Opinion: The United States of the Internet

Nicholas Hunter

Nicholas Hunter

The internet has a pretty bad reputation. Often times, things like “safe spaces” and ideological bubbles are blamed on the internet and, specifically, social media.

To a degree, these are real issues; political issues have made us collectively more polarized than ever before, family members are being cut out of lives and friends are being left behind over these differences.

On the other hand, the internet has made us more connected than ever before. It has exposed me to ideas I would have never known without the ability to make connections with people in, essentially, a different world than mine.

I grew up in a small town — only about 4,000 people — that, to say the least, lacked much diversity. In addition to being an almost entirely white town, most of the people who I grew up around had conservative views.

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it was just hard to find a difference of opinion on any subject.

Once my family managed to get home internet and I joined social media networks like Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr, I found diverse opinions left and right.

This sudden influx of new people and their opinions made me challenge the everyday parts of my life that I had never thought about before.

I made friends in the LGBTQ community who deal with issues like gender identity and sexuality. They explained how much of an issue homophobic language is, the high rate of suicide among trans people and the importance of LGBTQ representation in media.

I also heard from people of color whose stories and perspectives I never would have found in my hometown.

I obviously knew about what words and phrases were offensive, but I never would have understood that asking one black person what that entire race thinks about an issue. Without hearing the stories of black people, I wouldn’t understand the Black Lives Matter movement.

I could hear those perspectives and understand outside viewpoints because of social media outlets.

Hearing the stories of people who don’t look like me or live near me made me into the person I am.

The internet may divide some of us or help the spread of fake news, but it also is vital to understand the world around us.

Nicholas Hunter is a columnist, contact him at [email protected].