The Toxic Internet

A long-time online friend of mine is leaving Facebook because she’s tired of the toxicity there, among other things. I know what she’s talking about because those there who don’t like your point of view often respond with abusive comments and nasty threats.

My parents used to tell me that if a comment wasn’t inappropriate for the family dinner table, I shouldn’t say it.

Since I still believe that, I notice the toxic comments and slanders that are commonplace on Facebook, the comments sections following news stories on some media sites, and (of course) Twitter. I keep hoping that the people who are talking trash are in a minority, that–as some people say–“the crazies are the only ones who bother to comment” on news stories, posts, and tweets.

What do you think? Are polite, normal, well-spoken people leaving Facebook like my friend, possibly staying but staying out of the crazy threads, or are people in general turning into rude approximations of themselves via online anonymity?

Even though I’ve been online since the CompuServe days, I’m still surprised at the number of people who are willing to say, “Malcolm, you’re a naive piece of shit” in response to my low key comment. What’s that about? People who don’t know me have accused me online of all sorts of things, and I wonder what kind of gall it takes to say such things.

I see the toxicity my friend sees, but I guess I’m being expedient when I say that since I’m a writer, I need to have an online presence. So I stay. I hope that most people online are good people and fight against the toxic comments or find ways to stay out of trouble. Perhaps I am naive because I think that when good people are quiet the bad people end up owning the place.




6 thoughts on “The Toxic Internet

  1. Maybe people are just too tied into their own point of view. If you say something they disagree with, then they think you’re insulting them, so maybe they think an insult in return is called for. That being said, I do think a lot of people are creating a toxic atmosphere. My solution, instead of me leaving FB, is to unfriend anyone who creates an unpleasant atmosphere.

    Luckily, very few people leave nasty comments on my blog, and I mostly use FB to promote my blog. (And to keep in contact with the few people i admire and respect.)

  2. I stopped following the worst offenders. Most of them never seemed to notice. That cut down on the Facebook angst. Plus, I say little to nothing about politics because saying anything just causes trouble.

  3. As you know, I’ve struggled with staying on Facebook. I cut my friends list by 2/3 a couple of years ago and got rid of everyone I don’t actually know in some way. That helped a ton. I also don’t post anything anyone could even remotely find political (and yet, some occasionally still find a way to bring politics in). I won’t leave, both because without a personal account, I can’t have a professional one, but also because it still remains the best (quickest, most convenient) way to stay in touch with people I want to stay in touch with (in spite of its issues).

    1. I also unfriended those who were the most disruptive. A fair number don’t interact at all even though they requested to be added to my friends list–probably just building up their numbers to promote their books or coaching service or whatever. However, most of the worst of the bunch are no longer bothering me. The toxicity comes for decent posts on other people’s profiles that have been invaded by people who want to start ugly debates. At least they’re not on my profile page!

  4. Mostly FB is handy. I see all sorts of interesting things on there – local and national, from my old home town, the places I grew up, and where I live now. And as a writer I, like you, really need the online presence (and it seems to be less vicious than Twitter). But there is always one, isn’t there? I have one. Every time I post something she doesn’t like she flays me, openly and publicly and at length. I thought she’d unfriended me (yay!) but no, she has simply changed her name, so as to add a Twilight Zone dimension to our ‘friendship’. I am deeply suspicious of anyone on FB with an alias (or two or three). It usually means that they are happy to post things that would make me, you and our mums and dads gasp at the dining table. I do have some friends whose notifications I’ve switched off though, which may help with the crazy threads .

    I was posting a lot of political things until recently. Anyone left of Margaret Thatcher in the UK is currently on injustice tilt, trying to make sure we spot and hold up to the light of day everything our new government is trying to slip through or forget its promises about. I’ve had to stop because the constant outrage overload became a real health issue for me.

    1. I don’t post much political stuff, especially about the highly polarized politics in the U.S. I’m more likely to post things about saving the environment or funding the national parks. And, I’ve cut back on making comments on other people’s political posts; instead of becoming discussions, they during into mudslinging and that brings my Scot’s temper to a boil and easily derail my day. I stay there to have a writer’s platform and for the good stuff I find–even cat pictures.

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