I still struggle to get my head around the concept of ‘the internet’. An endless amount of space, that doesn’t occupy space, but actually does, and one can upload things and download things and stream things and and and…this bundle of messy and confusing words is what my understanding of the internet looks like in my head. Ok, I’m not completely internet illiterate as you are most probably thinking I am, but the possibilities of the internet still baffle me.
Unlike the up and coming generation who are still in school and are brought up knowing the internet backwards, in and out, and every other direction that you can think of, us older kids needed a bit of practice first before it started to become second nature to turn to the internet for answers. If we were lost, we looked at the map. If we needed a tutorial on fixing a car or operating a gadget, we read the manual. If we were bored, we went outside and drowned our barbie’s in the pool or reinacted scenes from the Titanic whilst floating on a pool noodle, you know that bit when Jack sinks to the bottom of the icy ocean in hand cuffs and Rose says, ‘I’ll never let go Jack’. No? Just me then. My point is that quite rapidly, life has changed and the need to adapt to a faster-paced life and keep up with new technology is crucial to fit in with the rat race.
More than ever we, myself most definitely included, turn immediately to our smart phones which are constantly fixed in our hands or back pockets, for almost every answer that we require. With one swipe of a finger, we can access Google Maps for directions, we can YouTube tutorials on aspects that we are unsure of and why the hell not? That’s what they are they for after all. As long as a balance is found between acquiring square eyes and connecting with nature and the outdoors, then go wild!
My problem is this. The anonymity that the internet provides. It hides us, shelters us, protects us from dealing with problems in the flesh, creates false identities, misconceptions of who others are and misconceptions of who we are until we start to mould our identity according to what is socially acceptable. The bottom line is that it can severely warp our sense of reality, especially in teenagers who are still largely ignorant, as everyone once was, to the world. In the same breath I have witnessed first-hand the good that the internet creates through the publicising worthy projects and causes, such as issues rather close to home including rhino poaching, rape, violence, and poverty. It provides individuals with a platform to express their concerns, personal views, problems and of course to share positivity. It opens our eyes to the world, stirs our creative juices and provides us with ammunition to aim higher and dream bigger.
I need you to know that I recognise this good, this positivity and generosity and I am aware that the majority of internet users are not there to create trouble or unhappiness. The option however of being able to remain completely anonymous and having free reign to negatively comment without any repercussions or moral consequence has created a robot generation. Anonymity strips us of our moral responsibility to fellow human beings, it desensitises us to issues, comments and images that quite frankly, should stir up pretty emotional responses.
I’m not a commenter. I prefer to look, read or watch and reserve judgement. If something truly blows me away or angers me intensely I’ll comment, but lately I find myself having to hold back more than ever, breathe deeply, and handcuff my hands to the table in order to avoid typing responses that should not be said out loud in response to reading completely inappropriate and quite frankly, comments that make me think, ‘How much more stupid can society actually become?’. Realising that my response would further contribute to the very problem that I am addressing, I have now resorted to a more peaceful approach which involves blocking and reporting on social media platform. I have to tell you, it is a rather satisfying feeling to press the ‘Yes’ button when asked ‘Are you sure you want to block @InternetTroll?’ As many of you are aware, my life has become more accessible to the public this past year through Ben’s vlogs and although I do not have a problem with this, it scares me to realise how many ignorant and naïve people are walking amongst us.
This all started with reading a few unpleasant comments on Ben’s vlogs, about myself, Ben or just general retorts. Unsure of how to process these comments, I made a little promise to myself that I would refrain from reading any comments in the future. Recently I was furiously scrolling through Instagram like a kid deprived of sugar for too long, and came across a picture posted by a well-known female surfer, Ellie-Jean Coffey. After that satisfying feeling of double tapping the picture as quick as I could, oh please, don’t act like you don’t do that, I scrolled down to read some of the comments. This is what I saw, ‘You look so fat.’ ‘Is it just me or does she look really fat?’ ‘This is disgusting.’ ‘What the f**k is this?’ Completely baffled by this completely unnecessary response of internet trolls who were most probably sitting behind their laptops or phones wishing that they could have a body half as nice as hers, I got really upset. I don’t often get upset. I was upset that I had to call these people human beings, that they were part of the same species as me and many of you nice humans reading this. I simply could not understand the concept of commenting on someone’s picture, whom you have never met, with something that is central to the contribution to many female eating disorders. If you don’t like a picture based purely on a person’s looks, unfollow, or rather SHUT THE HELL UP and worry about your own life. The image has been removed.
I have transformed myself into a ‘put people into their place’ activist. I simply feel that by pretending that negative comments by other people online is not going to help the world. A bystander never got anywhere in life. Instead I reply. Just to let people know that you are there. Recently I read a comment on an Instagram picture that read ‘Does anyone else find that she has a rather bland personality?’’ I’m sorry, I wasn’t aware that we have met before? Or maybe you simply picked that up by looking at my picture of a waterfall? Trying hard to keep a cool head, I proceeded to comment with a short and succinct reply simply stating that I did indeed read the comment, it was pretty inappropriate and no hard feelings were taken but the comment stung. I received a reply very quickly stating that the person was extremely sorry, and didn’t think that I would see it. Trust me, I see everything 😉 I have eagle-eyes, actually talking of I’ve had to start wearing glasses during lectures. My ego has basically been blown because I can no longer claim that I have 50/50 vision.
One’s decision to write something nasty should not be based on whether or not the content creator is going to read it or not. If you wouldn’t dream of saying this to them in person, DO NOT be a coward and hide behind your keyboard. The greatest sadness lies in that there are people who simply subscribe or follow an individual in an attempt to ensure that their negativity is generated further. What a sad life that is!
Let me know if you have had any bad commenting experiences on your content online, or any really good ones for that matter. How did you deal with it?