I sit in a room with my legs crossed and my hands on my knees. I’m focused on my breath, trying hard to ignore my racing thoughts. The music is relaxing and the yoga teacher is the only one who is speaking. Her presence is calming and trusting. I feel safe. I’m trying to get my mind to feel the same. Halfway through the class, my thoughts halt. I’m left with a quiet mind. It’s a very rare experience for me. After yoga, my mind remains quiet. Everything that captured my attention before class quickly washes away. My mind isn’t rushing or holding onto burdening thoughts. I’m present, I’m relaxed, I’m quiet. I don’t speak. I sit on my bed with a heating pad on my shoulder, taking refugee in these rare moments of solace within myself.
Internet culture has its pros and cons. With sites like Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram, you can interact with like minded people without leaving the comfort of your couch or putting on clothes. You can stay up to date with friends and family with the click of a button. You can spend too much money when shopping online for items you don’t need but are 86% off. There are also major downsides for spending anytime on the Internet. Sharing your opinion or life can become personal when someone decides to threaten you over what you’ve chosen to post. People don’t realize that just because their anonymous doesn’t mean anyone won’t take the threat personally. I’ve often seen people say whatever they like, not thinking about what their words mean or say about them. Words words still sting, no matter how they get to you. Words hurt more than people realize. There are ups and downs to everything. Learning how to protect yourself online by blocking trolls and listening to your gut reaction when something doesn’t feel right is key when being involved with Internet culture.
Last week, I watched a live stream on Instagram. A teenage girl named Lilia Buckingham was crying because of the hate she received after tweeting how she’s worried about writing a screenplay because she doesn’t know how she would fund the movie. People came after her for tweeting this because from how it looks through the filter of Instagram, it appears to some that she could just ask her parents for the money to make the film. This is not the case. Yes, it’s first world problems. But that doesn’t make the hate Lilia received any less real to her. Hateful words leave lasting remarks. Constructive criticism and hateful comments are two different things. You can express your criticism in a way that’s not personally attacking someone for sharing their thoughts on something they’re working on. When you put something out into the universe, more than likely someone is going to have an opinion on it. It’s life. I don’t know why Internet trolls attack people for the most mundane things. But they do and words can trigger emotions that can be damaging for a person. Online bullying has become normalized thanks to social media. People write hateful things they would never speak aloud because they’re behind a computer. I don’t know how social media companies should combat the hateful rhetoric shared on their platforms every single day. What I do know is that hating on what people say instead of doing it in a thoughtful, productive way says a lot about humanity and where we are as a society. If the person in the White House can attack people via his tweets and get away with it, what hope does that leave for the rest of us?