If you’re reading this, you probably spend a significant amount of your time on the internet. The internet has connected a lot of people worldwide. It has become such a big part of our lives but we don’t really think enough about the culture that resides within it.
On my Facebook feed right now, the ads are from American companies, but the comment sections are filled with Filipino comments. And these comments are so different from what my American friends and colleagues would be writing about these issues.
I think we can all agree that comment sections show us how ugly the world can be.
When you read a frustrating comment, do you stop to think where the commenter might be coming from? Even just geographically?
I know I don’t always do this.
I think we subconsciously think and relate to people on the internet as if they are like us. When we find one who has opposing views from ourselves, it’s so much easier to think they’re jerks or stupid, rather than they’re culturally different.
I really like to believe that a huge portion of disagreements we have with strangers stems from our assumption that those with opposing views from us come from a culture similar to ours, and thus they must just be a horrible person instead of someone with a different perspective.
Chances are they did not come from a culture very similar to yours, and their opinions are valid but will better be explained if we just take the step to understand where they’re coming from culturally.
American content with global commentary…
I have a friend here in the Philippines who is very educated, came from a well-to-do family, and has travelled around the world. He’s got a huge social media following. He mentioned how labels shouldn’t exist, now that everyone in the world is connected. He kept going with how it doesn’t matter if a person is a successful black woman, the media should just say she’s a successful human.
If my friend were to post that comment online, a lot of Westerners would assume he’s a jerk right away. There would be some people who would try to educate him, but without knowing what he knows of American history, where he’s from that effort would fail.
Another possible scenario if he were to post that comment online? Most of his 10,000+ followers of young impressionable girls that have a crush on him would share his opinion because of who he is, and not because of history or facts. How do you think that might affect the division in the world right now?
I don’t think my friend is a jerk, and we had a long conversation about the Black Lives Matter movement after this topic was discussed. But this experience really made me think about how easy it has become to preach to other culture about what they’re doing wrong, without having intimate knowledge of that culture.
Maybe everybody is culturally insensitive?
The Internet gives us the illusion that boundaries worldwide are gone, but intangible cultural boundaries remain. We overlook that netizens come from all of the corners in the world, living different lives, and has diverse culture. AND yet we read comments/ opinions and assume that other people on the net are mostly like us.
No matter how much people read up on a country’s history, it would be difficult to really empathize with that country’s problems until a person has lived there.
And I meant lived, not visited.
I’m a Filipino-American dual-citizen.
I’ve lived in 3 different continents.
I’m a third-culture kid.
I’m supposed to be more sensitive with cultural differences. But you know what, it was only recently that I realized how different I am from my fellow Filipinos and fellow Americans. And while I call both the Philippines and America home, my experience living in both countries is so different from how most Filipinos and Americans experience it.
Maybe the internet should have a community policy where when we find someone who we don’t agree with, we must consider where they’re from, and what life experiences they might have had before we send them anything.
When we make assumptions about the person whose writing a comment we don’t agree with, we’re taking their words out of cultural context. A lot of media already edits interviews to reinforce their own biases, let’s not add another level of misunderstanding by being insensitive to the diversity of culture that resides within the internet.