KULLING: The Internet delays the consequence of our words

The Internet has ruined us. Not because we’re constantly bombarded with images of Kanye and your racist uncle’s musings on Facebook, but because it has allowed self-righteous people to say whatever they want with no immediate consequence. It’s created a vacuum of a narcissistic populace that allows people to think they’re better than they are without being taken down a peg when they do something wrong.

Go to any YouTube video that has any sort of even tangential political message. Are the comments well thought-out? Are they reasonable? Or are many of the comments sickening? In my experience, most of the comments are never things I would say.

The anonymity of the Internet allows us to be whoever we want, to our advantage or our detriment. For every gay kid in a strict evangelical home whose only outlet is an online forum, there’s a white supremacist who can find enough people to validate his inherently racist beliefs. The age of information has allowed for unprecedented access to anything, but it has also given a mouthpiece to people who in the past needed to own a media company or the means to publish something.

Now, with a $500 dollar computer and the Wi-Fi connection of a local Starbucks, you can say anything you want with little to no barrier to entry. On top of that, unlike the past, there is no way to vet or filter any of the information a random person decides to post. Because of this, people are not as informed as they could be, since they are constantly bombarded with information and accept it as fact instead of challenging it.

Some online communities have moderators whose roles are to police and remove threatening and otherwise untrue or harmful language, but that is a luxury. Your average YouTube comments or Instagram page cannot tell the difference between a 16-year-old saying racial slurs and a  scholar who has a reasoned policy discussion.

Our generation has been called the “me” generation for a reason. Our ability to speak our minds and broadcast it to the world, no matter where we are, allows us to fire off tweets and Instagram pictures of our food without the expectation that anyone will respond or want to have a conversation with us.

So, here’s a suggestion. Look up. More than likely, there are people in your general vicinity. Engage them in conversation. Challenge their beliefs. Challenge your own. You don’t grow as a person if you tweet “If u like Bernie unfollow me now,” instead of engaging someone in a reasoned and well thought-out conversation.

The Internet has made us lazy as debaters, orators and writers. I can’t even recall how many times I’ve heard that our language has collapsed because of abbreviation and its simplicity. When our attention spans decrease and our thoughts are condensed to 140 characters, it’s easy to see it that way. In real life, you can’t block, mute or unfriend someone who disagrees with you, you have to come to some agreement. Instead of holding our debates behind a computer screen, let’s get out more and go face to face. We’ll be better for it.