Interactions online are more instantaneous than those made offline, my incomparable middle school Spanish teacher noted to me Thursday. The Internet has made cruelty more universal, more unfeeling, more blasé, she continued. You don't have to look at the person you're insulting anymore, you don't have to seek them out. It is, in a strange way, the banality of evil.
"Does that absolve people of their responsibility?" I asked.
"Not at all," she responded. "Because by now, any thinking person is aware of the dynamics of modern communication."
I've been told many times that the messages I receive on Tinder aren't that big of a deal — that the way people behave online is not necessarily analogous to their offline interactions, that it's just a sign of the times, boys being boys. I've been told that it's really just the fault of the Internet — that technology has provided a mechanism for absurdity.
But at the end of the day, the Internet isn't saying awful things to people. People are saying awful things to people.
We've managed to mechanize almost every aspect of our lives, but when all is said and done, human beings are not machines. And there is always a living, breathing person at the receiving end of whatever messages are sent online. While anonymity may make the offender seem like nothing more than a digital denizen of the Internet, I think it's become too easy to forget that a heartbeat reads messages like "I've never been inside a black person before," and that the heartbeat stops momentarily as a result.
If we perpetuate a culture in which saying offensive things to women online is acceptable, normal almost, this behavior will inevitably jump offline. How could it not?