Can the internet’s toxicity problem ever be fixed? | Matt Mohan-Hickson

Growing up catholic, the idea of Original Sin and guilt is something that has long been built into my psyche.

By Matt Mohan-Hickson
Tuesday, 7th December 2021, 9:12 am
The angry emoji - social media is full of anger and toxic behaviour
The angry emoji - social media is full of anger and toxic behaviour

Adding to that, spending the first 18 (or so) years of my life in the north east built in a sense of realism (or pessimism) and an expectation that eventually everything goes wrong.

Your football team will throw away a lead with just a few minutes to go, the steelworks will close down and the weather will be miserable in December.

These are things that are baked in early – added to the recipe in the mixing stage if you will – and become an essential part of who I am as a person.

I mention this not for the sake of sounding profound, but because I have been wondering recently when toxicity became an eternal bedfellow of the internet.

In the Catholic Church it is believed that because Adam and Eve give in to temptation and ate the forbidden fruit all subsequent humans are born as sinful with a tainted nature.

So I want to know – what was the internet’s equivalent of Original Sin?

What caused the internet to become a place so completely tainted by anger and toxicity that it has become its defining feature?

Obviously this is a question without an answer, there is no single point that you can pinpoint and go ‘a-ha’, but if I was to hazard a guess it probably started in the early forums and message boards in the late ’90s and early ’00s.

Social media has obviously accelerated that toxicity to unprecedented levels and made it ubiquitous every time you open up your chosen apps.

Just look at the reaction to the tragic death of 27 asylum seekers in the Channel – people responding to stories with laughing face emoji. A cold and utterly heartless reaction.

Or spend five minutes looking through the comment section in our Breaking News Facebook group – and you will find anger and arguments galore.

Over the weekend the moderators of the Halo community on Reddit had to shut it down because the developers of the latest version of game Halo Infinite were getting death threats – and having their personal details released (a practice known as doxxing).

All simply because people are mad at the progression system being ‘slow’.

But sure the rational response to not being able to get that new helmet as quickly as you would like is to wish death on someone.

It is starting to feel that every part of the internet is so tainted by toxicity that it can never truly be exorcised.

There’ll definitely be parties this Christmas… at No.10

It is beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!

No I don’t mean that the halls have been decked, Michael Buble has been defrosted or festive lights are being hung.

It is now the yearly tradition of Boris Johnson and the Tories boasting about ‘saving Christmas’ – the same way they saved it in 2020. Oh wait.

The front pages of the national papers have been splashed with multiple iterations of how Christmas is going to be saved.

It is giving me flashbacks.

However, at least this year we know that whatever the rules will be in place come December 25, Downing Street and the Prime Minister will be ignoring them.

And will probably be throwing some more parties if we are locked down again.

Learning the Greek alphabet thanks to coronavirus

In early 2020, I remember writing a story about this mysterious ‘coronavirus’ that had been found in China.

I struggled with how to actually spell that word properly on that day almost two years ago - but soon after it became pretty much second nature.

In fact I was literally just able to type coronavirus with my eyes closed a couple of sentences ago. I did this as a test, not as some reason to brag - as if this would be an achievement worth shouting about.

I was reminded of this feeling over the course of the last week or so since the word ‘Omicron’ entered the lexicon.

I went from not having a clue how to spell it - or exactly how many letter ns should be in it - to it becoming almost second nature after a few days.

I wonder which random letter from the Greek alphabet I will end up having to learn to spell next!

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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