UGLINESS IN SOCIAL MEDIA COMMUNICATION

It is a fact well known to social scientists, if not the general public, that the relative anonymity of the Internet brings out the worst ethics in (some) people in many instances. If one spends an hour navigating the popular social site YouTube; reading the comments left in response to various video uploads; one can read some of the vilest human communications ever recorded in the virtual universe. And this is not necessarily content-driven, as the most benign uploads can also attract racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, and pathologically disturbed comments by those who hide under the conduit of their handle names. Are punishment and the fear of punishment the only things that deter people from choosing to do the wrong thing? To be sure, vulgarity does not dominate the social media world. But why does so much ugliness flush out when people know they can get away with it? What cultural forces teach such behavior to the less developed members of our society?

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