BY now, anyone who writes for a living knows the kind of nasty comments and chatter that accompanies almost any public utterance. (This seems like a cross between the hostility that’s bred on places like Fox News and the larger “snark” culture, with an extra layer of nastiness unique to the Internet.) How did it happen, what are the consequences for our public discourse, and can it ever get any better?
Is the Internet — often compared to the Wild West — just going through a Deadwood phase, with a gentler, more civilized state to come?
A number of scribes have mused on Internet trolls lately, in part because of the social-media retreat by Robin Williams’ daughter. But this piece, is my favorite of them, and not just because it was written by someone close to me. Sara Scribner writes:
Although the initial promise of the Internet was that it was a noncommercial, alternative space where anyone could have a public forum, there is clearly something about the structure of the Internet and what happens to people when they are using a computer that taps into something deep, dark, completely judgmental and furious. The worry is that the fury will reshape our online world. Will the Internet become a nasty, brutish place where only the bullies can find a voice? Is there a chance for civility and free speech online?
For what it’s worth, I’ve been amazed over the months I’ve written this blog just how civil and smart the comments and discussion has been here, even when people disagree with me or other readers. I hope and trust we can all keep it that way.