The Risks of the Web

“What size are your t*ts?” He said “What?” she asked, shocked at his sudden change in behavior. Only 13 and already being asked about her body. She stared at her laptop screen, waiting for his reply “Shut up, just show them to me.” he demanded. He must have been at least 20 years old. She didn’t know him, and he didn’t know her. She teared up quickly ending the discord call with this practical stranger. Blocking him as fast as she could. Meanwhile, that man moves on to another little girl with no consequences for his behavior. No actions can be taken aside from blocking and hoping he stops. He is a little speck on the universe of the ever-growing internet. No one will know who he really is, and no one can stop him.

The internet is huge. With billions of people who actively use it. Online, people are allowed and able to be anyone they want. Make themselves up: They don’t have to use photos of themselves or even their names. This can create amazing and wonderful opportunities, allowing the ability to show your skills and your personality, without judgment on your appearance, it can also create monsters. 

Anonymity is one of the key features of being online, and it comes with its issues. People can do anything, often with little to no punishment in the way. Sure there are the unlucky few, who get caught in their bad behavior, but often, unless caught in the real world, they are left with no consequences in the online world. This revolting behavior can range from a troll to outright sexual harassment and stalking. Often online celebrities are called out for said bad behavior, ranging from racist remarks to grooming the underage. Some of these accusations are true, and others are false.

There are many theories on why this happens to people. Why they could be normal, even nice people in the real world, but the second they enter the online world, they can become monsters. In 1981 an experiment by Leon Mann was done, showing how when people are put into a crowd, they will act offensive and violent. He studied newspapers, specifically attempted public suicides, like jumping off a building. He found that in 10  out of 21 cases, people supported the idea of this stranger’s death, even going as far as jeering when they were helped or survived. 

With the age of Virtual Reality (VR), it only gets worse. People are able to be and look however they want, and while VR allows for amazing and unique experiences, it can also create traumatizing ones. Harassment, stalking, catfishing, and far beyond are huge issues of the internet. Ever-growing and getting worse as it does.

Overall, the online world has great opportunities to learn, experience, and exploration. Unfortunately, the internet also gives the opportunity for the toxic, dangerous, and perverse to thrive. It is an important discussion that needs to be made and actively prevented in order to create safe spaces for youth.