As you all probably know, one of my most annoying habits is my tendency to overthink humanity in my free time; I sometimes even stay awake until 2 AM or later pondering the actions of this so-called “most intelligent” species, Homo sapiens. Are we worthy of that title? Sometimes I wonder.
The internet has provided us with bountiful harvests of knowledge, friendships, and cheap online shopping (Wikipedia, Facebook, and Ebay, respectively). It has also given us an endless gift of pointless yet addicting entertainment. I know many a person (myself included) who takes advantage of these doo-dads to their full extent. However, some websites seem to be taking the social abilities of humans and dragging it into the dirt. I am talking about un-moderated forums, public imaging sites, and other zones where you can post anonymous comments.
If you give 6 billion intelligent, highly social organisms a way to say anything they wanted with complete anonymity, what do you think would happen? Sadly, the question is being answered even as I type this blog. Take the website www.4chan.org, for example. I was told my several friends to go visit that site because “it would make me laugh so hard my ribs would fall off”. When I found out it was an imaging forum, I thought that it would be a funny pictures site like “lolcatz” or “funnyjunk”, where I could go find some relatively clean humor to take the stress off a hard day of practicing. But when I visited it, I was horrified. Most everything on that site is 18+ material, even on the forums that aren’t marked. And even worse, the links marked “18+ only” don’t even stop anyone from entering it; you can do it on your own free will without any verification of your age.
However, none of that is truly the bad stuff. The most horrible thing is the fact that anyone on earth can post any picture they want, whenever they want, even without an account. Granted, this is true for many websites. The only difference is that on most forums, there is a moderator who has set rules for posting inappropriate material, and he/she can ban an individual who chose to break those rules. On 4chan, there is no such rule. On the short time that I was on that site, I saw some truly horrific images that I do not care to even think about.
Equally as terrible is the comments that people write. If you give them an explicit image with the power to write anything they want in response, they will write some explicit comments in return. I only needed to read about two comments before I left 4chan for good, disgusted. Another site that offers public commenting is Youtube. Yes, we all love that site; I know I do. All the amazing, funny, and inspiring videos that people have uploaded (some awesome music, and videos like Randy Pausch’s “Last Lecture”), is enough to entertain, and even educate, for months and months. Now, Youtube is better with public commenting, since the uploaders can choose who can comment, and if someone posts derogatory material, they can be blocked from accessing that uploader’s videos. However, most people do not actually go the extra step to stop people from posting those things, so most internet lurkers can “troll” on the comments pages to their heart’s content.
Why am I complaining so much about this, you may ask? You might say, “It’s the internet; if you don’t like what’s going on there, you should just stop using it!” A valid argument, readers. But I hope you realize how it is affecting our public social lives; and if you don’t, open your eyes and ears next time you are in a public school, college, or other open area, and be prepared to be shocked. Since I attend a public high school, I notice the huge affect the internet is having on adolescents first hand. Kids who easily talk to and tell their innermost secrets to each other on the internet walk past one another without even making eye contact. And social awkwardness isn’t even the major problem. I have seen many students disrespect a teacher right to their face, without any sign of guilt or remorse. The teachers are absolutely powerless; they can send the student to office, call parents, but it doesn’t make a difference, because the kid is so used to saying these things on the internet; he feels invincible. On the internet, he can do no wrong. He can say whatever he wants, and no one will find him. It is different in school-he is right there, speaking to a fellow human face-to-face, but it makes no difference to him. I mean, what difference is there in the internet and real life, right? (Insert sarcastic shrug here).
It is not just among kids and adults that this happens. It happens even more among kids to kids. We consider some of these people our best friends, but are they truly our friend when they call us racial slurs, and constantly pepper their talk with sexual innuendos? Similarly, if we do it to them, are we a true friend? Sometimes I think that we aren’t worthy of being someone’s friend if we do that, and vice versa.
I did not come to these conclusions in one day. I have been observing the actions of people on and off the internet closely for over a year. You can call it creepy, but I call it a qualitative social science experiment. The results are not heartening. A large number of adolescents, and adults, for that matter, are losing their ability to socialize in a polite and dignified manner while still being entertaining. Truthfully, if you act very polite to someone who is used to speaking with a lot of curse words and racial terms, they are most likely to walk away, bored. It seems as if the new small talk is slurs and innuendos.
Is there a way to fix it? Has the internet finally gotten out of control? Do we need to reign in our children? The only thing that worries me is the fact that this young generation will have children and raise the next generation with even more profanity.
I will leave you with an unofficial statistic-this generation of humans is widely considered to be the least well-behaved and least mature generation yet. What do you think you can do to turn it around?
More entries: September 2009
Brian Hong is from Fairfax Station, Virginia. Biography
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