When a California woman recently gave birth to a healthy baby just two days after learning she was pregnant, the sudden change to her life was challenging enough. What April Branum definitely didn't need was a deluge of nasty Internet comments.
Postings on message boards made cracks about Branum's weight (about 400 pounds "” one reason she says didn't realize sooner she was pregnant). They also analyzed her housekeeping ability, based on a photo of her home. And they called her names. "A pig is a pig," one person wrote. Another suggested that she "go on the show "˜The Biggest Loser.' " "The thing that bothered me most was, people assumed because I am overweight, I'm going to be a bad mom," Branum says. "And that is not one little bit true."
It was yet another example of how the Internet "” and the anonymity it affords "” has given a public stage to people's basest thoughts, ones that in earlier eras likely never would have travelled past the watercooler, the kitchen table or the next barstool.
Such incidents "” and there are countless across cyberspace "” also raise the question: Is there anything to be done about it? Or is a decline in civil discourse simply the price that we pay for the advance of technology?