Thursday, October 6, 2016

Online Opinions

Conversations | by Diana Galban


When I was pitching my thesis subject to my now director this summer, he suggested that I also look at the reception of the shows I was studying via social media and other online platforms. I was thrilled about his suggestion because it was something I had never done and I thought it would be interesting to look outside of my own analytical assessment of these shows and my personal opinions. 

The internet and social media have given everyone their own platform to express themselves, both positively and negatively about any topic. I profit from this same freedom just by running this blog, as have many others, and it's pretty brilliant. As a communications student, watching social media slowly trickle into mainstream media news has been a fascinating turn (I mean, Osama bin Laden's neighbor basically live tweeted the raid that lead to his capture). 

My excitement to study public opinion via the internet took a scary turn this summer when I started peaking around to start my work. SNL's Leslie Jones was involved in a pretty disgusting Twitter war that eventually resulted in the ban of right-wing writer Milo Yiannopoulos and that spiraled into a conversation about harassment online and our beloved freedom of speech. A few weeks later, Jones was hacked and her website displayed her personal photos and official identity papers, such as her passport and I.D. 

There are the tweets and comments that make you feel like the person read your mind and the amazing people behind them are using their platform to call out certain behaviors and say this is not okay. On the other side of the spectrum, there is a baffling amount of hate, misinformation, and vulgarity that can make your stomach turn. Our current election has exacerbated this online hate, particularly because one of our candidates seems to feel a need to criticize women's bodies online at 3am. 

For me, looking for online trolls has become a bit of an addiction. Every time I see an article on my Facebook feed, I immediately click to look through the comments and what I find is often sexist, ignorant rhetoric about the society we live in. When the news broke that our favorite couple Brangelina was going to separate, the comment section displayed comment after comment (sadly, mostly written by men) about Angelina's looks (compared to Brad's handsomeness, as the commenter put it) and a wide array of slut-shaming comments that blamed her for the split. One of my friends gets so many incredibly ignorant and hateful comments on his political posts that I've begun to tease him about hosting his own personal Morning Joe segment right on his Facebook page. 

In my addictive state of shock towards the hate on the internet, I've started to look through the authors' pages looking for clues as to why this person is so angry about women, or politics, or that recipe for Pho soup. What I often find are regular family men (or women, for the sake of equality), with children, on fishing trips, hanging out at Christmas. Normal people who seem to be very angry that a woman is running for president or who are not ready for Beyoncé's jelly because she doesn't portray women as the "pious, pillars of society" that they should be (I know, right?). The internet has become one gigantic Thanksgiving dinner with the racist, drunk uncle stereotype and it's scary. 

Every time I write a sarcastic status update about Paris, it is met with comments from acquaintances who don't agree with me and are not afraid to tell me how I should or shouldn't feel about it -- they usually get blocked thereafter, not because I'm incapable of receiving criticism for my opinions, I do express my thoughts on the internet for everyone to read, but because I don't feel I need to engage in a back and forth every time I express my feelings about my day. 

While it connects family and loved ones across the world, social media has a very dark underbelly that brings out the worst of us and we, as a society, have created this dark place. I'm no stranger to making sarcastic comments online, I reserve my right to do so, and I image someone who may not agree with me can eventually feel offended. There is such a thin line to be walked. However, I can't say that I've ever felt the need to actively make myself present within someone else's narrative, whispering "wrong" into a microphone à la Donald Trump and I can't understand why so many feel the need to do so. Late Night Queen Samantha Bee gets so many hateful comments, she has started to play a very sadomasochistic game of "Real or Fake" where she reads horrible comments and tries to figure out whether they were real or made up by her team and they are always guaranteed to make you want to take a shower after. 

To counteract my disgust for online hate, I've begun to like people's positive comments on articles and random tweets I see. I'm hoping to apply the "vote with your dollar" principle here. If we buy organic apples, maybe we can topple down Monsanto; and if we like positive comments, we'll incite love on the internet? Who knows. Maybe we can attribute quick-to-judge online commenters to the Hannah Horvath Syndrome, the idea that we are all shinny nickels and deserve to be heard. 

I'm curious to know, do you regularly comment on articles on social media? 

{Image via Warner Bros. Pictures}