I was incredibly lucky growing up, that my parents encouraged my use of computers. They bought me one when i was barely in my teen, and even bought me a modem (Micromodem IIe for those who know what that is) – I had access to a whole world of people who were like me. It was a great experience exploring. Soon services like CompuServe, Genie, Prodigy were around. I got access to them all. To me the world seem smaller, I was in this bubble that no one in my town really had access to it, and I was interacting with adults and kids who had this privilege.
Fast forward to being an adult, and hearing about the internet. I do not remember the exact day i went from using connected services to dialing up with Netcom (my ISP) and searching the internet, but what I did see happening, was what I thought was the new normal. HTML was not hard, it didnt take a rocket scientist to do make a page. Anyone could have a voice, the playing field was the same, NYTimes was on par with John/Jane Doe. Now it would take years before everyone could get online, but once they did it was going to be wonderful. A new generation of people could speak their mind freely.
What I didn’t know, is that if everyone has a voice, everyone has a voice. That is good, bad etc. I have written previously about sunlight being the best disinfectant. My hope when I wrote that was that given people the ability to shine their real colors would shine, and people would see them for what they are, good and/or bad. The same on the internet, if people posted something that was truly off color, and really bad, that they would be exposed. The collaborative internet would shut down hate, violence and all the “bad stuff.”
I think what has done is closer to the opposite. It has given a voice to the negative, and allows them to find like minded individuals and amplify their voices. Although that voice maybe in the minority, enough people agree to make it more like a megaphone. Now of course to me amplification of voices sometimes is a good thing, like when people are truly oppressed. But now the same amplification to hate, this really doesn’t make for a better society. What I never expected was how this would all surface, and it is probably because I don’t understand it.
I have mentioned before how privilege I am, as well as most of the people I know are in the same boat. Now I don’t mean in the way some will think that have a beach house, multiple luxury cars etc. My privilege was more how I was raised and what i was able to learn as I grew up. I was able to understand many sides of the story, gain empathy for my fellow people, and eventually understand my own ignorance to gain wisdom. To me that is a whole world of privilege. I don’t fear being wrong, and although sometimes i struggle through it, eventually I can change.
Now, please do not take this as defending anyone who supports hate and violence. Not everyone has grown up in the same world as I. But, take any of the current hate groups, and allow them to publish their views on the internet, and now they seem to find like minded people which was harder to find locally. And although what people believe by showing “facts” is simply enough to change someone. Apparently it makes people dig in harder to their beliefs. I was really stunned to understand this. But is is not possible to win some arguments. I am not defending anyone who doesn’t see when they are wrong, just understanding that I and others may not be able to change their opinion. And the notion of ganging up on them once they are exposed doesn’t solve the problem.
No, I do not have a solution, as the Pandora’s jar has been opened (yeah its not a box, look it up.) I wish I did, I hope someone does and we should be discussion how to fix it. Having companies take content down is not going to be the answer, at some point someone will be willing to take money. Google is in one of the biggest spots, if it hides post and information, it doesn’t exists , or at least finding it is a bit harder. My understanding of Law is that the Government cannot interfere with free speech, but I don’t think the law states companies have to allow others free speech.
Maybe my wish is that we discuss the right course of action in any case instead of having a mob mentality. There will be cases when ideas or thoughts should be squelched, but then how to we convince those with the ideas, that they are wrong. How do we get them to accept the better idea. How do we bring up the next generation not to hate? Too much for one issue to be the champion of, but at some point, we need to address root cause, other wise our children, and our children’s children will be asking the same questions I am asking.
My generation was the one who was going to fix all of this, and now its my kids generation that again has to pick up the pieces of the broken world. I just hope its not beyond repair.