Sticks and Stones and the Internet

A couple weeks ago Chris and I went on a drive in our new car. The kids were with Grandma and we just enjoyed the journey. During our drive we discussed many things, including an upcoming project of mine that will make me more visible online.

Chris argued that by putting myself out there in any way and by simply being a woman, I am opening myself up to the unfortunate side of the Internet. He hates this side of the Internet, totally thinks I shouldn’t let this stop me, but just wanted to warn me. I told him I wasn’t worried because my focus isn’t anything, even seemingly, controversial. He replied, “It doesn’t matter. They don’t care. It’s just because you’re a woman. And smart. They hate that.”

I don’t get why people feel justified in harassing other people, on or off the Internet. It just doesn’t make sense.

Well, he’s right.


By just having thoughts in my head, I’m controversial.

This underlying and sometimes blatant hatred of women just because they’re women and smart is…well, I just cannot put it into words. I honestly cannot comprehend any possible reason for such a stupid perspective. Why would someone hate anyone for being smart? Having opinions? Or even just existing?

You want to know what else bothers me? This thought that what happens online isn’t real. Last week I read an amazing article that expresses what is real and constant for many women in our society.

John Oliver breaks down the reality for women on the Internet with a little bit of humor.

For god’s sake, you’d think the way the people are lashing out at these women, they were axe murderers or even Hitler himself.

What happens online doesn’t stay online. This harassment affects our every day lives. By continuing to dismiss and accept these crimes against women, the oppressive power will persist on the Internet just as it has in society for thousands of years.

The Cloak of Invisibility Allows Gender-Based Violence

You can be an asshole on the Internet, but why?

On Monday I began listening to Invisibilia’s most recent episode, Our Computers, Ourselves and finished it yesterday afternoon.

The second half of the show strongly resonated in my mind. As the story goes, this commuter train rider was tired of rude commuters so he started a Twitter account where he’d post pictures of the infractions in attempt to shame rude people on the train. His crowd shaming efforts soon turned shameful. Not only did he post pictures of rude behavior, but he began being rude himself – the worst was posting a picture of a woman with terrible acne scarring and making a snide remark. When word about this Twitter account got out, his followers skyrocketed.

I’m sure there are other situations like this. Person is a jerk. People are fascinated by the tragedy. Jerk gets an audience.

Why are we as society so fascinated with the negative?

Why is it ok to say these things on the Internet?

The Internet is full of trolls. (See: This American Life “If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say, SAY IT IN ALL CAPS”) I theorize the troll to person ratio is 4:1. They will troll on anyone for any unconceivable reason. Even worse than the trolls are completely heinous dungeon dwellers. These individuals find it completely acceptable to threaten women, often with vicious, violent acts.

Gender-based violence is nothing new. There are still people in society who will say such comments or threats to a woman’s face, but the cloak of invisibility people feel the Internet provides seems to turn down the volume on the super-ego and unleash the unbridled id.

Unfortunately it seems to take a rally cry, hash tagging and a bunch of blogging to hold social media venues accountable for reacting to gender-based violence. For now, most offenses still receive boiler plate responses that include phrases like:

Just like when we are interacting in a public space we may overhear conversations that are offensive…

This same platform chirped further about how users can find such content “frustrating”. Yes, being told to “go get raped” or “get raped with a broken bottle” is totally frustrating, just like this rush hour traffic.

It is never ok to suggest or threaten violence against anyone. This plague of gender-based violence is open for everyone to see and affect. The best cure for a bully is an ally. Stand up and be an ally against gender-based violence. Don’t give the assholes an audience, report their heinous behavior, and their soapbox will cave in.

Internet for All

The term net neutrality has been bouncing around for the past few years. While I’m sure many know what it is and the true impact of this on society, I’m also sure many get glassy-eyed when they hear the discussions. This is something that will affect us all. We should all pay attention for the hope of our society.

Perhaps I am being a bit bold when I say “hope for our society.” I think I’m spot on. We do not know yet the impact of the Internet on us as a people. We can clearly see that it has changed us, and I’d argue for the better.

Internet access is something most individuals have either in their home or at least in their community. Net neutrality levels the playing field by providing nearly limitless access to educational resources (MOOCs anyone?), professional connections and collaborations (how many of us got to collaborate and communicate with people around the world instantly before the Internet?), and so much more!

Net neutrality is important to our current success as a society. Not only do people pay bills online, shop for new clothes, but we do amazing things together. We collaborate. We communicate. We educate. We are empowered and all through this interconnected web.

President Obama spoke today about his thoughts on net neutrality. I do hope the FCC takes some of the hints so we can keep moving forward with such powerful intentions.

Read and Watch more:


NPR on All Tech Considered

The People of the Internet are taking all your time

Something many of us have dealt with is distraction with electronic devices. This growing phenomenon sprouted with the advent of high-speed Internet, got worse with the smart phone, quickly slid further with tablets and Wi-Fi wherever you go!

With this great technology comes great responsibility, and great cost. We’re always connected, but with whom? Those “People of the Internet” as I call them in my house, or people on Facebook, Twitter, etc. who are on your device, but not present regularly in your physical life, what lasting enjoyment are they giving you?

I find it interesting to see people in stores walking next to each other, but on their phones, or people in cars and all the passengers are on their phones (sadly, even some drivers). Or the best, dinner out with friends, where dinner is somehow social with the people present, yet the diners are present only with the People of the Internet.  This activity has gotten so prevalent it has spawned a Phone Stack game – all phones are stacked on the table and whoever cannot resist picks up the tab. My question: what are we missing? Do the People of the Internet care farther than fleetingly if you comment on their blog, read their article or like their status?

To me, it’s interesting what an alternate reality the Internet, smart phones and tablets play in our culture today. It can quickly turn into a time suck. I remember when my family first got the Internet at home when I was fourteen. I found myself addicted to it and quickly decided that wasn’t a way to spend my time. I interacted with people online, sure, but what real, tangible benefit did those conversations give me in my real life?

My husband pointed out my last statement made it sound like I was trashing all of the interaction on the Internet, which is not what I meant here, so here is my edit: Much can be learned from the Internet, but I would like to wager many of us are not engaged on the Internet to that degree during much of our time spent on the Internet. Here is a favorite Clay Shirky quote of mine to illustrate such:

This linking together in turn lets us tap our cognitive surplus, the trillion hours a year of free time the educated population of the planet has to spend doing things they care about. In the 20th century, the bulk of that time was spent watching television, but our cognitive surplus is so enormous that diverting even a tiny fraction of time from consumption to participation can create enormous positive effects.

We are capable of so much more than we are doing – imbibe what makes you stronger and create and collaborate with others. The Internet has made such activities immeasurably easier to do, yet, it also brought time sucks like Facebook, some strands of Reddit, etc. to which I was above referring by my statement in question.

I would rather be present in the lives of those physically around me so as to not miss those all too fleeting moments that make up life. When with friends and family, I want to make them feel valued by me. I want to always feel connected to my husband in our time at home together. Now that I have Kari, it is even more imperative to make sure she feels appreciated, important and loved.

I am so glad I have been present for moments like these:

Crystal being silly
Dear friends getting married
The girls opening presents from Nana
Priceless Mother and Daughter moments
Serious Dancer


People are not moments in time that will be there when you get off the Internet. Time for them keeps moving on.

If you are still not convinced about putting down your device to be more present, please see what these NPR articles have to say:

For the Children’s Sake, Put Down That Phone

When Parents are Too Distracted

A Video Game Meant To Take Us Back To The Physical World