The Issue of Remote Hostility
With over 80 percent of US adults now active on the internet on a daily basis, it is only natural to presume that the issue of online abuse will become more prevalent. However, the examples of this seem to be escalating out of proportion to the level of users, which is perhaps more indicative of other social and behavioral trends. There is an inherent need to consider this issue and understand whether the internet is itself a catalyst, or whether it is simply a vehicle which others a driving towards misuse.
The first thing that must be considered is the nature of remote interaction and online communication. While it does offer excellent advantages in terms of conversing over boundless distances for free, it is also a remote method of interaction that can offer anonymity or safety for those who wish to seek it. Subsequently, it is something that appeals to young adults or individuals who wish utilize its concept to harass, abuse or threaten specific people, and in a way that can make the victim feel unsafe and in danger within their own home.
Secondary to this, it is important to understand the core demographic of internet users amongst which these issues are prevalent. Unsurprisingly, the majority of incidents that refer to online harassment and abuse involves protagonists in their late teens and early twenties, which is coincidentally also the most significant age group in terms of overall internet users. With over 90 percent of US individuals aged between 18 and 29 consistently active on the internet on a regular basis, there are an increasing number who are both instigating and suffering from online dissension.
The Internet as an Abused Media
If we consider that young US adults are the most likely to be on the internet at any given time, and also to perpetrate instances of remote hostility, then we need to consider why this demographic would consider committing acts of online harassment. There may be a connection between their conduct and the amount of time that they spend online, and the levels of daily interaction that they have through the media may also be crucial. Regardless, it is accepted that a prolonged online presence is a potential trigger for anti social behaviour. Also, it must be considered that the longer an individual spends online, then the more remote communication he undertakes and the higher the likelihood of incurring disagreements and conflict.
Another factor of the time that young adults are spending on the World Wide Web is that they are becoming increasingly aware of the mechanisms and finer details of remote communication. With this in mind, it becomes an increasingly easy target for misuse and hostile behavior, especially to those who are predisposed to that type of conduct in the first instance. As these individuals use and navigate the many social media outlets, they learn the ways in which to enhance their anonymity and awareness to target victims and issue remote threats and systematic abuse.
Perhaps this is central to the entire issue. Instead of the internet and its communication techniques being viewed as vulnerable and open to misuse by those who wish to issue threats, it is often blamed as the trigger for the behaviour in the first place. This criticism ignores the very important point that it is merely a virtual network and data resource, through which individuals congregate and interact in the name of social media. Without user generated content or manipulation the internet would not exist, which in turn would mean that threats and abuse would also be an irrelevant and non-existent issue.
Online Abuse as a Social Issue
From this assertion, the obvious conclusion is that the internet is merely a tool which is at the mercy of its users and creators. If it does incur anti social behavior, then it is only through the fact that individuals choose to spend too much of their time within a virtual environment. While it is a constant source of largely uncensored information and interaction, it is up to an individual to regulate their own levels of usage to create a healthy attitude to online activity and communication.
This entails understanding that the internet and its accessibility is a privilege of freedom, and that its function is entirely dependant on the responsibility and conduct of its users. For the internet to be beneficial to society, then its subscribers must utilize social media sites and remote interaction in the way it was intended, as a unique method through which to network for both personal and professional entities. If it is abused by bullies who wish to victimize and target others, then it become a tool of hostility and social trepidation through no fault of its own.