“Such a snowflake.”
“You’re being way too sensitive.”
“Can’t you take a fucking joke?”
“Stop getting so triggered by stuff.”
“Why does everything have to be so politically correct? Free speech is my right.”
If you’re a regular user of the Internet, it’s more likely than not that you’ll have come across some variants of the above comments. In the year of our Lord twentybiteen, at a point in history where diversity is celebrated in ways that were never possible previously, there exists a significant number of people who believe that representation of historically underrepresented people in mainstream society has “gone too far”, who feel that political correctness is being forced down their throats. They lament how things were a hundred years ago, when one could express whatever opinions they had without “policing” themselves. (Looking at you, Jordan Peterson.) Think about it for a minute, though: how can treating a group of people the way they would like to be treated be equated to self-policing — unless you were never, in fact, planning to give them the respect they deserve?
Today’s world is radically different from what it had been a hundred, or fifty, or even ten years ago — globalisation has ensured that the world has shrunk drastically, and will only continue to shrink further. At one point of time, if you’d told someone that they’d be able to talk to people all over the world in real time, they’d have laughed at you. But we do all that and more today. We post stories on Instagram in the morning, tweet at celebrities in the afternoon and reblog Tumblr textposts at night. This naturally means that every day, we are exposed to the opinions of people all over the world — people with whom we, more often than not, have nothing in common with us other than an Internet connection and access to the same forums as us.
One of my friends describes posting on the Internet as “shouting into the void”, which is by far one of the most accurate descriptions I have ever heard. In many ways, the Internet is the only place where you can be completely, truly yourself. You can find acceptance on the Internet, no matter who you are and what you believe in, and you can express your opinions as freely, if not more so, as in real life. Except sometimes the void shouts back. And it’s not always nice. As the Internet breaks down boundaries and makes the world smaller and more tight-knit, it’s easy to gain validation and support, but it’s just as easy to receive criticism and hate. And behind the anonymity of the screen, it’s even easier for this criticism to escalate into hostility, threats, and outright violence.
We sometimes forget that not all people are like us. Especially when you consider what a variety of diverse backgrounds people on the Internet come from, it’s important that we understand that not every experience has to be something we can relate to. Just because you haven’t gone through a particular set of experiences yourself does not invalidate the fact that some people have, in fact, done so. And thus, when someone requests that their experiences be respected, on the Internet or otherwise, the fact that these experiences are unknown to us does not factor into our decision to give them respect in any way whatsoever. It’s not about us. And if you make the decision to not respect their wishes, it speaks more about what kind of person you are, than anything else at all.
Sometimes, after seeing a particularly nasty meme, or a troll more violent than usual, it’s tempting to wonder: what’s the point in fighting for all this if this is the way things are going to remain? It’s disheartening when people — maybe even people you respect and love — are openly misogynistic, or homophobic, or transphobic, or racist. But remember, we have come a long way from where we began. In many ways, the world we live in has never been more accepting of the individual differences that make us who we are, and it will only continue to become more accepting. The very fact that discussion and discourse on these issues exists is proof that we have made enormous strides forward, and will continue to do so.
And at the end of the day, know that your voice matters. Even if only one person listens to you, know that what you say will have made an impact on that person. More power to you. F ❤️