When looking at the the big picture, we understand that the web functions because it was intended. Through the facility of the web, information is easier to obtain, and people can connect from across the planet to collaborate and build new things. What Twitter co-founder Evan Williams means when he says that the web is broken is that he believes the discourse led through social media has created a web world that’s simply out of control. Most studies show that there has been a large rise of mental illness worldwide.
Both Williams and I ask: How can anyone’s mind comprehend the awful online world we’ve created? Reality TV mechanics feed the notion that we are able to simply vote off people we don’t like. Cancel culture mobs pour over everything you’ve ever said and ever done and push for it to travel viral in a very bid to strip you of your job and your credibility. With everything being recorded fans, bullies, and abusers alike have constant access to instantly hit you with a slew of unchecked vitriol that drowns out any positives you may enjoy reading. An increasing amount of narcissism, through like and block tools applied to social media, evaluate our self-worth with a numeric value and make it easy for that self-worth to be amplified in an echo chamber. This amid a backdrop of the hysterical, screeching 24-hour news channels that think up an apocalyptic crisis each day. Yet every hour we scan social media with the hope of being a part of the next event, addicted, to delude ourselves that we’ve already made it and are important, a bit like those we see, or to torture ourselves by becoming jealous watching the lives of individuals we predict we are never able to emulate.
This fear of missing out causes an addiction to social media and the cycle continues. It is clear that there must be a change with the way social media discourse is taken, but it’s easier said than done. Companies can attempt to censure the lies, hate speech, and low effort, click bait hit pieces, but this only frees them to become the arbiters of truth and offers them the right to censor anything they don’t like. And other people left to their own devices often ignore the person behind the screen once they send their hate-filled messages. Posts that spark outrage will always drown out the positives and therefore those who discuss these posts feel more important, as if they’re helping, when the truth is that they’ll march on the very next week.
I think of examples like Net Neutrality, where it seemed that individuals believed the sky was going to fall if this bill passed in Congress and other people even went as far as harassing the people within the FCC. But, as time passed, the bill passed, and nothing significant on the web changed and people moved on. Another example is that the case of Desmond “Etika” Amofah who was a popular video creator who tragically committed suicide because of the internet abuse he received combined with his mental illness. Those same people who used their clout, when he said he was eager to kill himself, to inform him that he was faking it for attention were the first to post #RIPETIKA hashtags and the suicide hotline number on Twitter thinking they were helping. These people will never take blame because it’s very easy to merely see it as words on a screen and not an actual person reading them and reacting.
As social media becomes more popular, it is only inevitable that the consequences of the actions taken on there will come to affect the real world. While on the surface on the internet there might be positives, the gilded surface will eventually fade, leaving the broken parts to be seen. Because even one like on a post can break a fragile person and there’s no backspace to fix the broken person.