The question, “Why are some people so comfortable with being mean on the internet?” has a simple answer.
Some people are just really unhappy in life and take pleasure in spreading the unhappiness virus in whatever way they can.
Obviously, these people are not displaying appropriate digital citizenship, a critical key to developing a healthy and professional online identity. These people are also not thinking about the far-reaching and undeniably horrible connotations of their actions, and might be shocked to learn just how devastating their unkind words can be.
The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation has seen a sharp increase in suicides among their youth in the past few months, a statistic that is unnerving and horrible in itself. However, if we take a closer look at the reason behind this sudden rise in suicide rates, we might just swear off the internet forever.
The short answer for the rise in suicide rates? Boys.
The complex answer? Lies that the internet propagates.
All of the information in this paragraph is second-hand knowledge gleaned from a friend of a friend, but from what I’ve heard, these suicides started not long after the reservation youth discovered the internet sensation Slenderman (a fictional monster that steals children, and do not click on that link if you’re easily terrified). For some reason, these young teens decided that they wanted to become disciples of Slenderman, and somehow deduced that the only way they could do this was if a certain number of boys and girls committed suicide. So began the cyber-bullying, mostly (as I have heard) about boys, and since mid-December, five girls have taken their lives. I’m sure the creator of Slenderman did not have the intention for this to happen when he or she concocted the story, but this just goes to show how powerful, and how dangerous, words on the internet can actually be.
This brings in my digital citizenship research for the week. Most of the information I looked at warned of the perils of surfing the web, and how teachers and parents need to set guidelines for and monitor their student’s and children’s online activity.As a future teacher, I am torn over how to treat the internet. The internet is a wonderful resource, and I wouldn’t know half of the information that I know if it wasn’t for this world wide data base. On the other hand, half of the information I’ve learned on the internet is disturbing, and stuff I’d rather not know. In addition, Stephanie Rosenbloom has studied how the internet, and internet trolls, affect our brains, and has found that the negative feedback we receive from our online critics weighs more heavily upon our minds than the positive. For most people, it’s far too easy to let the negatives consume them.
However, to counter the wave of negativity and unfair criticism that the internet usually provides, a revolution of kindness has developed on the world wide web. George Couros, a Canadian principal, shares his experiences of the overwhelming support and love from his online community, and how this extensive support system can encourage kids in school. This positive view of the internet is what I want to develop in my future classroom, and I hope that I can help my students avoid the trolls and focus on those people with a genuine interest in helping them.
So, while internet haters will always exist, we can try to avoid the negatives, focus on those people that give us positive and supportive feedback, and when we do receive online hate, we can provide kindness and empathy to these trolls, as they are probably extremely unhappy in their own lives.
Taylor Swift’s message to all those online haters out there. Girrrrl power. (Video from YouTube)