The ever-increasing toxicity of the web

I watched Arrival last night on Netflix. It’s a good movie and I highly recommend it. But that’s not what is what I want to write about. One of the things I do after I watch something that is thought-provoking (e.g. Ex Machina), I check out responses online. moviechat.org is where some of the old IMDB forum community ended up so this is where I looked. It was not a pretty sight.

I’ve been using the Internet for a looong time, since 1995 approximately. I got to see how online interactions evolved and developed. From the basic mailing lists through phpBB forums and to social media, people of all sorts have been posting either insightful or insulting text for years.

Unfortunately, in the past few years, it does feel (and this is purely my emotional read of it) like negativity and toxicity has come to dominate online discourse. It’s difficult for me to know if the majority of people are this negative - my small circle of friends and family are not.

So when I read the first post about Arrival on Moviechat, I feel sad. This is a movie, like many sci-fi movies, about humanity exceeding itself and improving through cooperation. This post somehow turns this into a liberal left mind control/brainwashing conspiracy (!!). He has a point about the Infowars reference - this is a Hollywood movie after all and some biases cannot help but rear their heads. But it’s a small niggle, or it should be at least. When did right-wing conservatives start to treat compassion, empathy and general decency as bad things?

The movie is, ultimately, an uplifting one. Why do people see this message as bad? Why do so many people wallow in negativity? I don’t have the answers, though I wish I did.

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