Every couple of years or so, from out behind the oak-panelled doors of prestigious academic offices and research centres, re-emerges the new all-defining conclusion that the effects of technology are indeed toxic with a capital T, causing our generation’s already fragile reputation to take a nose-dive plunge for the worse. This time though, they just might have hit the nail on the head. The latest strand of thought regarding overuse of social media platforms and public forums is that we simply love to swing our clubs of fury in online hate storms, satisfying our inner cyber rage.
By taking a step back and observing my fellow comrades, I definitely caught a whiff of backbiting festering unpleasantly under the floorboards of the internet (a bit like a decomposing rat) -and no, it’s not just the cringeworthy misuse of grammar in people’s comments. Be it responses to online feature articles, blogs, YouTube videos or cyber bullying on social media, slurs of racism, violent threats and abuse swing from one hemisphere to the other. Where is all this hatred coming from? Just why have we become brutal vultures, pecking away at people’s success as if they were dried out coyote carcasses?
Maybe it’s the fact that David Cameron’s overpowering win in Britain’s General Elections back in May has left both education and the arts industry toiling in a cloud of doom and gloom. The lack of paid internships and opportunities going for graduates ties into the notion that the hate responses to online creativity are fuelled by envy. It doesn’t help that the internet has been spewing out little air bubbles of thought over the past three months claiming that only elitists will gain an edge over competitors. Note the word competitor? It’s everywhere.
Not only are we suspicious of each other’s intentions, jealous of potential, but we respond to out-of-the-norm-thinking with an unreasonable amount of hostility. Take the recent cross-cultural rage over the girl who packed her bags and traded in her rental agreement for a monthly season train ticket. Just picture the bloodbath soaked pages of media responses. Slaves to atrociously high living costs baring their teeth. Stiff upper lipped conservatives shaking raging fists over the idea of a modern nomad. “How could you?” came the battle cry. “What about your COUNCIL TAX?”
I mean, train-hopping all night every night isn’t exactly my idea of fun, but each to their own. It’s bad enough that we have been dubbed the Self(ie) Generation of narcissistic haters by technology-fearing individuals and perky pig-tailed pop singers, but when the media spins out stories such as Leonie Müller’s case and we spam her with nothing but contempt at the idea of her personal hygiene, we’re not really proving them (or ourselves for that matter) wrong.
Terrified by the premise of failure, we can’t help but suspiciously regard one another as air-headed idiots, and console ourselves by scrolling through our Facebook news feed with poorly disguised envy (Guilty, by the way. I’m not proud). Hatred is the cancer of our generation, an incisive cyst eating away at our culture. But we should forgo the virtual bludgeoning; we need one another for support, network-building and let’s face it, the occasional exchange of a flush-faced, coffee-driven grimace of sympathy.