Here's the thing, though. The Internet doesn't hold its arms wide open for anyone. It doesn't matter WHO you are on the Internet--you can bet someone hates you, and if you have the nerve to do anything on here, that single person will share with you just how much they hate you at some point, and then, well, everyone may hate you for an unfounded reason of sorts. Don't get me wrong, I love the Internet. LOVE IT. I mean, how could I not? I didn't have to go to college and write papers by hand. I can look anything up on Google. I even can fill up a virtual shopping cart with tons of clothing I will never buy without ever leaving the couch. Plus! For someone like me, the Internet is awesome at allowing me to avoid awkward phone conversations with people I don't know. It makes my life easier. But it isn't a welcoming place. And I guess I don't find that shocking or surprising. When people are given the opportunity to be anonymous, they run with it. Obviously. Have you ever looked at Youtube comments? I can't do that anymore. It makes me want to do bad things. You can have the sweetest video of a kid singing and 600 comments about how ugly his face is. Or about how the video is racist. Or about how stupid his parents must be. Or about how he should probably jump off a bridge. Give a person anonymity without repercussions for less-than-person behavior, and that is a recipe for disaster. And we are seeing it everywhere.
I remember back when ICQ was the messenger everyone used. For those of you younguns, it was like AiM--Oh, wait, you don't know that either. It was like texting, but we did it from our computers. Anyway. Back when ICQ existed, I got to know a handful of my friends a lot better through that vein of communication. Writing brought guards down, broke barriers, it seemed. At least that is what I though then. Reflecting on it now, I realize that though I did develop some stronger friendships, the whole deal of not communicating face-to-face erased the fear that we had of one another and reactions and embarrassment. It also erased our humanity, to a degree. I thank the good lord that we didn't have Twitter or Facebook or the Internet the way it is today back then. Who knows what would have happened. I clearly remember going into chatroomms with a few of my friends and pretending we were people we were not--just to get a rise out of them. I also clearly remember my philosophy on the people with whom I chatted: they weren't real. That's right, I admit it, I was an Internet jerk when I was a kid. And I didn't believe that my actions had any repercussions--and, really, they didn't. I never heard from the people I chatted with again, never saw them on the news, never had any idea if my words hurt anyone. I sure hope they didn't. I'm somewhat certain that the things we pretended about ourselves were pretty obviously fabrications, but you never know. Internet people from 1997: I am sorry I was a jerk. I wasn't much a part of the welcoming committee.
The problem now is that what I used to do has just blown up like tenfold. There are some really angry people out there, but I don't think they are just limited to men versus women. Children are most certainly not welcome on the Internet. Teenagers are not welcome on the Internet. People who are disabled, handicapped, or in any way slightly different than the standard, fully-functioning person are not welcome on the Internet. And if any person dares to share anything, well, they ought to be prepared for serious backlash. About anything and everything. I feel lucky, in a way, because I don't have haters. I'd probably have to write more often here for that to happen. Overall, though, I find the way people treat each other online simply appalling. And what's even worse than feeling okay about tormenting someone because of one's anonymity is the fact that the younger generations do it--and they use their names. They don't think twice about bashing each other on their public Twitter accounts or that godawful site ask.fm (which, if you haven't heard of, check it out--it is created for nothing but horribleness). Too often, the way young people (I'm like 100 years old) treat one another online goes unnnoticed and unpunished. And I get it, it is hard to catch. During my very brief foray using Twitter, I cannot tell you how shocked I was at the things kids were saying to one another. How saddened I became for them, that this Internet, this pseudo-world, has such huge potential to ruin their real worlds--and they don't even think twice about their behavior. How bad I felt when I saw my name on their public Twitter accounts, my own name and my own reputation slandered for anyone to see. More than anything, I feel bad for everyone--that the Internet has given rise to the widespread mistreatment of other human beings on the Internet--and in other spheres of our existence. I try my best to never say anything here that would offend or hurt a specific person or group of people. Internet peoples have feelings, too, you know? And now more than ever, everyone should be aware of that!
I'm not sure how to solve this problem. I don't know why people are so inclined to just travel from one article to another, video to video, photo to photo, simply to criticize and humiliate others. It's not right, and something should change, but I'm not sure how to make a change in that area. The World Wide Web is overrun with people who like to argue and torment, and it's getting old.
Everyone should share the Internet and love each other. And maybe the Internet should only be able to be accessed by persons of a certain age as to avoid the painful teen years being broadcasted in a public and unnecessary way that could haunt a young person for their entire existence. I'd say we should limit Internet access to those who are mature, but I don't think there's a good test for that.
The Internet will matter when I'm dead. Because I love it. Now stop being mean and go do something productive.