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We live in a new modern world where some grade schools offer coding classes and social media is checked right after waking up in the morning. Technology has grown so fast in the past decade that it can sometimes be difficult to keep up with all the change. With anything new, there are bound to be negative impacts on society. While social media is an amazing tool used for connections and interactions, it can also be a place where people can spread hatred while being anonymous.
I might not be that old but high school for me had real life bullies. A few girls would walk the halls like they owned the place and would make fun of you for your clothes, body, or even the color of your skin. Nowadays we still have real-life bullies but we also have to fight online bullies as well. A mean girl doesn't just make fun of you to your face anymore. They also send gross messages via Facebook, take unflattering photos to post on Snapchat, and create followers who add to the craziness.
The same goes for politics and social media. While a difference of opinion should always be appreciated, we are starting to divide into two different groups. We all know how much our current President loves to tweet about 50 times a day. With his tweets that range from spreading facts to accusing news sources of spouting "fake news," we have a new role model for how we should operate on the internet. The problem is he is not showing good examples of how we should act but teaching generations of people it is okay to bad mouth online.
Have you ever posted your opinion about the current state of the world and had multiple people spread hate immediately after? I recently posted an article about my feelings on President Trump and shared it with a couple social media outlets. I was incredibly careful to keep my facts accurate and wrote it in a way that was still professionally polite while still voicing my views. Within the hour I had over 100 comments on the article and most had nothing to do with what I wrote.
While some people came to my defense, it was a feeding frenzy of unintelligent bullying ranging from, “You communist whore” to “Go back and get an education you unintelligent (bad word here).” No one had anything factual to say and almost everyone took what I said and twisted it into what they wanted to hear. I was appalled and amazed at how crazed these people had gotten over a few words. It had me curious as to how others were being treated.
I looked towards Twitter and the patriotic standpoints I had read in previous weeks. After clicking on the tweet and scrolling through comments, I realized pretty quickly that I was not alone in being hate bashed. While most just came up with creative bad names, some had "facts" that they pointed out as truth. Where did they get these so-called facts? This had me fascinated and wanting to know more about how they were getting their information.
Most of my information came from articles that I had seen via Facebook. With ads popping up left and right that is based on what we like to read, it is easy to click on them and read away. I usually take them with a grain of salt if I am unfamiliar with the webpage and eventually research different outlets to see if the information is true. Not everyone does this and not everyone receives the same ads. After searching a few friends' feeds who were heavy on the conservative side, I figured out fast how the information was getting into the minds of these haters.
There are thousands of web pages out there that have completely absurd and ridiculous stories that people are soaking up as the truth. Both liberal and conservative sides are reading articles that have no truth to them and yet they become enraged and start an online war. We are becoming a generation that believes everything we read on the internet and it is becoming incredibly difficult to differentiate between truth and fiction. Instead of researching we are listening to a leader say how everything is "fake news" and believing it. Afterward, we share these viewpoints all across the internet and don't even think to fact check before clicking send.
While not everyone is like this (and it is not just Republican parties acting this way) it is upsetting to witness this hatred spread. Not only are we feeding these fake websites but we are adding to them by sending horrible messages to strangers and sometimes even loved ones. It seems hopeless to have an opinion when you are threatened for voicing your views.
In order to stop the madness, we have to be smart and kind while online. If you read something you should always fact check it with multiple reliable sources to make sure they are accurate. Then we need to remember that the person we are about to send that hate message to is a human being with feelings just like everyone else. That doesn't mean stop replying if you see something you don't believe in or think is false. Instead, be polite in correcting a mistake and give a few credible sources to back up your information. We are capable of having a thoughtful conversation even if both parties have a difference of opinion. Hatred does not have to be a part of the equation.