Defamation Culture

Alas, it is, rather unfortunately, true. So why is the Internet, a medium that has so much potential to make the world a better place for people to openly discuss matters with patient hearts and open minds become something that spawns hate instead?

“The age of foolishness” is one of the things ReadThisThing — a newsletter that posts one piece of journalism a day — describes storytelling in the age of the Internet. The Internet’s connotation to unreliability, click-bait websites and “the epoch of incredulity” are some of the other labels they gave to today’s generation of Internet-savvy individuals.

Although their article touches both sides of the Internet-age coin, it’s hard to avoid thinking of how the downsides of storytelling in the Internet age has, and may very likely, affect us. With posts like ’21 Things Only a 90s Kid Can Appreciate’ getting 50 times the traction of other political or world-related news, as ReadThisThing points out, we have an idea of what makes up the majority of the Internet — fools. The Blue/Black, Gold/White dress controversy comes to mind — a viral phenomenon that brought the entire social media populace into a heated debate over what colour a peculiar dress was. This controversy spanned across multiple social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and even had several renowned publications such as Time Magazine, The New York Times and The Guardian wrote up on it — all for the distress and confusion one dress caused everyone.

Of course, the Internet serves as a platform for individuals to voice their opinions; its very nature demands it. However, in many online debates and arguments such as the aforementioned dress controversy, so much of peoples’ opinions happen to be negative ones, with users ever ready to fire projectiles of insults and slander to people who don’t share the same beliefs they do. An example of this can be seen during the legalization of gay marriage in the United States in 2015. The legalization brought about many supporters as well as non-supporters. While there was inevitably going to be a clash in views and opinions regarding the issue, it was a real travesty to see so many people in constant argument with one another in the following days, weeks and months after the legalization. Sure, the dust has settled somewhat, but there are still more anti-religion and anti-gay posts on the Internet and social media now than there has been before. A number of religious groups whose very core beliefs was ‘love’ aggressively argued their opinions on the matter and those who supported the legalization and spread the hashtag #LoveWins spewed an insurmountable measure of insults and slander towards the former group. Love did not win the Internet. Hate did.

Not all hope is lost, fortunately. Although capable of great arrogance, humans — many of which are active Internet users (some call them ‘cyberheroes’)– are doing their part to spread more acts of altruism to the world through the Internet. Examples of sites that promote positivity and world change include fundraising platform Rally.org, cancer research organization Livestrong and gift exchange website Impossible.com. ReadThisThing may have pointed out the negatives of storytelling in the Internet age, but they equally make mention of the positives that have come from it. They note that “fact finding has never been stronger” as we now have “greater access to knowledge” and that “it’s easier (for great stories to) reach millions of people than ever”.

If we focus on these positives and use the Internet more as a medium to spread good vibes as the above websites have, productive discussions, respect and tolerance for one another, the world may just become that better place the Internet can allow it to be.

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