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Does the internet change human nature? Part II

The Internet has made us more aware of the big differences in human identity and beliefs

In Part I of this article, I said that the Internet has amplified the good, bad and indifferent aspects of our DNA-based human natures. That said, there’s no denying that the Internet is shaping and molding digitally influenced cultures around the globe. And, because we’re ‘culture-bearing animals,’ our values, norms and behaviors are changing and will continue to change.

Does the internet create a greater understanding and tolerance of differences?

The Internet has made us more aware of the big differences in human identity and beliefs. This has put some on the defensive, pushing back about how they are ‘exceptional and better,’ and lashing out at/or about people they consider dissimilar or somehow inferior. Most of us, however, prefer to ‘build bridges’ with folks who are different, to affirm our common humanity and to move beyond self-serving assumptions of superiority.

Creating constructive dialogue about and greater good will about differences demands a combination of honesty, diplomacy and forgiveness. Developing these qualities takes time and an underlying desire to make the world a better place. We all want the kinds of connections that help us and others learn and grow. Taking that road requires equanimity and balance. In some cases, we just have to move on from those not receptive to those goals and to connect with new people.

Our increasingly fluid online identities

Because our online/social media identities so often overlap, many feel it is easier, even more principled to fully self-disclose online. In fact, some bravely present a unified online persona across social media regardless of potential social blowback. –Who can question folks who do this IF they are respectful and thoughtful? That said, how one self-discloses on FB, LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media varies according to the medium. And trying to navigate between some identities can be difficult, even career-limiting–as many have discovered the hard way.

In my March 13 blog article “Marketing to Millennials,” I commented that the social identities of young urbanites in the U.S. (in Europe, as well) are more fluid/complex than ever. In the U.S. and other technologically advanced cultures, one-dimensional ethnic/tribal identities no longer determine one’s fixed position in society. While the melting pot analogy increasingly applies to complex, modern societies, some divisions are proving harder to overcome. Social mobility, e.g., (movement up and down the social ladder) has decreased in recent years, tarnishing ‘the American Dream.’

It’s imperative that parents mentor their children about staying safe online

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The message bears repeating: Kids absolutely need our mentoring and oversight about how to navigate and post online. Peer pressure for risky Internet behaviors may be impossible for them to resist otherwise. At the same time, they also need time to explore and some freedom to make inevitable mistakes.

In my next blog, I’ll outline some strategies for overcoming unintended challenges to workplace productivity resulting from ‘virtual distance.’

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