Social media can be dystopian because people make it that way

In my class today, a woman was talking about how appalled she is when she sees how her teenaged son talks to people online. She described something I’m sure we’re all familiar with this for many reasons:

  1. Teenagers are awkward and pick on each other
  2. People are more critical of others when they aren’t interacting with them in the flesh (“faceless victims”)
  3. People aren’t always sure of what they can and cannot say online
  4. Once something is online there’s no bounds of who can see it
  5. Nothing can be entirely erased once posted online

It would be easy to say that technology is the source of the problem. Easy but inaccurate. Online interaction is different from physical interaction, so we should act accordingly by treating it differently.

That happens by merely acknowledging that it is a public forum. I know that it is also a forum that showcases people. This is an outlet for highlight a person’s characteristics. Like in the example of the teenaged boy being perfectly fine with posting nasty things on Facebook about someone else, the bizarre thing was not that the boys were picking on each other because teasing and bullying isn’t a new phenomenon. The weird part was his mother being able to witness it.

I understand that Facebook made something public. People would strategically try to hide their actions from some, but I believe people get confirmation from others that makes them feel more comfortable doing whatever they want. So if they want to be nasty, they have more examples of others being rude that makes them feel like it’s “okay” to do the same.

Technology gives people access to an increasing amount of people. People have access to so many other people online that they are more likely to find whatever they want. They can convince themselves that everyone’s doing what they want to be doing even if that’s not really the case. People can perceive this as “technology utopianism” because they can virtually surround themselves with only things of their own choosing. In the same likeness, if someone wants to do bad things technology helps them do very bad things.

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