What are some speech ideas/points about the appearance versus reality of the internet?

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Lorraine Caplan | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Many good speech points can stem from the idea that on the Internet, appearances are often not what they seem. This question reminds me of a meme I have seen a time or two on Facebook:

Don't believe everything you read on the Internet. - Abraham Lincoln

The humor here, of course, lies in the fact that Lincoln could not possibly have said this, since he was gone over a hundred years before there was an internet.  Nevertheless, the statement holds true, and we can look at a few examples of why it is. 

People can be whatever they want to be on the Internet, and this represents what can be a disappointment, a significant danger, a risk of apprehension, or a loss of self-worth.  When people are on-line, they can pretend to be older, younger, smarter, more attractive, and nicer than they are in real life. Dating websites are probably the best example of this.  I have had many friends tell me that they met someone on-line through a dating website, and followup meetings in person made quite clear the contrast between the appearance on-line and the reality. One friend reported that her "date" had used a twenty-year-old photo of himself and another reported that she met with a man who was sixty pounds heavier and six inches shorter than he had said he was on-line.  Older men have posed as teenagers and lured young girls they found on-line to some very bad situations. Women have posed as men, and men have posed as women. Various law enforcement officials misrepresent themselves in various ways to catch criminals. This is not necessarily a bad idea, but it certainly proves the point that appearances and reality are not the same on the Internet. Another point to be made on this subject is that people, young people in particular, believe that what they see of their friends on the Internet represents lives better than their own, leading them to feelings of depression, loneliness, and a loss of self-esteem. This is because what is presented on the Internet is quite selective, sharing only the victories and celebrations, seldom the defeats or the sorrows. Someone who reports having a new boyfriend is unlikely to follow up with reports that the boyfriend is abusive.  Someone who has mentioned an "A" in a course will probably not mention the "D" in another course.  We present what we want to brag about on the Internet, rather than reporting all the ups and the downs. The result of this is that many young people feel their lives are not very good in comparison, with dreadful emotional fallout.

It would be good if everyone would realize that the internet is a place where people can easily misrepresent themselves. This would save a great deal of disappointment, risk, and pain. Abraham Lincoln was absolutely right!  

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