There is a popular and widely used ‘meme’ that was created last year that depicts one of the many issues that has arisen within our generation. It says, “Welcome to 2015 where everyone is offended by everything.” While it may be funny, it is also more serious than people think, and it makes me wonder where it started. Did our newly developed sensitivity stem from rude comments built from the ability to be anonymous, or did it start with our ability to express our opinions more widely and easily?
What should be only constructive criticism simply just delivered on the internet, is instead mostly people criticizing others they don't know, misconstruing text, or people downright bullying others for naturally having different opinions. People seem to have forgotten what we should keep to ourselves, and the impact of simply expressing possibly offensive thoughts differently.
YouTube might be one of the first things to come to one’s mind on the topic of hateful comments, and it also might be one of the places it started. Facebook started topping Youtube with inappropriate comments and offending people when it starting turning into a weird combination of mostly Pinterest and Twitter with mostly posts of links, articles, and memes.
Whether people are cyberbullying or providing constructive criticism on politics pages of Facebook, there is a lot more controversy and open arguments online and our generation has become prone to being targets or causes of such interactions. In the seven years I have had a Facebook, I have never seen more people on it become offended than I have in the past year. Everything from the debate over the confederate flag, to Caitlyn Jenner's transformation, to the lion killer Walter Palmer, Bill Cosby, and finally the worst by far: the Election of 2016; I could write an entire novel with all the amount of controversy that has been created over social media recently. (And it's quite sad we've come to the point where our emotions could be made into a book.)
Speaking of apps that contribute to the many sources of things that offend people on the internet, Yik Yak is another good example. Yik Yak is a popular app with anonymous posting available to those in a local area. Not too long after it was launched in 2013, the makers of YikYak updated it to include a page of rules about what is deemed as inappropriate to post and will not be tolerated on the app. They now also have the option to ‘mute’ people's posts on the app. The amount of negativity and offensiveness on the app escalated too quickly.
Perhaps the combination of our incorrect usage of social media, misconstrued sentences, and inability to understand jokes coupled with too many people’s tendency to take advantage of the Internet, specifically anonymous posting, is the cause. We expect that people are going to take everything too seriously, while people aren't as serious as they mean to be.
How will this change us in the future, seeing and being exposed to so much more negativity than previous generations ever endured? Will this boost people’s confidence in standing up for what they believe in, or create more tension and overly opinionated people than ever before?
We have so much power on the internet. We can type words to help the world, communicate ideas, or express opinions that help rather than bring people down. The reasons for offense vary from person to person but I only hope one day we overcome this ridiculous and recurring issue and use the internet for the better. If this many people are offended by the internet, we are probably using it wrong. Just because we can get more opinionated on the internet and share our beliefs with everyone doesn't mean we have to.