Everyone’s seen the cringe-inducing posts from ignorant users expressing their opinion on everything from gay marriage to fiscal responsibility. In fact, insensitive bigotry, fallacious logic, poor grammar and thoughtless commentary have become the new norm on a certain medium: the Internet.
In the past decade, the Internet has become much more social. Forums, message boards and social media sites have become a force to be reckoned with, especially among the younger demographic.
Since so many individuals are networked together by the web, ordinary civilians are given a public ear through websites that never existed before the Internet. It is thus tempting to trumpet one’s arguments on important political and social issues of the day by posting on such mediums.
Normally, social discourse and intelligent conversation is laudable. However, it is best to refrain from arguing about important topics on the Internet.
Even in real life, people are sensitive to aggressive arguments on religious and political issues of the day. However, people are accountable for what they say—an actual person must bear responsibility for his or her words. On the Internet, anonymity and social media remove this accountability. Posts on forums, message boards and sites like Ask.fm are unmoderated and under a pseudonym where users do not know who other users are. On social media sites like Facebook, even if a user has a name registered, he or she may not really know the other people in the discussion. People on Facebook often barely know their “friends,” and comment on posts in response to people they don’t know at all. It is tempting to be bold and rude instead of respectful and polite when you don’t know whom you’re talking to.
Anyone who doubts that people are insensitive on the Internet is just wrong. If you’ve seen a political argument, you know that all websites on which users interact contain arguments filled with rank logic, unnecessary rudeness, blatantly destructive comments from “trolls” and even racial slurs and bigoted statements that would never be considered appropriate in a real-world conversation.
The worst part of this phenomenon is that people should be more accountable on the Internet than they are in real life. In normal arguments, only a select few other people will hear you, meaning that you can only offend a few at worst. On sites like Facebook or Reddit, even the most asinine stretches of logic are given an artificial megaphone to hundreds if not thousands of people. This creates a bizarre scenario in which people give no thought to their words because they are not held accountable even though they are being judged by thousands of other users.
If you’re arguing on the Internet about sensitive issues, you have two choices: shape up or shut up. If you’re about to post an inflammatory message, reread it to yourself first. Better yet, just post nothing—at the end of the day, no one cares what your username has to add to the American political tradition.
—Atlas, a senior, is a