Does the Web makes us all more angry and abusive?


Does the Web makes us all more angry and abusive?

Should we be surprised by a US poll that shows 56% of people in their teens and early 20s have been the target of online taunting, harassment or bullying? I'm not. You only have to look at the level of discourse on the web, the vitriol and abuse poured out on people for their political views, even something as minor as their technological preference (Apple v Microsoft for example), or the football team they support, to see this is a much wider problem.

There seems to be something in the human psyche that effectively gives us carte blanche to write and say whatever we think and in the harshest of terms when sitting in front of a screen with a keyboard. Or perhaps it's just that the web allows people normally confined to the margins of debate to have a much more prominent profile. Whatever the reason, it's starting to spill over into general behaviour. 

The ugly confrontational mood infecting US politics where people can boo a serving soldier risking his life for his country because he announces he is gay or shout "yeah" when asked if  someone in a coma without medical insurance should be allowed to die, to my mind, shows that some of the ugliness and violence of web-based discourse is rippling out into the wider world.

With adults setting very public examples of apoplectic rage, abusing and bullying those they don't agree with and shouting them down, why should young people behave any different? If the adults won't behave like grown ups, why should the children? 

This was first published in September 2011

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