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Why I fell out of love with the internet

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Dear internet, you used to be a fun place of self-expression, friendship and bonding. However, you seem to have lost your way and forgotten why we all came to you in the first place.

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You’ve changed, perhaps for the better, but maybe for the worst.

All I know for certain is that I no longer hold the same feelings towards you as I used to.

We used to spend hours together with you bridging the gap between the seemingly endless distance between myself and my friends; the pinging of MSN messenger and video calls filling the gap until we could next hang out at school, each other’s houses or the local shopping centre.

These were the early days of our relationship and times were good, but then your friends from the social media club came around.

At the time they were fantastic; they allowed me to connect with my friends at a closer and more intimate level.

A simple tweet or post notified me as to what everyone was doing, where they going, and the latest happenings in their lives. 

That’s where it all started to go a little wrong.

At first the change wasn’t too obvious and, at the time, it all seemed normal.

Perhaps my generation were too young to be involved?

I remember the buzz of going into school following reading an argument or seeing some form of mishap, ready to gossip about what seemed to be a great scandal published for all to see.

What was once digital became very real, and potentially harmful.

I remember our older counterparts telling us we had control over what we published and allowed the world to see and whilst this is entirely true, they forgot to warn us about the so-called 'positive' impact of social media.

Of course, there were good periods during our time together; you introduced me to new friends, allowed me to talk to people I otherwise would never have met and even provided me with the necessary tools to keep long-distance romances from fading away.

However, the bad times began to outweigh the good.

With every like, friend request, retweet and comment came an instant sense of self-worth where our perceived sense of popularity became validated by the number of likes our profile pictures obtained.

Whilst in the moment this instant hit of self-worth felt fantastic, with a little distance and clarity I have come to recognise over our years together my self-worth and confidence became reliant upon your acceptance.

My feelings became intertwined with how others perceived me, contributing towards our now strained relationship.

Today I am too afraid to express my opinions and feelings online in case I am judged by those who follow me.

It is, in fact, like high school is repeating its self, this time replacing silly arguments and awkward photographs with political opinions and moral standpoints.

Indeed, too often when I use you I am afraid to speak about my stance on young adult affairs and health without being tarnished with the “millennial snowflake” reputation.

In short, I fear being shunned by society because my opinions and interests do not match the taste of everyone.

Though it may seem trivial to some, the fear I express stems from that need for social recognition and acceptance you so kindly provided me with during my teen years. 

I firmly believe we need to have open and frank discussions about politics, and sometimes you do allow that.

However, what I don’t agree with is your culture of fear and disregard for people who hold what you deem to be the wrong opinion.

Maybe you grew out of your self-expression phase, but in doing so you became an angry and fearful place to be.

I wish rather than attacking people with differing opinions you would be willing to sit down and have a meaningful discussion about why we hold such views and opinions, an approach which may be more beneficial at changing perspectives than individually shaming people.

Internet, I hope you outgrow this period and soon return to the positive and acknowledging community you used to be.

If you were a real-life friend I would have left you and your social network friends a long time ago.

I probably would have branded you a little toxic towards my own creativity and wellbeing, yet here we are today together and closer than ever.

Logistically I will never truly be able to leave you during this modern era, especially as my future career relies so heavily upon you, so rather than running away I am asking you to change.

The internet is not a sole identity.

It is made of millions of people where, to ensure real impact and change, we must keep the discussion open.

We must create an environment which encourages open discussion, rather than one which targets those outside who don't hold the 'right' opinions with hate and exclusion.

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