Oh I have so much to say but before I start, I will try to collect my thoughts so it doesn't get all mixed up and just focus on one subject today.
I'm the first to admit that I probably spend too much time online. I guess, in the grand scheme of things, it's not too out of control – I still go outside regularly and think I have a pretty balanced life – but I feel like there is so much out there to learn and see and experience and it's all at my fingertips. I follow great blogs, I search for new things, I pin pretty stuff, I keep in contact with my friends and I make new friends. To me, the Internet is a positive experience where I spend a lot of my time.
Obviously, I am aware of the negativity that is present online, even if I haven't really experienced it myself that much. Last week on the morning show, Sunrise, there was a story on trolling and how that should be monitored and policed and I kind of thought it was a bit ridiculous. Not in a 'pfft, if it's online you can say whatever you want' kind of way, but in a 'why does the government have to 'police' everything' kind of way (check out the segment here).
Completely unrelated, but in the same week, I came across this story about an 11-year-old who was recently chosen out of the audience by Lady Gaga to dance on stage with her. As with everything these days, the would-be incredible moment for the young girl appeared on YouTube video and swiftly turned a dream into a nightmare when the video was flooded with so many hurtful, hateful comments that it actually made the news. This, despite the fact that one of the core concepts of Gaga's tour is that she is trying to expose and fight bullying.
A few days later, I read this story about Anita Sarkeesian, a feminist, pop culture academic, getting hoards of abuse online because of her KickStarter project to create an online video series about stereotyping women in video games (warning: the linked story has some pretty bad language in it). Her Wikipedia page was hacked and violated by not one or two, but an entire group of gamers; her YouTube video received literally thousands of abusive comments and threats of rape and death; and the outrageous behaviour has continued on her blog and Kick Starter pages, despite her project receiving over $150,000.
It has made me realise something this week that I hadn't given much thought to prior to these stories; the Internet isn't for everyone what it is for me. Some people actually take pleasure in using the online space for purposely taunting and bullying. They have come to realise that they can say anything from behind their computer screen and no one can really do anything about it.
They can take a positive message about equality in popular culture and riddle it with abuse, hatred, and death threats and no one even knows who they really are. The Internet can be as anonymous as anyone wants it to be and, whilst I personally dislike when the government tries to step in and dictate what we do, watch, or listen to it would seem that some serious social issues are present in the alternate reality we have come to know as the Internet.
The biggest problem I can see is that the Internet is a global phenomenon and countries can't even agree with their allies on laws and regulations in the 'real world', how on Earth can there be laws to govern the Internet? It is true that people can be jailed for trolling, such as a man who was jailed recently for taunting friends and family about the deaths of two teenagers but what can be done about the general Internet bullying and abuse that happens on an everyday basis?
Are female gamers always going to be harassed by a small, yet prevalent, group of outspoken, misogynistic male gamers? Is it possible to be successful online without having to endure negativity and abuse? Will humans ever reach a level of mutual decency that they don't feel the need to judge or outwardly intimidate people who they don't agree with? Is there a way to make the Internet a happier, safer place without government intervention?
I don't know the answer to any of these questions, I am still trying to comprehend them myself. When I was a kid, I wasn't allowed to talk to strangers online and I used to think it was a pretty lame rule set by my parents. As a generation (and those who follow Gen Y) who have grown up with the Internet, what may seem a ridiculous notion to us is actually the same rule that parents apply to the real world, why wouldn't it count in the cyber world as well?
Perhaps that is one way to look at it. You will come across people in your life who are positive and respectful and uplifting and then you will come across hateful, negative people and the online world is merely a reflection of this. The problem may be that the anonymity and distance inherent to the Internet has desensitised people and propagated an online society that accepts behaviours that are frowned upon in real life, like explicit sexual harassment, as the norm.
It is not good enough for a civilised society to say that behaviour like this is just the way it is on the Internet/YouTube/gaming or that trolling is harmless and there isn't anything we can do about it. If that is true, then it is only because we have allowed that, in my honest opinion.
There is so much more buzzing around in my head, but thanks if you've made it this far. Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear other points of view on this because I think it is something that should not go unnoticed.