The drawbacks of unrestricted internet access


Graphic by Maryam Girowall

 The internet has arguably changed society more than anything in modern history, with numerous positive and negative effects. Things such as cyberbullying are an issue in online cultures, especially those with teens and vulnerable children. They are often susceptible to manipulation, and this cyberbullying can seriously impair a victim’s mental health and emotional wellbeing. Due to the stress and anxiety the bullying causes, victims of cyberbullying may see a decline in their academic performance or productivity at work. This may not seem like an issue on a smaller scale; however, The School Crime Supplement found an estimated 22% of highschool students are or were cyberbullied. 

Furthermore, the internet has a major issue with trolling, which is the act of deliberately attempting to upset people online. The anonymity of the internet allows these so-called trolls to say anything they want without real world consequences, and they can harass people freely by hiding behind a screen. This harassment can cause stress and anxiety, as well as depression and feelings of isolation. These internet trolls exploit all the features of the internet to cause other people harm.

On top of this, blackmailing takes over a different form the internet. Online predators can blackmail or manipulate people, often teenagers, into sending explicit images or money by threatening them. This becomes much worse when the perpetrator has a large online presence, like in the situation of CallMeCarson — a famous YouTuber and Twitch streamer who abused his fame by manipulating an underaged fan into sexting with him. Blackmailing is no new thing, but due to the internet and how big one’s online presence can grow, it is much easier for people to gain access to your personal information.

Another large, but much less talked about issue with online groups and cultures is polarization. Online culture can lead to the creation of echo chambers, in which people only have exposure to things that reinforce their concurrent beliefs and biases. This is an issue with short-form media especially, such as Tik Tok, Instagram Reels and Youtube Shorts. Their algorithms reinforce preexisting biases  and isolate users from those who hold different beliefs, which, in turn, make them less likely to listen to other kinds of people. This polarization is also caused by online private chat apps, such as Discord. These chat rooms bring together people, but they also cause people to only talk to people who agree with them, causing their beliefs to become much more set. Additionally, these chat rooms allow for unrestricted talk between people, which not only allows them to say horrific things, but also enables them to plan things in privacy. These chat rooms were essential in planning the January 6th insurrection, due to the fact that they were unrestricted in what people could say on them.

While there are many benefits to having unlimited access to the internet, everything has drawbacks and the internet has many. People on the internet are often responsible for harm, and while the internet itself may not be a bad thing, you should be highly aware of all these pitfalls every time you log on.