Huffpost Technology
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Dori Hartley Headshot

The Cold, Cruel Internet

Posted: Updated:

Is there such a thing as too much freedom?

Welcome to the Internet. True, it's an old stale welcome, as we've now become too jaded and cynical to actually welcome anyone with anything less than abrupt impatience.

So, here's a sour welcome in its stead, a salutation to the droning human pulse of social media, where there are no filters and bad behavior is encouraged, cheered on -- where comment spaces and email in-boxes await your worst and most casual hate, your feverish retort, your snappy comeback. Join in, engage, the arena awaits... close your eyes and smell the blood. I swear. Take my word, trust me, I'm your friend -- would I lie to you?

Ah, the recreational commune of the Internet, where human beings sit behind computer screens and craft symbolic spears out of typed words to use at their will on everyone and anyone who they feel deserves to choke on the sharp end.

Welcome to the cruel, rude realm of the Internet where one can dwell in his or her comfy space, imagining the entire world as their stage and every person out there as a privileged audience member whose existence depends upon and revolves around their holy timing. Where we believe that what we say is crucial, important -- must see TV, a sin to be missed! Welcome to the wrath received when one makes the mistake of misunderstanding, and misinterpretations are met with written lashings and severed ends. Where nothing and no one is forgiven.

Forget the antiquated arguments about lack of inflection and inability to read body language or facial gesture. You either inflect with purpose or get trampled in the stampede. There are no longer personal borders or sacred boundaries anymore; it's a free for all, a jab fest!

This is the worldwide social club, where people don't use their real names anymore, where they dare to say things to other human beings without even the slightest remorse. Discretion went out with the pen and paper. Now we shoot from the hip, aim for the heart and strike below the belt. Personal responsibility was never made easier; pick a person, assault them with words, tread on their soul, leave unaccountable and shut the computer. Easy peasy.

Kick back and watch the poison of wordplay go into effect, like a hundred little bullies all working hard to degrade our common potential.

It's a cold, hard place now, where confrontation is defined by how deeply you can cut and run, how swiftly you can deliver a scripted rant and delete yourself from all possible means of retort -- where the showdown depends solely on what you can get away with, because surely there are very few real human beings in this world that can look into the eyes of another, perceive the pain in them and coldly walk away -- those tender shudders that reveal unspoken thoughts, like, "No, I'm alive, don't say that, please, I'm lost, I'm hurt, please be gentler, let me understand -- let me breathe, let me be understood..." Things that exist in the eyes of real human beings, the pleadings that we all secretly share, that real and true need to be understood and not maligned. The Internet closed the window of the soul, and now we are disconnected from the best part of ourselves -- the love, the vulnerability, the grace and the reprieve. The poetry of our realness has been cheapened; we no longer value the beauty of communication.

The Internet -- where there is no modesty, no conscience or caution other than to protect your hiding place, your anonymous name, your way out, your stance, your indignation, your right to be callous, mean, unfeeling, ridiculous, absurd, wrong...

In this fresh hell cruelty is merely one of the perks -- and so what if you're wrong? They'll never see you cry, never see you sweat, never know that you yourself are aware of your mistake -- because it's the Internet, it's social media, it's the place where you no longer think of the consequences, where you perfect acts, where you prepare speeches.

It's the Internet, where it doesn't matter how much you hurt another person because, after all, they're only people, and you are beyond that, you are now a slickly designed sniper of words.

Release the hundred little bullies!

So, is there such a thing as too much freedom? Do we have to defer to the notion that simply because we have the freedom to "scream fire in a crowded theater" that it's necessarily the right thing to do? Has it come to a place where all conversations boil down to this example:

"Why did you do that?"
"Because I can."

From Our Partners