The Internet is huge, and that’s a massive understatement. According to Internet Live Stats, in 2015, there were nearly 3.2 billion users accessing almost 1 billion unique-host name websites. On those sites, users are constantly creating content, reacting to articles, adding kitten memes. It’s estimated that Twitter receives 100,000 tweets per minute on average. Facebook users post, on average, over 680,000 pieces of content in that same time, and Google receives 2 million search requests. YouTube users upload 48 hours of video every single minute.
Think about that: Every minute, the amount of content that’s created is staggering.
But how much of that content is accurate? How much has been properly vetted? How often are people perpetuating information or adding their own voice to content that’s at best inaccurate and at worst, derogatory, damaging, belittling, or insulting?
We’re living through a giant social experiment, and I’ve determined that it’s bringing out the worst in humanity. We post without thinking, comment without feeling, and react without understanding the implications. We form opinions from misrepresented information and baseless accusation, and then stick to those opinions like they’re superglue, even in the face of fact. We type away as if there isn’t a human on the other end of the screen receiving the message.
What bothers me most is that we’ve taken to slinging insults, belittling others, and “saying” things that – frankly – we’d never actually say to someone’s face. When you speak to someone directly, you can see their eyes drop, their shoulders sag, or their hackles rise. When we have to face the consequences of our words, we tend to guard ourselves just a little better.
The Internet is a powerful tool that gives everyone a voice. But, collectively, we’re toddlers that have been handed the keys to a Ferrari. We are ill-equipped to handle what we’ve been given, and when we try to make use of it, we can be downright dangerous.
In the past couple days, I’ve been told to “lighten up” when I’ve pointed out that a meme or comment is insulting to a large subsection of society. I’ve been asked why I “correct” people when I post links that debunk erroneous information. I’ve been told to “please just shut up.” Why? Because I reacted to something “intellectually” and apparently, according to at least one random person who’s never even met me, anyone who is intellectual is a fake and a loser.
So let me get this straight, Internet users: You really want to spew misinformation, you think facts are for someone else, you want to insult each other at random, and you think that intelligence is for fakers.
My question to you is: Would you say these things you write, share, or post to your friends’ faces, let alone the random strangers who will also see them in their feeds? Do you aspire to be insulting, degrading, or dehumanizing? Do you truly believe it’s funny to insult people, and that those who take offense should just “lighten up” or that there is something emotionally wrong with them?
I’ve posted recently regarding some steps to take when verifying and vetting information. I’ve talked about degrading others for their chosen form of entertainment. I’ve asserted that we should all be more like Thumper.
Now I’m adding to the message: Think before you post.
Don’t be a toddler in a Ferrari. You’ve been handed the keys to something powerful, and with power comes great responsibility. What you post, say, and propagate does affect others, even if you can’t see their faces as they read your words.
This world is full of hatred right now. Don’t add to it. Just don’t. Please.