The Internet and Socially Disconnected Kindness

Recently, an old friend posted this status on Facebook: “To this day, the QUICKEST way to make me cry… Show me a video of a military parent coming back from a deployment and surprising their chil­dren… GAME OVER”. I knew exactly what he was talking about—and ap­parently I wasn’t the only one.

What ensued was a comment thread which went on for dozens of posts. Fully grown adults (both men and women, but mostly men) shared what Internet trends brought them to tears. We discussed everything from videos of soldiers being reunited with their dogs to fathers finding out that they were going to be grandpas.

“Hold on, shouldn’t these people be being mean to each other?” I said to no one in particular. After all, the Internet has a reputation for being a haven for depravity and unkindness. It’s where normal human beings can come to release their inner monster. Where trolls bask in racism, sexism, and every “ism” they have available. Isn’t that right?

Actually, it seems like that isn’t the case. After reading an unreasonable amount of Internet comment threads, I found myself maintaining a strong faith in humanity. Most of the people I came across were not only being re­spectful, but engaging in emotional conversations with each other.

While I did identify quite a few negative people, for the most part there was always somebody to stop that at­titude. I don’t want to share a ton of those because honestly they were often just silly. But in a fantastic example, at one point somebody commented on a video of soldiers and their dogs criti­cizing American involvement in the Middle East.

To this, one commenter responded that they understood the person’s frus­tration. They told them that in spite of that, these videos were not about politics—they were made as an expres­sion of joy between two living things. I paraphrase, but you get the point.

Overall, I do agree that human in­teraction is important. We need to have the opportunity to speak with each other. We need to awkwardly stare at each other while we fumble to explain things. However, I also don’t think that the ability to communicate without such social conditions is an inher­ently bad thing.

I believe that it has become popu­lar to incorrectly assume that removing human aspects from interaction makes us less connected to one another. It is as if these interactions cause people to have less empathy for one another.

In reality, I think what we actually see over online communication is just the person that exists without social barriers. The disconnection does not make people mean, but rather allows them to behave in a way that feels more natural to them. The positive benefit to this which doesn’t get acknowledged is that it also allows for kinder and more emotional people to less awk­wardly share those qualities with oth­ers.