Has anyone else noticed a rise in angry, rude, and unnecessary comments online? Where there used to be likes, up votes, and encouraging comments there are now trolls and real angry words. What caused this shift, and why does it seem to be getting worse? Obviously some people’s mothers forgot to tell them that “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Aside from missing life advice, there are five things that are definitely contributing to this wave, and there are surely others.
This generation has grown up on the Internet, but even so it is still a relatively new means of communication. That being said, the kind of formatting and etiquette that has been created around spoken interaction and written mediums like letters, newspapers, and magazines, has still yet to be established for online modes. Yes, there is a format for email writing, but that too is still being perfected and changes as quickly as MLA formatting did when we were in high school.
The Internet is extremely easy to access, sometimes even easier than picking up the phone to make a call. With access being so readily available, it gives people the ability to forget to think before they speak, sort of. Where as a letter takes an entire process which can and should hinder rapid fire comments, the Internet’s immediacy removes that process element leaving users to hit enter and then begin to spaz out. This general spaz reaction comes from the mad realization that whatever stupid, mean, or rude comment was just posted into a public forum was just posted into a public forum for all of those users, and the entire Internet to see.
This is why cyber bullies are running rampant and parents have a whole new set of concerns for their children. It is easy to create a false identity on the internet to hide behind. It is also just as easy to hide under a real identity. On public forums private profiles stay private; so although there is a name and a picture, there isn’t much else to go along with it. As has been heard many times and thusly turned into a cliché, they are just people, not monsters, hiding behind a screen.
When the threats are empty, unreal, and through a screen, can they really hurt you? Probably not in most cases unless you really upset the wrong person; that can have you found, tarred and feathered all before the Internet overlords get out of their pajamas. This feeling of distance and separation that comes from dealings online can leave some users feeling empowered. This is one of the reasons our generation is becoming a bunch of recluses never stepping foot out into the sun with the physical forms we call friends. Free speech is very real, but so are slander and harassment. All those on the Internet should beware the power trip and cut it off before it starts. As easily as someone can type words onto the screen someone else can read them and become emotionally charged. Anyone emotionally charged is a dangerous force to recon with, so all those on the Internet beware and remember, sticks and stones may break your bones but words can never hurt you, only your reputation.
5. Why not?
Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. People want to make sure their two cents get out there, even if it is on pointless Internet trash or the Kardashians. This is the same fifteen minutes of fame attitude people gain when it comes to getting caught on a news camera during some event–silly faces, waving, and all. Many will answer the questions “Why?” when it comes to internet squabbles with “Why not? It’s not like I know them.” Or “It’s not like I’ll ever meet this person.” While both of these points are valid, they have thrown all manners to the wind and take no regard for other lives. Both statements just reiterate the anonymity of things.
To everyone on the Internet, those reading this on the Internet, pull it together! We are the ones setting the tone for the generations to come. They already have to find out just how ratchet their grandmothers were back in the day, and the fact that we transformed the word ratchet from a tool to an insult. Let’s give them a nice, well mannered, Internet to browse.