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Ashleigh Gray (Larkin)

English 2010-F14
November 7, 2014
The Dark Side of Communicating Online
Every person who has used the internet has had both good and bad experiences from
online forums or social media websites. While it seems as though the internet should be a
comfortable place for users to express their opinions online, the backlash some receive causes
anxiety and frustration that may inhibit them from participating in these communities. Internet
communities are tend to be run by cliques, and anonymity in these communities makes it easy to
bully.
Trolling is a specific slang word that has been developed by the online community that
millennials are familiar with. Trolling is defined in two different ways: A person who instigates
arguments online only to get a rise of out another person or group of people or in other cases, a
person who is so blinded by their own opinion and self-righteousness that they feel as though
they must prove the other party wrong to validate themselves. The increased use of the internet
has led individuals to believe that they are protected by some sort of force field because they
have the freedom to post anything they want, under any alias that they may choose. With the lack
of accountability many face online, why should people censor their opinions?
The internet is a vast world full of information. The ability to connect or network with
anyone who has a computer and an internet connection, or these days even just a phone with
strong network coverage, is overwhelming. Millions of different people with different

backgrounds all coming together could be a beautiful thing, but unfortunately thats not always
the case. Some who face social anxiety and feel afraid to speak their minds in regular face-toface exchanges tend to seek out online forums to find a place to be able to safely express their
opinions or start up a conversation, but can be shut down by a lack of knowledge or even posting
in the wrong place. As of May in 2013, there were over two billion internet users worldwide.
Seventy percent of those people use the internet daily. Because of these large numbers, online
communities are growing faster than ever and have each seemingly created their own set of rules
for their users to follow. Websites such as Reddit.com have hundreds and hundreds of sub
categories to help their users figure out when and where they can post and get the best response.
Each sub category has a frequently asked questions portion to help eliminate confusion but each
forum seems to expect different things. Even in understanding these written rules, that doesnt
mean you wont get ignored or talked down to for things like, incorrect use of words or slang or
for posting a discussion that someone else has already started a thread on. These websites all
vary but each seem to have a specific clientele or demographic that they cater to. Moderators are
online users placed in charge of ensuring content stayed suitable to the forum or website, as well
as enforces community rules that have been supposedly agreed upon when you decide to
participate in the community. Moderators generally run the show and have the ability to censor
or ban individuals from the community. Sometimes, if you dont fit in to this mold users may
experience rejection and may shy away from this type of communication in the future.
The use of social media in communities like Reddit, Tumblr or even Facebook have
given an outlet for some online users to be able to bully individuals in a more personal, private
way, especially for the younger generation. Although a majority of students reported not
engaging in or being the victim of electronic bullying, the small percentage of students who did

report these behaviors as being problematic indicated that the behaviors occurred several times a
week (Moore, Huebner and Hills). Usually the cases students reported correlated heavily with
the victims race, gender, grades or parents marital status. Although it is typical only in extreme
cases, usually which involve bullying in face-to-face situations as well as carrying over into their
privacy at home, this type of harassment can cause serious problems including depression,
anxiety and in some cases even suicide.
Harassment in online communities is a growing problem not only amongst youth but
amongst adults. The factors contributing to this are similar to those who experience cyber
bullying in school, although gender seems to play a huge role in adults who experience this type
of persecution. More women are coming forward and talking about the abusive language directed
at them online. Even though the problems seems to be getting worse, or at least is talked about
more frequently, many are dismissing the threat and journalists such as Suzanne Moore suggest
these victims need to man up and ignore the abuse (newstatesman.com). This is easier said
than done, and even though the derogatory language is being presented in a more anonymous
fashion that seems easier to ignore, the insults being thrown at victims are so extreme or violent
that it causes fear or depression in users who have experienced this, and many find it easier to
delete their online presence altogether. This has been an especially large topic of conversation
over the last year when more than 100 individuals, most of whom were all women had their
personal, private photographs stolen and leaked online for everyone to gawk at. Since women are
already targeted for abuse, dishonest online users decided to take it to another level and caused
many of these individuals to either retreat or fight back against this unfair exposure on their
personal lives.

Every state in the United States has a law against bullying except for Montana, and only
twenty of the forty-nine states include cyberbullying (cyberbullying.com). The laws vary by state
and very little if anything at all seems to come from allegations against those who participate in
harassing others online. This could be because of the anonymity of many users online, but also
because we are so quick to dismiss this form of abuse as a reason of concern. Is there something
more we can do as a society to help alleviate some of these trepidations? Until we all take a look
in the mirror and realize how we are being perceived in our online communication the future
looks bleak.

Works Cited:
Faye, Jane. "New Statesman." New Statesman. N.p., 22 Jan. 2013. Web. 08 Nov. 2014.
Hinduja, Sameer, and Justin W. Patchin. "Cyberbullying Laws - Cyberbullying Research
Center." Cyberbullying Research Center Information About Cyberbullying Laws Comments.
Cyberbullying Research Center, Sept. 2014. Web. 06 Nov. 2014.
Moore, Page M., E. S. Huebner, and Kimberly J. Hills. "Electronic Bullying and Victimization
and Life Satisfaction in Middle School Students." Social Indicators Research 107.3 (2012): 42947. Web. 7 Nov. 2014.
Subrahmanyam, Kaveri, and Patricia Greenfield. "Online Communication and Adolescent
Relationships." The Future of Children 18.1 (2008): 119-46. Web. 7 Nov. 2014.
Valant, Sean. "Infographic: A Day In The Life Of The Internet." Gator Crossing. N.p., 2 May
2013. Web. 08 Nov. 2014.