The internet is a great and horrible place. Great because it’s as close to a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as we will ever get and it has globalized the world in a fantastic way. Horrible because there are little to no rules or filters that limit human behavior. We have all experienced this greatness and horribleness when living in the internet either by the news we read, the videos we see, the comments we read and the communities that grow here. It is both a safe and dangerous place for anyone and everyone’s opinion.
There are pages like 9Gag, Tumblr, and Twitter where nostalgia and various senses of humor thrive and we can all participate in them. We connect globally through these pages and in doing so blur and challenge the lines that our forebears made to keep us in our own corner of the world. We prove to each other time and time again that we are not so different and tend to experience things similarly. It’s only natural, and in the same way we can experience happiness and nostalgia through these pages we can also experience hatred and repulsiveness.
I have been using Twitter for almost six years and I have been using Tumblr for four years. At the beginning I used Twitter in a way assimilating diary entries, and I used Tumblr to post my photo-edited experiments. If I scroll back to see whatever I posted from between 2008 to 2011 I can safely say that I blush with embarrassment over the naive, uneducated and inexperienced way I used these platforms. And every day more and more teenagers sign up and create accounts in these pages and post naive, uneducated and inexperienced opinions and art of their own. And while in some years they might look back and equally feel ashamed or embarrassed, and giggle away like I do when looking back, I am starting to feel that it might either take longer than it took me, or they might not outlive it at all.
I belong to a generation that grew up playing and building relationships outside and eventually moved to playing and building relationships inside. The way my generation has matured is very different from how this generation is doing so (those born in the late 1990s, early 2000s). They got to use the internet and have been given the freedom of speech within the websites in them at a much younger age than we did. So while I began posting in twitter and tumblr while ending high school I was nearing the end of polishing and reaffirming my beliefs, morals, values and ethics, teenagers today are going online without even starting to question these things about themselves. Not to say that once we cross that 18 year mark we are all supposed to be fully figured out and sure of ourselves, but we are better on our way than we are at 14, 15 and 16. Our teenage years are extremely important and delicate to us as human beings in a huge globalized society, it is were we both physically and mentally stretch, becoming resistant, polish and start the process of defining who we are and placing our limits. I am starting to worry that the internet is getting in the way of this.
Most places on the internet have communities within themselves that constantly participate with their opinions, support, opposition and deconstruction of things uploaded and posted. Tumblr is no exception, on the contrary it is the accentuated version of this. Communities grow strong and big in Tumblr, wether it is pop culture fandoms, art communities, youtube communities, social opinion communities or even writing communities. Whoever you are, wherever you are from, here you can find a place where you belong, where people share your opinions, support you, love you for who you are and celebrate who you’ve grown up to be. This is very appealing for teenagers, when young we find it hard to fit in with communities that include a majority of adults that tend to forget their teenage years and the struggles that come with them. So in a place were the majority are teenagers that think and behave like you we tend to flock towards there. The problem, though, is the same as it would be in a school were you find a clique or group you fit in with: the hostility towards the group or clique that is the opposite in thoughts, beliefs or choices from you is the enemy.
Everyday internet social media is becoming more and more reliable for news and what’s happening in the world than previous media. By ‘previous media’ I mean magazines, newspapers, radio, news channels, and general TV programs. Twitter and Tumblr, for example, is where I’ve been bumping into less censured accounts of some world events.The main difference between Twitter, Facebook, or any other social network and Tumblr is that the majority of the defense and opposition that goes on is done by teenagers (or young adults like myself) who have the opportunity to write in long paragraphs. Personally I have known better than to write my own paragraphs and put in my opinion in other’s paragraphs, usually I sit by the sidelines and observe. But as a teenager you have to remember how big the urge was to participate, and while there are a lot of teenagers who are above eloquent, are very knowledgeable and I applaud every time I see their posts on Tumblr, there are also those who are not. There are those who believe everything and anything they read online and take as ultimate statement what they find and read on Tumblr.
I grew up learning to question everything for the sake of eliminating false information, and I still do so by questioning everything I read on the internet, but there are many teenagers out there that take as ultimate truth what they read in Tumblr. I have seen posts where it starts with someone delivering a fact as truth, then someone else disagreeing with it and including resources, then a third party agreeing with the first one, and so on so forth it goes down as a chain of agreement and disagreement. This form of online debate is good, and I encourage that we debate with each other without looking to offend, however in Tumblr there is a majority of situations where neither opposing party will accept or even consider anyone else’s opinion. Simply because they are conflicting with each other they automatically think the other party’s opinion or statement is invalid. By doing so they reinforce their original statement as being the ultimate truth when in reality there exists a possibility that they are wrong, or halfway-right. And this is dangerous, not only are we eliminating the opportunity to learn from one another or together, we are closing ourselves to believing or trusting the first thing we read or think. Kind of like googling something and trusting the first link you click when there are clearly over a thousand more entries on the subject. Instead we should be teaching ourselves to always question, be open to the possibility of being wrong, and not punish one another for admitting it. Specially when it’s within the community we belong to, as this is were the greatest intolerance to an opinion not quite like theirs comes from.
While all that I have described I have been noticing that it is a growing pain in Tumblr, but I guarantee you it exists everywhere else on the internet. My worry here being for the next generation. All of us adults, teenagers and children, need to remember that we will never know the one truth unless we lived it. Be it things written in books, blogs, or tweets. Its existence on the internet or history books does not mean it is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Even science tends to correct itself from time to time, so we too should allow ourselves a space for doubt. It can be a tiny space like questioning wether or not the sky really is blue even though most of human kind has always seen it so; or it can be a big space like is what this person who I barely know immoral or unethical or are we misunderstanding him/her. Maybe that way we might be less afraid to give our opinions and less likely to harshly judge, criticize and accept everyone’s opinion, point of view or feelings.