I confess to being an avid Internet user and enormous fan of technology. I’ve been in Internet fan communities, for example, for literally half of my life, and I’ve found many gratifying relationships and experiences have been born out of these communities. On a significantly less frivolous note, as someone with a chronic illness, I’ve been able to use online platforms to connect with other young people with illnesses, which has helped tremendously with the feelings of isolation and disconnection that often come with being young and sick. Due to my personal relationship with online communities, I find myself often taking a staunchly pro-Internet stance. Therefore, I was pleased to find that, in looking over my posts throughout the semester, my position was surprisingly nuanced, able to consider both the pros and cons of technology, but especially social media.
In two of my posts, I saw myself resisting what I find to be unfounded criticisms of online culture. In “In Defense of Internet Slang,” for example, I resisted the typical dismissal of Internet Speak as being lazy, improper English, and instead argued for the Internet as a “huge generator of linguistic innovation.” I stand by this claim, and am endlessly fascinated by and supportive of the potential for online dialects (because I truly do view them as dialects) to create community and convey tone. Similarly, in “The Social Affordances of Facebook,” I wrote about the value of small, pleasant online interactions and online relationships. Again, I think I was resisting the cultural message that online interaction is entirely worthless, and instead wrote about the ways small, everyday experiences on social media can strengthen existing relationships or form entirely new ones.
However, I’m pleased to see I didn’t take an uncritical, definitively pro-Internet stance. Likely due to the 2016 election fresh in everyone’s mind, I found myself writing very frequently about the potential political implications of social media. The ability to target political ads on Facebook and the tendency for divisive, shocking news stories to spread more quickly than moderate, non-inflammatory content were two of my primary concerns. I really do think the 2016 election, and our readings on Facebook’s algorithms, encouraged me to think more critically about how social media can shape the world in dangerous ways.
I’m pleased with the degree of nuance I saw in my posts, especially given my own pro-Internet stance. Personally, either moral extreme of opinions on the Internet, entirely uncritical or entirely unsupportive, strike me as oversimplified. While I resist the idea that online interactions are worthless and a waste of time, I also acknowledge the real, concrete dangers social media poses to our society. I think DIG 101 helped me to acknowledge more fully the sinister side to the Internet without universally condemning it.