THE ETHICAL SELF
When one considers the power of online communication, it’s very important to view it as a double-edged sword. On one end, it encourages greater openness and honesty as people of similar interest feel that they can relate to one another and connect with people who share the same values.
Nowadays, the world of digital humanities and online communication has essentially become centred around the world of YouTube. These online personalities have become celebrities in their own right and have attained the same voice and influence with wide target audiences around the world, as many household names have done so before them. With a following on Youtube of 12 million subscribers and a 7.5 million following on Twitter, it’s undeniable that ‘Zoella’ (Zoe Sugg) is an established name in this the world of online culture. As you can see above, the online star thrives off the communication and connection she shares with her audience and undoubtedly, she exudes a positive influence to millions of teens. They view her as warm, welcoming and relatable – traits that can be quite rare. Her positive attitude illuminates through her videos and daily posts on social media which ultimately encourages her audience to return to her for answers on the smallest of questions, whether publicly or anonymous, as it’s clear that this typical girl has become a safe haven and a voice for people around the world.
However, online communication and the power of free speech is often abused by users and as a result encourages negativity and hate. A man who is notorious for this is the U.S President himself, Donald Trump.
Both Zoe Sugg and Donald Trump have an immense online presence in today’s society but both for very different reasons. Compared to the loving response that Zoella receives on a regular basis, Trump’s digital footprint has encouraged hate, vulgarity and “trolling” of the highest degree, some of which has escalated from the online world into society around us. Take a look at the replies to one particular tweet as shown above…
In a society where cyber bullying is at an all time high, it’s truly disappointing that a public figure of great power and influence such as Donald Trump, would encourage negative energy from his following. Furthermore if he utilised his online influence to the way it should be used and expressed positivity, easily make a change as many other prominent names in society have done. It’s important to consider online bullying and how the desire of Generation Z for the approval of their counterparts may stem from this. Cyber bullying can be extremely damaging and degrading to adolescents and teens and it’s important that online communication is utilised correctly to prevent it. Online bullying has been known to lead to anxiety, depression and even suicide. A site that revolved around anonymity and giving users the chance to communicate with other users without revealing their name was Ask.fm. Reports showed that teenagers were being affected by abusive onslaughts through this site itself with tragedies striking countries around the world, Ireland being one of them. Two girls, Ciara Pugsley and Erin Gallagher, were harassed on this vicious website to the brink of suicide as a result of vindictive trolling, claiming they were fat and had no respect for themselves. It’s chilling to think that people could reduce human beings to such a state of despair and depression, simply by the power of their online voice.
It has been said that online communication encourages greater openness and ability to express your views but when one considers the dark side of the internet that is illuminated through the gloom-ridden tweets as shown above or the tragedies that coincided with Ask.fm, is it doing more harm than good?
Ó Cionnaith, F. (2012, October 29). Third suicide in weeks linked to cyberbullying. Retrieved from http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/third-suicide-in-weeks-linked-to-cyberbullying-212271.html