One thing that has remained constant about myself is my interest in the internet. Who can resist? When I was younger, I used to spend hours on the AOL Kids Chatrooms. I would draw dogs using characters (like this (/(*.*)\). Clearly, I still have artistic skills) and talk about the Suite Life of Zack and Cody. Then, one day, I did something that I will never live down. I must have been nine or ten. Instead of “LOL” or “XD,” I typed out “LMAO” in the AOL Kids Chatroom. Because of a simple letter A, I got my entire family suspended from our AOL email accounts. Not only did I have to admit to my parents that they wouldn’t be able to check their emails for 24 hours, I had to tell them why. I couldn’t even do it — I don’t even know if I knew what LMAO stood for back then. Yet, even though I typed it online, I had to face the repercussions.
Since that moment, I knew what I said online would have an impact. Even though you are alone in front of a computer, you are broadcasting to the entire world. There is clear and evident proof that what you say online is really what you said. That I know, and that I had learned.
Once I got to the middle school age, Myspace was huge. I actually wrote a five paragraph persuasive essay to my parents for them to finally allow me to get one. This was in eighth grade, so luckily my selfies weren’t too embarrassing, and I never posted anything I would regret. But around this time, Facebook was becoming increasingly popular, so I joined it as well. I had no hesitation adding my parents, sister, cousins, and older family friends. I knew I would never post anything I didn’t want them to see.
More people my age were different. They didn’t add their parents, because they didn’t want their parents to see the things they were posting. I feel like my generation grew up with social media being our generation’s thing, so people utilize it as an outlet. They post their innermost thoughts and feelings. They post what they’re eating and where they’re going. Around four years ago, everyone was scared people from school would find their Tumblr blogs, but I encouraged everyone to follow me so they could see the funny gifs of Chandler Bing and cute puppies that I reblogged.
Now, as everyone my age is growing into mature (some more than others) young adults, either pursuing an education or entering into the workforce, we no longer base our entire internet usage on looking at cute puppy pictures (at least not as much, anyway), but now actually care about current events and things happening that are truly affecting us. Whether the conversation is flocking around Caitlyn Jenner, or the Confederate flag, or Cecil the lion, or raising the minimum wage, people are talking about it. I love seeing people getting involved in these important conversations. But what scares me is how strongly and passionately involved people get.
Don’t get me wrong, I have an opinion about everything I have mentioned, plus so many more. But, for some reason, I can’t bring myself to join the conversation about it online. If someone discussed with me my stance on something in person, I love discussing it with them. But as soon as it comes to online, I get anxious.
Everyone who gives their opinions online has a strong, unbreakable opinion. I have read Facebook fight after Facebook fight, wondering if I should give my two cents. But almost every fight I have read on Facebook is just that — a fight. It isn’t a polite discussion about two different stances on, say, abortion. It is a full blown fight.
Have you ever typed a sarcastic text out to a friend but they take it seriously and get offended? But you didn’t mean it seriously; You were joking. Your friend doesn’t know that, because they read it and interpreted it differently. That is how I feel many of the fights we see on Facebook are caused. Someone means something different, but someone else interprets it in a direction 180 degrees from the first person. Then suddenly people are throwing out phrases such as, “If you don’t understand that, you’re part of the problem,” or “This is naive,” or “Shut up, you’re wrong and a terrible person and you should just leave the country.” (I added the last one in for some comic relief, but I’m sure that has been thrown around too.) It is far too hard to put something into words without offending someone.
Once I simply corrected someone on a status about an American flag. After posting it, I called my mom immediately. My palms were sweaty, and my heart was beating at an abnormal rate. “Oh my God, Mom. I started a Facebook fight.” In the end, no one even replied to my comment. In this case, I was probably just being dramatic (as always). If I’m this nervous to post something that in the end wasn’t even a big deal, I cannot even imagine how I would react if I posted my political opinions online.
I love discussing issues in person. When it comes to online, I avoid discussions at all costs. As much as my love for the internet has remained constant throughout the years, I don’t find it a safe place anymore. And with issues becoming more important to young adults, and conversations becoming even more vital, I don’t know what the future will be for the internet.
On that note, please share your opinion about this if you feel inclined to do so.
But no fighting, or I will be scared.