We’re Jerks on the Internet

int

You know how a caterpillar turns into a butterfly or a tadpole turns into a frog? This type of metamorphosis is a beautiful thing… in real life. But this is not so true of another type of metamorphosis: a digital metamorphosis.

I’m just going to say it like it is. When people go online, they become huge jerks. Have you seen the YouTube comments lately. They’re filled with racial slurs, seriously abusive language, and a general lack of respect for each other. There’s no way that anyone could get away with such behavior in “real life,” so why is it permissible on the interwebs?

One word: anonymity. You can say anything you want to someone assuming that the other person has no ability to physically retaliate. That makes the internet trollers of the world the biggest cowards. It also forces us to consider an important philosophical question.

Are people naturally good or evil?

You see, the internet gives people something they’ve never had before. It gives them the ability to be completely isolated from their namesake. You don’t know who’s behind that keyboard. It may be a thug from the streets, it may be successful businessman, or it may be middle class father of two children.

Of course, most likely it’s a fifteen-year-old boy just trying to be a jerk, but still you never know.

I think history leans more towards people being naturally evil, with a few heroes who have a good heart. Through the past wars were started, people were enslaved, and the world was flooded because people did not understand how to be good. It was a learned behavior. You see shadows of that carnal behavior today. You see it in kids who simply refuse to behave, but you also see it in an internet culture that will tear apart a poor soul entirely too quickly.

“She’s so fat!” a YouTube comment will scream about an anorexic girl.
“Crucify him,” a person will say about a crime-related article.

The worst part is, we humans love to rally around the flag. We’re vengeful people with extremely short attention spans. If a few people start a train of abuse, it will snowball until people move on to the next impending crisis.

I know I paint a bleak portrait of humanity. I don’t think everybody is like this. But I do feel that each person must make a choice to overcome his or her natural desire to be evil. One way to do this in the 21st century is to stop taking advantage of our anonymity. We need to stop being jerks on the internet.

[Thanks Darrin Federspill for the suggestion!]

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