A few months ago, I had the pleasure of listening to a young woman in her early twenties speak about growing up with a disability. She spoke about how technology had greatly impacted her life for the better. For example, she struggles with mobility, so changing the CD in a CD player was challenging for her. So, she was able to rip all her favorite CDs to her computer and just press “shuffle.” Ah, the luxuries we Generation Y’ers have.
Another topic she spoke about was: The cloud. No, not the cloud you see when you look up at the sky. I’m talking about the cloud that has affected all of our lives today: The Internet.
“The cloud sees no disabilities,” she said, and she is, without a doubt, right. Online, you’re just a screen name. You can choose to use your real name, or you can use a pseudonym. You can’t tell if I’m in a wheelchair, or if I’m wearing glasses. You can’t tell if I’m fat or skinny. You can’t tell if I wear braces or if I walk with a cane. Online, I am my words. You only know what I tell you.
Technology has allowed us to create entire new identities online. Most young people, myself included, have multiple online accounts. Some even have two separate lives: Real world friends and online friends. These lives can be as separate or together as one chooses. How you present yourself online is your choice. The Internet is essentially Heaven for those of us who struggle with confidence in the real world due to our appearance.
Unfortunately, the Internet doesn’t solve everything. The internet is a haven for people with low confidence, which has turned it into a very hostile place for people to take their frustrations out on innocent strangers. And since anonymity is easily attained, it’s easy. Too easy.
You don’t know what that stranger’s face looks like behind the screen, so you can say whatever the hell you want to them and not have to look at their facial expression, which makes the Internet a hot spot for cyber bullying.
Chances are if you’re online, you’ve received a negative comment somewhere. Maybe a stranger left a negative comment on your blog. Maybe you uploaded a story to a site and someone left a negative review to tell you how “awful” your hard work was. Maybe you sent a tweet and received a reply from a random stranger to tell you that you’re wrong. Maybe someone reviewed your book on Amazon and told you that it sucks. If none of this has happened to you yet, well, you’re one of the fortunate ones. These situations happen every single day, and it hurts like Hell.
It’s not easy to keep yourself motivated when you’re told you suck by a random stranger. Yes, it’s hard not to take it to heart. When it happens, you’ll begin to wonder if it’s true. After all, maybe everyone else is just too nice to tell you the truth – and well, the truth does hurt. But the important thing to remember is these are random strangers. Most of the time “haters” use fake names, because they don’t have the balls to reveal their true identity. They feel bad about themselves, so they want to bring others down with them.
So, yes, the Internet is a wonderful place to meet people. And there are loads of nice people on the Internet. It’s a great place for socially awkward young adults to connect, though at the same time, it’s a very dangerous place for low-confidence youth. Also, whoever made up the statement “Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt” was a complete idiot. Words DO hurt.
THINK BEFORE YOU SEND A HATEFUL COMMENT TO SOMEONE ONLINE. If you wouldn’t say it to their face, don’t say it to them online!