Mother Nature Network published an article addressing the most recent abuse of actor Leslie Jones on Twitter. Author Michael D’Estries outlines the ways in which the internet has turned into a place of “unruly and abusive” behavior. He points to the anonymity of internet forums as one of the reasons for this putrefaction but as we’ve all experienced, people intent on spreading their vitriol do not care if you know who they are or not. I’ve seen plenty of disgusting comments written by people using their full name and picture.
While I’m glad this tidal wave of misogyny and abuse is being publicized, it represents a mere snippet of what occurs every moment of every day online. In my comment on the article’s thread, I opined that the internet has become somewhat of a “bazaar of abuse.”
People treat internet forums as their own personal diaries venting their frustrations, insecurities, and darkest wishes. While anonymity might be to blame for some of the abuse, a crowd mentality coupled with the lack of physical proximity makes a haven for the worst in all of us to be expressed. No doubt, the “progress” and convenience of technology is connected to a pervasive disconnect from each other, the environment, and ourselves. We have become islands, detached and unaccountable to anyone.
I don’t believe the human race has become more hateful, only less accountable, less connected. There is nothing to tie us to each other when we don’t even have to look one another in the eye to have a conversation. When we “communicate” solely through text that we type and don’t handwrite, we lose something of the personal. We miss our surroundings entirely because we’re glued to our phones and we take for granted the sacredness of every moment because we can simply record it and play it back later.
None of us are immune to these influences and we all partake one way or another. When I feel brave, or exhausted, I won’t speak to someone unless they’re looking at me and not at their phone. I’m thankful for the moments I’ve been without that little ball-and-chain and I’ve experienced something that’s solely mine. I once saw an otter (an uncommon sight around here) swimming in our local canal. When I told my roommates about it later, they asked if I’d taken a picture and I told them no. The experience was mine and what I shared was my enthusiasm and wonder.
If we want to curb the onslaught of internet abuse, we can start with ourselves. Abide by a personal code of conduct when you comment or respond to other’s comments. Limit yourself by committing to certain times of day and certain activities that are exclusive of your phone or perhaps require you to be away from it. Commit to a personal code of conduct in your personal life as well by turning off your phone when you’re with loved ones; maybe you even let the battery run down on purpose. Also, allow others to be accountable for their behavior. You do not have to carry on a conversation with someone who’s not looking at you.
The world can feel like a dangerous place when we’re so disconnected but it certainly doesn’t have to stay that way. You don’t have to change everybody else, only yourself.