Lim: Going digital

Melanie T. Lim
·2 min read

AS THE world becomes forever changed by this pandemic, the future portends greater digital presence for all of us. As we go digital, let’s beware of the dark side.

The online world is a mean world. Incivility is ubiquitous, trending and growing organically. Each mean word gives birth to another. The meanness replicates like a virus and the reproduction number continues to rise each day, universally.

The digital era has ushered in the era of rudeness. Netizens feel entitled to say whatever they want—filing it conveniently under freedom of expression or honesty, whichever is more convenient.

Does this entitlement come from inflated egos disproportionately developed by the number of thumbs up, beating hearts and fake friends on social media?

Would we be as brutal, face to face? Would we be as hateful if we shared the same physical space? If we could look into each other’s eyes, would we be as mean as the words we callously type behind the safety of our screens? Probably not.

It’s the screen. It hides our identities. And when it doesn’t, it hides our eyes—the windows to our soul. Without eyes, it’s easy to morph into soul-less individuals devoid of civility, conscience and compassion. Life in cyberspace.

How can a smartphone spew out so many snide and snarky remarks? The digital world has become a place where civility disintegrates. When technology is being used as a tool to demean each other, it’s not a breakthrough. It’s a breakdown of the human race.

The temptation to respond to a mean tweet or post is hard to resist when it only takes a click to fight back. When we feel disrespected, we go to great lengths and sometimes, to dark places, to win that respect back. And often, in doing so, we lose our self-respect.

The urge to rise to the bait is strong when the reply can be delivered in seconds. It is this incredible speed with which the Internet allows us to express ourselves that often destroys us. There is no time to reflect upon our remarks or responses.

With so much negativity online, it’s easy to slip into the mob mentality to condemn and crucify without knowing the facts. To be in solidarity with cyberspace, after all, is the goal, not veracity. Digital groupthink is a dangerous thing.

We cannot ever abandon critical thinking and conscience. This is how misinformation thrives and compassion dies. We cannot allow the digital world to determine right and wrong. We cannot allow cyberspace to curate our minds.

Trolls are digital natives who sow hate through inflammatory posts that can escalate into full-blown cyber wars. Cyberspace is a dark and dangerous world. But trolls are made, not born.

We can all become trolls without even knowing it. As we go digital, let’s be forewarned.