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Opinion: How did the internet become such a toxic place?

Credit: Fortune

I remember after long days in Year 7 I used to rush home and get a laptop out and sit and watch YouTube for hours on end. The likes of Zoella, Bethany Mota and Jenna Marbles were some of my “faves”. But somewhere along the way the internet turned toxic. A place where hate lives and thrives, cancel culture was conceived, and apology videos were ruthlessly picked apart.

The recent weeks of social media and the internet have been undeniably toxic – meaning that it’s nature is bound up in unnecessary hate and all things that fall under such a realm of sadness. Recently the understandable anger which arose from Jeremy Corbyn being found to say that Anti-Semite claims in the Labour party were “overstated” filled my Twitter timeline. People who I had followed for years were now airing their grievances (and sometimes having e-spats) online for the world to see. As Labour’s members started to plummet the toxicity of my timeline grew at a seemingly exponential rate.

I would normally switch off at this point and go see some friends. It’s a good habit I have developed – as soon as something gets overwhelming I just leave. But as a new national lockdown comes into force the ability to escape to a friend’s house has been snatched away from us once again. Doom scrolling, the term used to refer to the endless scrolling of the internet has plagued multiple generations these past months. Our phones are our only solace but can also be our worst enemies.

The next world event which bought a heaping of sadness and anxiety into a majority of people’s lives is the US election. The result still remains undecided as I write this three days after the election took place. As America’s future hangs in the balance my internet feed becomes a deluge of people trying to be heard. “But that’s America’s problem, not ours?” I may hear you say. Wrong, America’s future impacts our future, it is one of our greatest allies and has the largest economy in the world.

The story repeats – Biden and Trump supporters fighting till the [phone battery] death. Trump’s tweets (which I follow to keep up to date on him) also fill my gloriously dread filled timeline adding that touch of “reliability”. The nature of this event is so mismanaged there was no doubt going to be an internet storm.

The internet was once a great thing; it was a true wholesome child of the 90’s but has spawned into the grudge filled millennial you try to escape at every dinner party (if dinner parties were allowed in 2020). It still is great in some ways. It’s a fantastic resource of information but it can be detrimental to your health.

What I’m trying to get at is: I wish I was in Year 7 again when I probably didn’t even know the word “toxic” could be associated with an entity like the internet. Remember to take a break off the internet if you need to. Stick some Netflix on and forget about the world for however long you desire. Rest, re-cooperate and most importantly look after yourself.

Amber, OUT [mic drop].


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