The internet is a double-edged sword that is frequently used to indict the same people and things it so lovingly knighted.
Clarence Mac Ebong
●23rd January 2023
I started to go online and use computers without any help when I was about 7 years old. At that time, all the internet was for me was an avenue to play online games on Mousebreaker and visit the Manchester United website. A couple of years passed, and I opened my first Facebook account when I turned 10 years old. It didn’t mean much to me that I had to fake my age to create an account, I just wanted a way to talk to my friends when I wasn’t at school and to keep up with all the cool things happening that we would talk about in class come Monday morning.
Things started to change at the turn of the decade. The early 2010s were characterized by the increased urge to show and tell. There was also a strong willingness to form relationships you otherwise wouldn’t have because your mum wouldn’t randomly let you go out to see people you met on the internet. One of the best parts was that we felt connected to celebrities and people we admire because they too saw the internet as an avenue to connect with fans, occasionally showing off whatever cool or sexy thing they were doing.
Fast-forward to 2023 and all these good things about the internet still exist. However, it comes at the ever-rising cost of shallowness, hypersensitivity, and a lack of true privacy. The oversaturation of content is proven to affect mental health and well-being. For all the good it does for us with free information, the internet is a double-edged sword that is frequently used to indict the same people and things it so lovingly knighted.
Technological advancement comes as a result of the need to do things easier, faster, and more efficiently by providing solutions to age-old and novel problems. This automatically changes our thought processes and how we analyze situations. We realize that technology has evolved from doing things for us to thinking for us because it readily provides the data necessary to come to conclusions. This is risky because data can be twisted to reflect something else — an illusion, if you will. Twitter is a suitable case study.
Twitter’s use expanded past the simplicity of conversations with friends and funny memes. It became a source of information and confirmation or dismissal of delicate news. Right in front of us, Twitter grew into the one of the largest newsfeeds known to the human race where stories — both mundane and gargantuan — can be shared with a click of a button. Unfortunately, now we are one well-done photoshop and viral video away from being deceived en masse. We have become so used to being spoon-fed online that there is no willingness for deep research or any analysis of these stories that penetrate through the surface. The internet offers insulation from any real consequences for what we say and do, to an extent. Hiding behind this shield has made us regressively worse as a society.
Maybe we were always this unruly and the internet only exposed that more. Apart from the oversaturation of sad news, internet users have the freedom to leave whatever spiteful comment wherever they deem necessary. We forget that while we might move on from these messages, the sting of what is said remains with the receiver of the message. The birth of stan culture encompasses this. We can recall several attempts by Wizkid fans as well as others to slander Davido, no less this instance where someone said that his late son, Ifeanyi was actually Peruzzi’s child. Gaining excitement from getting under people’s skin is honestly sadistic. A celebrity’s status does not make them immune to unnecessary insults on their person, no less their children.
The truth is the internet birthed a lot of people. Its widespread access means that there is a lot of mentoring and peer teaching. We are in an age where people drop “free game” on our timelines and those little nuggets could open your mind to see things differently. The flip side is that anyone can be an opinion leader if they write well and sound convincing enough. In an environment as noisy as the internet, especially Twitter, it is easy to get swayed by performers who signal virtue as something they are not. As such, there is an avoidance of uncomfortable truths for comforting lies within several conversation spaces.
If you’ve been paying attention, there has been a significant rise of ‘burner’ accounts within the Generation Z demographic. There are several people, like me, who were exposed to the internet very early and witnessed the slow death of unpoliced speech and true privacy. Features like Circle Tweets and Close Friends on Twitter and Instagram have been created to restore that to a decent degree. Sometimes people just want to say what’s on their mind and have regular interactions where their words aren’t taken out of context. The truth is that these apps have an influence on a person’s anxiety levels and, by extension, overall mental health.
It’s not all bad, however. The internet has facilitated several relevant relationships I have today, as well as given me an avenue to release my work and daydream about the prospect of a better life. Without the internet, you would not be reading this right now. But the internet’s promises of a liberal utopia cannot be achieved because it’s dragging us toward the spectrum’s extreme, and we are turning ourselves into everything we hate in the name of good.
Remember how I started this by stating that I’ve been online since I was 7 years old? Gen Alpha children are now getting to the age of consciousness, and as such, will begin to use these devices and have even more access than I did at that age. They’re the first generation whose reality is shaped completely by the state of the 21st Century, which is quite incredible — for better and worse. Several questions come to mind, like the type of content these apps will recommend to them, how they would be taught to think for themselves, and even their interpersonal skills with apossible increase in levels of social anxiety. We need to take a step back and reevaluate the state of affairs, not just for ourselves but for generations to come. The internet, just like fire, is combustible; it is a terrific tool but a terrible master.