by Max Greenhalgh
I am currently reading a book for an AP Lang that examines the idea of artificial filter bubbles online. While the topic of the book is mainly those placed upon its users by websites themselves, those aren’t the ones that worry me the most. The internet is a vast expanse of nearly limitless potential. So, why do people decide to take away their own agencies in expanding their horizons online?
After all, the internet is a perfect place to reach new people and new ideologies. In many online circles, anonymity is a given, providing safety and privacy to each individual user. Media platforms provide block buttons, mute buttons, and ignore buttons to silence the pestering trolls who would annoy you otherwise. Abusing these functions to create an online sanctuary defeats the entire purpose of the internet.
The internet is naturally harsh. It is naturally difficult, diverse, and dark. This does not mean that the internet is a bad place. It is through its battlefields and its darkest caverns that character and a worldview are built and reinforced. One cannot improve oneself without subjecting oneself to challenge, and going into the challenge prepared and ready on the internet is a lot better than getting challenged for the first time without any preparation. Denying a challenge in the age of information that we live in seems to me much like delaying the inevitable.
Don’t get me wrong, surrounding oneself with like-minded individuals is a noble and valid use of time on the internet. Just like in the physical world, friends are made online through similar experiences, values, and interests. However, it is important to distinguish between finding a group and speaking to them and shutting out all other spheres of the internet from reaching you. For example, just because you have made connections in a pro choice community doesn’t mean that you have to block every pro life person you come across online. Each individual value of a person doesn’t define them as a whole, and just because you don’t agree with their politics doesn’t mean you cannot have a discussion about, say, tacos. Because tacos are the freaking best.
My point is this: We, as a generation, have the greatest opportunity to meet people in the history of the world. Don’t throw that opportunity away! Use it in order to further yourself, and in that process, you will further others just by being you and spreading your message. Don’t use it to block other people's messages, because if you listen, you might just learn something.