The toxic culture online says a lot about human nature
The idea of human beings being inherently evil has been pondered upon and argued about by people for a long time. Some have gone as far as to say that human beings are always going to be detrimental and toxic to themselves and their environment.
Lord of the Flies by William Golding shows a fine example of the inherent toxic nature of human beings. In the last 30 years, human beings have built a new environment for themselves -- the internet.
It is different in a lot of ways from other environments that humans have interacted with in the past, but at the end of the day, the internet is inhabited by human beings. So the question arises: Despite all the great things being achieved by the internet, are people using it to be toxic to each other and the space itself?
The answer, to anyone who has visited the Bangladeshi pages and groups, is crystal clear. And that answer is a resounding “yes.”
Let’s start at the most recent incident and then work our way down. Recently, a woman claiming to be the wife of a member of parliament was filmed yelling abuse at a police officer who asked her to move her illegally parked car.
Now what she did was wrong, there is no question about that. Filming her falls into a morally grey area, but what happened afterwards is definitely injustice towards the woman and her child. The clip went viral, and the Facebook community quickly found the woman’s profile and began crucifying her through memes and fake Facebook profiles containing her photos.
Her child’s face was clearly visible in the clip, which is detrimental to the future of the child, who had done nothing wrong. While citizen journalism is important, especially when the mainstream media is constricted, it has to be said that citizen journalists are untrained individuals and often don’t follow the basic rules of journalism, like hiding the identity of a child.
This “meme-fication” of regular people can have a severely negative effect on people’s lives. Some of the people in question have done the wrong things and should definitely be legally punished, but a trial by social media is definitely not a fair or expected result for anyone.
The other very common thing in the Bangladeshi social media community is leaving unsolicited, unnecessary, and quite frankly, annoying comments on celebrity pages. A certain portion of the online community does this repeatedly on pages of cricketers, actors, actresses, authors, you name it.
They aren’t restricted to local celebrities either. They go on to foreign celebrity profiles and leave their mark there through copy-paste comments, religious advice, derogatory comments guised in wrong translations etc. It goes without saying that it isn’t a healthy practice.
All of these practices are on top of some really questionable content on Facebook and YouTube in the Bangladeshi circles. A lot of cringe-worthy content is promoted and shared, which is bad news for quality content creators.
Content containing a lot of profanity is widely shared and enjoyed (for example Sefatullah, a possibly deranged individual who rants in foul language). This is all well and good for mature adults, but we have to keep in mind the sort of message we are sending to the thousands of youngsters who are using social media in Bangladesh.
We’re telling them that inappropriate and mediocre content is rewarded, while quality content will get you nowhere.
Additionally, a lot of the Bangladeshi YouTubers are almost always criticizing each other and trying to bring each other down, which promotes a culture of negativity and toxicity.
So what is the solution to all these problems? I’m afraid I don’t have the answer to that, and it seems that nobody else does either. The basis and beauty of these platforms is minimal regulation. If that is tampered with, it will do more harm than good -- as already displayed by the government’s Section 57.
It would be safe to say that there is a culture of negativity and toxicity in the Bangladeshi online space despite all the positive sides of the internet.
However Bangladesh is not alone, this phenomenon is spread worldwide.
Perhaps it has to do more with inherent human nature than anything else. After all, history does have a strange way of repeating itself.
Nibir Mostafa Khan is an intern at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).