The internet polarises people more than it unites.
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Today, technology has advanced to the extent that anyone, including civilians, can exert influence on others via Social Networking Sites. Although the right to freedom of expression empowers minority groups to come together to convey a united voice, defending that prerogative comes at a steep cost – relentless abuse of said right for the proliferation of hatred.
STAND: Hence, I fervently believe that the internet polarises, rather than unites people.
Detractors of my argument may aver that the internet allows victims to coalesce to articulate their grievances.
For the traditional media to fully report on news of women who have suffered from sexual shenanigans typically required extensive investigations supported by police reports. The SNS has opened up avenues for female victims to share their stories without fully being at the forefront of the news and being under the media’s hostile spotlight.
Kate Beckinsale used Instagram to share her story of how Producer Harvey Weinstein made sexual advances on her in the 1990s.
When Hollywood actresses use the internet to share how they were victims of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual predatory behaviour, it galvanised other women to step forward to share their personal encounters of egregious male behaviour at their respective workplaces.
It is virtually impossible for Traditional Media to report on all sexual misconducts experienced by ordinary women but the internet has allowed women to be “united” in one voice to share their personal encounters and champion for social justice.
The internet has united people around the globe in supporting humanitarian efforts.
Crowdfunding sites have allowed victims to set up donation pages, where magnanimous individuals can offer their largesse in small denominations of a dollar, five dollars or more.
As Americans pick up the pieces from the wildfire that razed Western states, many have created GoFundMe pages. Moreover, content creators hold charity events such as 24-hour gaming or drawing marathons and donate any money sent in by viewers to humanitarian organisations.
In Singapore, crowdfunding sites, such as Give.Asia and Simply Giving, have become more popular in the past few years, with people in dire straits appealing to the generosity of people. Some have raised six-figure sums from thousands of donors. In one instance, the parents of three-year-old Xie Yujia, who was born with only part of her oesophagus, raised more than 1 million in 2015 to help her get specialist surgery in the United States.
Since these content creators command impressive audiences, their fans unite over their common interests and can muster significant amounts of money for charity, typically within a short span of time.
Hence, the internet brings people together for the common good.
The internet is a hotbed of materials that has the potential to sunder social fabrics.
The advent of the internet has inexorably opened up a platform for second-rate socio-political websites. These websites obtain advertising revenue by posting spurious articles to garner higher readership.
The Real Singapore (TRS), a socio-political website – helmed by Singaporean Robin Yang and his Australian girlfriend Ai Takagi – has attracted criticism over the years for its alleged anti-foreigner slant. They fabricated xenophobic articles that falsely claimed a Filipino family had caused an incident between the police and participants at a Thaipusam procession, by complaining about noise from the procession.
Another seditious article casts women from China as homewreckers, whose main motive in coming to Singapore is to destroy Singaporean families and “hook men” so that they can apply for citizenship here.
The internet can be used for malicious purposes such as targeting a particular group, and discriminating against them. This creates social tension and makes a multi-racial society like Singapore more vulnerable to division.
The rationale for having socio-political websites like The Real SG is to allow divergent and dissenting voices to be heard in a country like Singapore that has limited media platforms for its citizens to voice their unhappiness. Instead, it has been manipulated by its founders for personal gain and polarises Singapore society more than uniting people of different nationalities and races.
The internet can be used by extremist groups to polarise society and to advance their vested interests.
In recent years, Muslim extremist groups have leveraged on the internet to divide society by recruiting vulnerable young Muslims from around the world to join their convoluted causes.
ISIS is very sophisticated/well-versed in making use of Facebook to post articles in Arabic and videos on Youtube to exhort Muslims to carry out lone-wolf attacks in their home country.
The whole purpose of Social Networking Sites is to connect people to old/find new friends. Instead, ISIS made use of it to post articles to polarise/ tear the very fabric of society and cause upheaval.
This shows that SNS, subsumed under the purview of the Internet, has failed to unite people across the world and has been now widely used as a tool for precipitating destruction.
Internet trolls are uniquely equipped to fan the flames of fierce debates on polemic issues.
Insular and narrow-minded, these individuals are unwilling to accept points of view that do not align with their own. Furthermore, these debates are typically peppered with expletives, are incredibly antagonistic and toxic, and are quickly derailed.
Internet trolls use throwaway accounts to post sensational media in hopes of stirring up a furore and provoking social justice warriors. These highly opinionated individuals are unable to be reasoned with, as they are misinformed and are permeated with logical fallacies.
This is evident through the now-defunct website Denver Guardian peddled stories about Clinton murdering people and a cluster of pro-Trump sites founded by teenagers in Veles, Macedonia, motivated only by the advertising dollars they can accrue if enough people clicked on their links.
As the US voters gravitated to their choice of political party, the level of prejudice is so endemic that US voters would fabricate news to denigrate the opposing candidate, in hopes that Hillary Clinton would not be elected to the White House.
Hence, internet trolls attract biased individuals and defeat any appeals to good sense, resulting in each side being firmly entrenched in their own beliefs.
“Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world”. In a similar fashion, the internet is a great enabler of human purpose and only divides us because of destructive human motives. It can only be hoped that men will become more amenable to differing perspectives, and work towards a common consensus and resolve conflicts to achieve progress.
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