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Start talking for real

| Thursday, September 10, 2015

Let’s talk about the Internet.

It’s a beautiful, incredibly powerful thing we have at our disposal. And while our ability to check news at the twitch of a couple fingers is a pretty neat thing, it’s probably not the most important thing we do on the “World Wide Web.”

No, that distinction probably should be given to social networking, which is probably the best and worst part of my life on a daily basis.

I practically live on Twitter. If my 35,300 140-character-or-shorter thoughts don’t prove that, just ask any of my friends — they’ll tell you I’m always refreshing on my phone, or that it’s always open in a tab on my laptop. And while that’s a little obsessive, it’s a platform I’ve come to love for the bit of connectivity it gives me with complete and total strangers.

If you ask, my friends’ll also tell you I love sports. That shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, but it’s an important part of why I so dearly love Twitter. I’ve become a huge soccer fan, while coming from a state (and country) where the sport might not have the largest following in the world. But that’s pretty fine; while I can’t talk about the tactical nuances of my favorite soccer team in everyday discourse with my friends here, I’ve got plenty I can chat with on social media. That’s super neat and super cool.

And then there’s stuff like Snapchat, which allows me to superfluously post every beating moment of my life onto a “story” if I want to. While it’s a more personal platform than Twitter, it allows us to keep in touch with our friends — or simply to show off when one does cool things.

Old people have ruined Facebook, but it’s still a useful thing on the whole. Instagram is pretty neat, especially when we get to laugh at that one wannabe hipster’s photo with a ridiculously oversaturated “1977” filter because it looks “artsy.” Tinder has revolutionized “dating,” or something like that, in something that’s a neat example of the way we can increase convenience in the 21st century.

There’s always been a dark side to the Internet though, and that’s the ability to express hurtful opinions because, well, you’re not saying them directly to someone’s face. And I’m not going to sit here and pretend I’m innocent — I’ve said some pretty hurtful things over the years over the Internet, simply because I didn’t have to go face-to-face with someone.

But while that behavior was often curtailed to “trolls” before, Yik Yak’s completely changed the game. The effective anonymity provided to users has increased the ability to express damaging opinions on important issues without ever having to own up to them.

That’s bad, and potentially destructive in communities attempting to have serious conversations, be them about sexual assault or racial inequality.

So let’s start talking, for real, instead of hiding behind a phone screen. Maybe we’ll have a productive chat that way.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Alex Carson

Alex Carson graduated from Notre Dame in 2017 after majoring in Applied and Computational Mathematics and Statistics and living in O’Neill Hall. Hailing from the Indianapolis area, but born in Youngstown, Ohio, Carson is a Cleveland sports fan convinced that he’s already lived the “best day of his life.” At The Observer, Carson was first a Sports Writer, then served as an Associate Sports Editor (2015/16) and an Assistant Managing Editor (2016/17), before finishing his tenure as a Senior Sports Writer. A man of strong convictions, he ardently believes that Carly Rae Jepsen's 2015 release E•MO•TION is the greatest album of his generation, and wakes up early on Saturday mornings to listen, or occasionally watch, his favorite least-favorite sports team, Aston Villa. When he isn’t writing, Carson spends his time counting down the days to the next running of the Indianapolis 500 and reminding people that the Victory March starts with the lyric, “Rally sons of Notre Dame,” not “Cheer, cheer for Old Notre Dame.”

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