Learn how people banish laziness from the Internet
Author: John Loeppky
We have all thought of ourselves as activists at some point or another, as an ally of a sort. And, yet, many of us seem to employ our beliefs only on the Internet, in the hidden corners of our homes, or in chat forums and comment threads. Very few of us are strong enough to come forward and speak our minds to the masses. Unfortunately, too many of us hide behind screens.
Even sadder, some use these screens as a method of oppression. YouTube user Sam Pepper has come under significant fire recently for posting a number of videos where he grabs women in public and hides behind the fact that he is “pranking” them. Later on, after having posted a video with women doing the same thing to men, he released a third and final piece explaining that he was attempting to create a dialogue and that he was participating in a social experiment. Never mind the fact that he has posted videos in the past where he lassoed women in public and near-forced others to kiss him.
Such actions have long been ignored in forms of expression such as online media and have been characterized as not impactful enough to be challenged. This time, the online community rallied against Mr. Pepper’s actions, a positive reminder that such actions are beginning to be challenged at every level of society.
But, online media has also created a challenging environment for even the most well placed activist movement, in that every position can (and will) be challenged, any website can be referenced, any message twisted. No longer can any message be considered positive. Each argument has to be pick-pocketed and defamed for its inherent flaws. Does this create dialogue? Yes. Does this also create a certain amount of mudslinging? Absolutely.
Here’s the problem: most arguments, even when they are awash in well-placed intentions and well thought out conclusions, are consistently flawed. There are very few positions one can take that will be seen as morally perfect, save a few basic tenants of human decency. So, how does public dialogue — especially that which is expressed on the Internet — not get bogged down with pedanticism and consistent bickering? Sadly, too often, it can’t help itself.
And yet, there is hope. It is not all villainy and argument for argument’s sake. Hank and John Green, the creators of VidCon and the Vlog Brothers YouTube channel, continue to serve the world at large by establishing a community, nicknamed Nerdfighteria that contributes to non-profit initiatives that help people the world over. In relation to the Sam Pepper saga, YouTube user Laci Green immediately started an online petition that has garnered a large amount of attention from both the mainstream media and the online world. The consistent work of just a few content creators has started to shift the conversation from, “look at all those people who do nothing but sit on the Internet,” to, “look at all those people who are pooling their intellectual and monetary resources to make a difference.”
Does this mean that arguments online will stop, that we will all stand around the proverbial fire, hold hands, and sing “Don’t Worry be Happy” together? In a word, no. But it does mean that all is not lost, that our generation can no longer be characterized as moral slackers. While many have taken activism to mean posting a picture of a horrendous human being as their profile image, pasting a pretty-coloured hash tag underneath it, and forgetting it a few days later, as activism, many more have taken the cause to heart and created actual change. Sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have an increasing number of campaigns centred around those who need help and, increasingly, complete strangers, are willing to lend a hand — without criticizing those asking for the money, or claiming that they are scammers or cheats.
Sometimes the good ol’ Interwebs can restore your faith in humanity just a little bit. While no one will be arguing that the comment sections on YouTube, or the creepiest threads on Reddit are safe havens of free expression, it is safe to say that our online world is becoming more and more helpful.