I am a fan of the Internet and I will tell you why: because the Internet is also a fan of me.
While online, the World Wide Web caters to you because you control the content you take in. I choose to take in cute pictures of cats and most recently a Twitter site that literally only posts pictures of a bunny with different objects on its head.
Yes. A bunny with a pancake, cereal box or a roll of toilet paper balancing on its head has its own Twitter account. And I cannot stop looking at it.
My Internet is a happy place.
Unfortunately, this is not the reality for most people. There are corners of the Web where individuals are overwhelmed by different types of darkness and where bunnies certainly do not appear to lighten the mood.
For example, “thinspiration” sites, where young women and men go to look at images of dangerously thin people and learn how to become anorexic or bulimic and read messages like “If you eat today, you will be fat,” or “Bones are beautiful.”
Other sites appear in reaction to tragedies. Shortly after 20 children were shot to death at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, alongside the memorial sites came fake Twitter accounts pretending to be one of the dead children. They posted things like “Good shot!” and “My head hurts for some reason.”
Other malevolent users made up fake stories or wrote fake letters from the victims, written supposedly right before they died, in order to gain Facebook likes or Twitter followers.
One account tweeted a picture of a girl who died in the movie theatre shooting in Colorado, claiming it to be one of the Sandy Hook victims who died saving her sister. It received 5,911 retweets and the account was boosted over 140,000 followers in just a few hours.
Even worse, some created more than 100 fraudulent pages from victims’ families asking for donations and making a profit from someone else’s pain. Facebook removed the pages upon request.
The same is now happening with the Boston Marathon tragedy. Two bombs detonated at the finish line on April 15 and the fake accounts are already appearing.
A Twitter account appeared with tweets like “Well, they said they wanted to end with a bang,” and “Did anyone see that guy cheat? He flew over the finish line!”
The dark humor is not humorous.
It is times like these when people are most vulnerable. Victims’ families are angry and mourning. The last thing they need is someone making a mockery out of their loved ones’ death or creating fraudulent donation accounts trying to make a profit.
We see enough hate on the Internet as it is. Westboro Baptist has even made a nifty site where you can click on any country and it will explain why God hates it.
Cyber bullying is one of the worst hate epidemics on the Web. According to the Cyber Bullying Research Center, about half of young people have experienced some form of cyber bullying, and 10 to 20 percent experience it regularly.
I have seen the effects first-hand. A sweet girl named Danielle Cox whom I shared classes with attempted suicide in January 2011 and when she reached out to a friend, he tried to help her by posting her phone number on Facebook in hopes others would try to stop her and support her.
Unfortunately, the wrong man saw the post and sent her more than 150 horrible text messages telling Danielle she was worthless and she should end her life.
Danielle’s attempt that night was not successful, but four months later on May 20, she committed suicide. You can go to smilesfordanielle.com to hear the rest of her story and see how her death has sparked action in the community.
To quote Patton Oswalt’s reaction to the Boston Marathon bombings, “When you spot violence, or bigotry or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, “The good outnumber you, and we always will.””
Do not let hate spread on our World Wide Web. I am all about freedom of speech until someone hiding behind a screen is allowed to cause harm.
Report the hate you see, because you may save a life, save a family pain and prove that good will always conquer evil.
Hannah Schilling is a sophomore journalism and political science major from Bossier City who serves as associate editor for The Tech Talk. Email comments to hms...@latech.edu.