Keeping quiet isn’t always a bad thing
On a naval vessel, there are three taboo topics in conversation: politics, religion and women. These sensitive subjects could easily lead to disagreement, so they are banned to prevent unnecessary discord among crew members out at sea. Nowadays, similar rules have been established for everyday people when they get together over drinks. Two actions, talking about work and checking cell phones, carry a 10,000 won fine ($8.80). Discussion about work is banned because many middle-aged Koreans have nothing to talk about but work. Moreover, mobile phones have become an essential part of our lives, so people check them frequently. Before long, there is a considerable amount of money on the table for drinks.
Let’s talk a bit more about mobile technology, especially social networking services.
I am a novice Facebook and Twitter user, but I already feel myself getting hooked. At first, I thought I could indulge my political curiosity by friending notable political figures, liberal and conservative, to see what they had to say. But I found that every post is a variation of the same rhetoric, especially when a major election is approaching.
I thought I would just remain quiet and observe, partly because I should be prudent as a journalist, but I simply cannot keep quiet anymore about the chaos that goes on online.
In the world of social networking services, leftist, anti-Lee Myung-bak users dominate. Recently, they’ve been raging over the April 11 general election. As the opposition party failed to take a majority in the National Assembly, netizens lamented “I want to leave the country” and “This election result is as shocking as Roh Tae-woo’s presidential victory in 1987.”
A professor for whom I have a lot of respect even surprised me by labeling netizens with opposing views “the enemy.” But perhaps he was not as radical as those who were unhappy with the result of the general election and blamed voters in their 20s for not participating.
Those who don’t bring up sensitive issues or who decide not to get involved in heated debates - online or elsewhere - are not fools. We all feel insecure and uncomfortable at times due to rough or vulgar words and behavior.
By the same token, if netizens want to reach more people with their ideas, they should be much more considerate and put themselves in other people’s shoes to think about the impact of what they want to say.
By Noh Jae-hyun
* The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.