The Internet, depending on who you believe, is either the Best or Worst place on Earth. You can find instructions on how to make almost anything, the history of the Planet, what words mean in hundreds of languages. It is teeming with brilliance and productivity, or is a cesspool of anger, resentment and danger. How you view online existence will undoubtedly be tempered by experiences within the Real World. It’s no less dangerous, and can be manipulated in the same ways that transpire everywhere else.
So, why do so many people feel they’re above consequence and can exist anonymously without recrimination?
Our Twitter short story this month deals with such an individual, whose existence in fiction is very simple to realise, based on the evidence that surrounds me every day. When I’ve personally been attacked online, it’s taken about thirty minutes to track and trace the individuals responsible. If you don’t disable location services from your phone, for instance, anonymity is the biggest joke going. Many people will argue that the future isn’t anonymous anyway: everybody needs to know who you are.
That article is well worth your time, but doesn’t consider one of the main reasons why being a dick online is the new ‘knocking on your neighbours’ door and running away:’ who’s going to chase after you and demand an arrest for harassment? Everybody’s Internet use works on the concept that being anonymous allows a certain freedom, which was for some time almost sacrosanct. At least, it was until that Facebook thing happened: then, people began to realise just how fucking cavalier they’d been with their personal information whilst under the impression a ‘fun online quiz’ wasn’t a subtle means to intellectually profile:
Except if you’d been here since the 1990’s and paid attention you’d know just how dangerous this place can be when you allow anyone to use it without there being some kind of consequence attached. As a parent, I now know only too well just how damaging unsupervised access can be, and how clamping down on said access has similarly disastrous outcomes. You are damned at either end of the spectrum, and just removing yourself from a platform is no indicator you’ll be safe or in control. There is no real answer to remaining out of the loop: however, if you’re still stupid enough to think you’re smart enough to have it all your own way? Think again.
Having dealt with some fairly devious behaviour in the last few months, it is clear that nothing is beyond some individuals in an attempt to manipulate and control others. Perhaps it is time to stop hoping that people will simply be decent or there’s some supernatural force available to save us all, and just start thinking more about our actions.
The Internet, after all, is not going anywhere.