Internet Insulation: The Decline of Civility

Eric NaughtonCorrespondent IOctober 18, 2010

The Lady Byng Memorial Trophy is awarded for sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct
The Lady Byng Memorial Trophy is awarded for sportsmanship and gentlemanly conductDave Sandford/Getty Images

More and more people turn to the internet as their source of printed news these days.  Along with that comes social network links to Twitter and Facebook and the obligatory "reader comment" section.

I can remember 20 or so years ago, watching Penguins-Flyers games in the dorm lounge with a mixture of fans.  I particularly loathed a certain someone who wore a Tocchet jersey and then rubbed it in when he became a Penguins and won the Stanley Cup.

But we were friends.  We loved our team and hated the other, but when all was said and done, we were friends.  We didn't call each other despicable names.  We didn't besmirch each other's character with slander and reprehensible language.

I am certain that if I said some of the things I read in the "reader comments," I would have been punched.

This is not just a Bleacher Report problem.  This is an internet problem.  I see it on YouTube, sports blogs, Facebook and even on the online version of reputable news outlets.

The last straw for me was on the Facebook page promoting my documentary that I am producing for charity.  I made an announcement there that was Penguins related, since I am a Penguins fan and attending their fantasy camp was part of my story.  A "fan" of my movie, who is not a Penguins fan, made a very inappropriate, disgusting anti-Penguins comment that I subsequently deleted.

Is it okay to post a comment calling someone a "c@#tbucket," just because the only thing that person can do is "flag" it as offensive?  Is it really okay to sit at your computer keyboard and spew out all kinds of vitriol and hatred at someone who can't reach through the ethernet cable and slap you?  Would you want your kids to act that way?

One only needs to look to recent cases of suicide from internet bullying to see where this sort of thing can lead.  It won't be too long before we are reading stories of a person who was tracked down and killed by someone who was insulted over the internet.

Hockey is such a great sport and its athletes are amazing competitors on the ice and incredible gentlemen and philanthropists off the ice.  I would encourage its fans to be the same.