There’s a lot going on in the world. There are a lot of issues that are giving rise to heavy emotions and strong beliefs. While it’s admirable to hold opinions and then fight for them, in the process, let’s not forget civility. Whether the topic is the tsunami in Japan or Rebecca Black’s music venture, it’s important to treat topics with the most basic care for other’s feelings. With the Internet making it possible for anyone to put their opinion out into the mainstream for everyone to see, it’s all the more necessary to self-censor what you say. Words, if used as weapons, can be extremely hurtful and can go a long way in influencing someone else’s views, beliefs and actions. Yes, there are people in this country who argue that we have the freedom of speech. But with that freedom comes responsibility — the basic responsibility to determine right from wrong and discern what one should or shouldn’t say in a public domain.

The tsunami that hit Japan elicited sympathy and assistance from almost everyone in the world. And yet, in a time when there was so much suffering, there were some truly atrocious comments and status posts on Facebook. Here are just some examples: “screw japan they got what they deserve. Any(one) remember pearl harbor I do. They killed thousands of Americans and would do it again. Kill em all let god sort emm out.” “Who bombed Pearl Harbor? Karmas a bitch.” “Japan bombed pearl harbor, and god gave them a tsunami lol.”

Shocking to say the least, these were simply a few of many. Regardless of how one may feel about Japan, there isn’t much that can justify such harsh sentiments. There’s a time and a place to say things, and there are some things that just shouldn’t be said out loud. Ever. These are such things. Facebook makes it possible for anyone to spew out thoughts, but it’s important to keep in mind the message these words convey.

Similarly, Rebecca Black has become quite the media sensation and has received her fair share of criticism. It’s no secret that the song “Friday” wasn’t the greatest display of artistry. However, some of the comments and tweets she’s gotten are uncalled for. On Good Morning America, when asked about the meanest comment she’s seen through all this, Black responded, “I hope you cut yourself, and I hope you get an eating disorder so you look pretty and I hope you go cut and die.” What a great boost for an eigth grader’s self-esteem. Even for those who hate her song with a passion, there’s no excuse for such a statement. Wishing something like this upon anyone, much less a total stranger, and doing so in public at that isn’t something our society should stand for.

Yet in either of these cases there was minimal outrage. These are cruel and insensitive statements, and while none of us may personally be making them, not standing against them in some cases is just as bad, if not worse. People should be allowed to say what they want, but to an extent. Some things are just mean and uncalled for, not to mention how hurtful they are to the individuals on the receiving end. There isn’t any official legal sanction against mean speech on the web, but each of us should take special care to self-censor what we say ourselves and to speak out against offensive comments when we see them. The internet is a great medium for expressing opinions and thoughts, but don’t forget how hurtful some of these can be.

Harsha Nahata is an assistant editorial page editor.

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