by Joel Fernandez
The internet is an invaluable tool that is as essential as electricity and water at home. It puts a whole world of information at our fingertips in an instant. To that end, it has accelerated the speed at which people can absorb information. But despite all of the benefits that the internet presents, it is still a double-edged sword. It enables communication with loved ones but at the same time it facilitates harassment from strangers. Today we will discuss why the freedom to be anyone you want to be on the world wide web can lead to a disconnect from both reality and consequence.
Freedom of speech is definitely something that should be valued by modern societies all over the world, insofar as it is within reason. Needless to say, freedom of speech does not grant the right to direct unwanted attention and words at people who mind their own business. In real life, everyone seems to understand this concept. But when it comes to the internet, some people take advantage of the relative anonymity that it provides in order to harass, insult and even ridicule others.
Over the course of world history, societies all over the world arrived at a consensus that values accountability among individuals who interact with each other as the foundation of civilization. In other words, one of the prerequisites of joining society as an adult is the willingness to be responsible for one’s words and actions. The internet takes this concept and flips it upside down. While some choose to present their true identity online and continue to accept the consequences of their actions the way that they would in real life, others choose to throw caution to the wind as they inject their venom into the world.
Moreover, that separation of reality from fiction has created a phenomenon that we like to call “synthetic psychosis”. The dictionary defines psychosis as a severe mental disorder in which thought and emotions are so impaired that contact is lost with external reality. If you browse through any social media platform, you will see thousands of accounts that use pictures of someone that the account owner is pretending to be. You and I might think that this kind of internet behavior is a complete waste of time. But there are some that get so caught up in their internet fantasy that they can confuse it with reality for long enough to confuse the two entirely.
When it comes to internet trolls, the mental derangement seems to be much more obvious. But more often than not, the individuals that partake in such undesirable behavior are consciously enjoying the separation of internet fiction and their own reality. To that end, they very well may be trying to escape a reality where they cannot express themselves the way that they would like. As such, they can use internet anonymity to mask what could possibly be an exceptionally craven personality.
That is why we use the term synthetic to connote the inverse of real life psychosis. Because anyone who has both feet firmly planted in reality will will refrain from directing unnecessary aggression and unwanted attention towards strangers in public. Conversely, a person might go online and say things that they would never have the audacity to say in the face of real life consequences. Furthermore, that kind of attitude inevitably leads to other kinds of disrespect such as irrational levity.
While aggressive internet trolls tend to keep their abusive attitudes confined in the cybernetic realm, passive aggressive trolls tend to allow their inappropriate humor spill over into their real life attitude. Even if they know better than to openly and directly mock someone to their face, their generally irreverent attitude might stem from their perception of a person place or thing online. It is, in fact, the same disconnect from reality but in a more benign form. But whether or not a tumor is malignant or benign is ultimately irrelevant because it still has to be removed.
The world will never be perfect. But the day that humanity decides that generally accepted values such as integrity and responsibility can be tossed aside because of technology that was designed to improve our lives is the day that moral decay will become the norm. Sooner or later that moral decay will spill over into the real world without anyone noticing the causality that led to the consequences in the first place.
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