to keep our opinions private. You never know how your words can be used, or manipulated, by someone who wants to make you appear in an unfavorable light. It is better, then, to pause, or hesitate, in order to reflect on your own thoughts before you take any action in the online world.

Whenever a controversial issue comes to your attention, and you want to make your opinion about it known, sit down and type out your opinion in an Office document, as opposed to writing it directly into a blog, or a comments section. This way, instead of immediately publishing your reaction to the controversial issue, you can step away from the writing for a few minutes (or perhaps longer) before you actually publish it. It is a good idea, whenever you write something, to step away from it for a while, and come back to it with fresh eyes. This helps you see what you have written with more clarity. You are able to see if you have said what you meant to say. You allow the initial emotion – anger, perhaps, or excitement – under which you composed the piece of writing, to wear off. And you are able to see your opinion, or your stance, in the ‘cold light of day.’

Only then, if you still are sure you want to take a public stance on an issue, should you publish the piece on a social media site. Remember that words, when written – either on paper or on a computer screen – have a certain power and effect. People remember them.

What is your buzz about?