Above is a video, uplifting to some, enough to merit Upworthy making link bait out of it. A woman, desparately needing to feed her children, gets off the hook for shoplifting a ton of groceries by a kind police officer. Eventually, other members of the community chipped in, and helped her get back on her feet so that she can live a stable life with her family. Indeed, it can be seen as a nice story. However, a large number of the commenters on this story think otherwise, attacking the women's tattoos, her standing, her looks, and the fact that she committed a crime and got away with it. If there is one thing the Internet has merely reflected, it is that we are very quick and apt to judge people.
Here are some choice quotes from the first couple pages in the comments section of this video:
"But those earrings, makeup and sunglasses probably set her back. And something tells me they came? after the kids."
"You heard it here kids, crime DOES pay."
"Not a good way to teach a lesson. Commit a crime, get rewarded. No wonder the country is? in the toilet...."
"Maybe if she got spaded or stop spreading her legs & having children she can't support? then maybe our comments wouldn't sound so hateful!"
Many of these commenters are anonymous, though some have their names displayed. Several commenters have attacked the woman's tattoo display, as though having ink were somehow a sign of loose morals and low standing.
We are not going to judge the actions of these trolls, and let the commenters handle that for themselves. Instead, let us focus on the fact that these people are making such judgements in the first place. A lot of people have complained about the morose and dark nature of the Internet in terms of commentary and opinion, and that it is killing honest, clean debate. Some places have killed their comments sections, or prevent comments sections, for precisely that belief. There is some grain of truth to that, especially when the lack of consequences (or proven identity) leads to people saying ridiculous and disgusting things.
But the problem with believing the Internet is to blame for this is that the Internet is merely a vehicle of communication. We do not have to say anything, and we would still have the same thoughts as above. Say you walk down the street, and there are some people that, by their appearance alone, you do not like. That can be a homeless person, someone on drugs, people dressed to conform to a specific identity such as bros, goths, and punks; or someone who just looks too rich or too poor. You are probably thinking up some insults, sneers, maybe even go out of your way to express something subtly or overtly. Of course, you do not know these people, but that does not matter. You have already judged.
What is happening on the Internet is the same thing, with the key difference being that it is being expressed without a consequence. The Internet is an outlet for something that is already there: Our quick ability to form prejudices and biases towards people we have never even met, let alone spoke with. Suppressing it will not remove these people from existence, for they are the same as us, with just a little less self-restraint in the right opportunity. If nothing else, we would be doing the same in a different situation. Perhaps what is to be taught here is not preventing them from taking the stage so much as it is to teach them some discipline and restraint.