The Erosion of Boundaries Online

Posted on 2023/6/12

Once upon a time, when you logged onto the website of the day, you were aware that everyone online was practically a stranger. Perhaps you knew some more than others, but it was similar to a public convention in that sense. This means, for the most part, you can't go up to people and start cracking jokes. Not everyone will know what you say are jokes, depending on how you go about it. Not to mention, you're a complete stranger. Tone is essentially lost through text, especially if you don't know the person.

In my time online, this rings true. However, I feel like as more young people start to grow up online in a much more sanitized place, people forget that simple fact: people have boundaries, especially as strangers.

Through my experience, I've had a handful of people come up to me on posts I've made without warning and say some weird things. Sometimes, I don't mind it, because it's something to expect from certain spaces like Tumblr. Everyone, for the most part, is playfully and directly aggressive and it's a very known part of the site in response to good artwork, writing, etc. However, on other occasions, I've gotten unsolicited DMs from people I don't know out of nowhere beginning with, "seriously? i like you but this just ain't it, man," tearing into me assuming things I have never implied or said. It's incredibly wild to me that people will just... do that. They won't ask for clarification on what you said, or why you did certain things, but they'll just assume the worst of you and go on the offense with a total stranger, as if they know the person. I've only ever had surface-level conversations with them... (For the record, I hold nothing personal against them as they've apologized, but I only cite this situation to show an example.)

At the end of the day, I'm just a guy online. I make silly things and I like sharing those things. But it really, really bothers me that young people online are so... ignorant of boundaries and personal space sometimes. I don't know you, and I don't exactly owe you anything. I understand wanting to become friends with people, because as someone who grew up online: I met some of the best people in my life through the internet. However, much like people in real life, you need to connect with them about something. You cannot force a friendship. Otherwise, it's probably shit. Wait, was that how it went...?

But that's only a part of the problem. People forget their own boundaries, too. Not just other people's, but themselves. Too many times have I seen children willingly put out their real name, sexual interests, personal life... in PUBLIC. It's one thing if it's in a private circle with friends, but Twitter accounts that aren't locked and big Discord servers are not that. Those are not private. Anyone and everyone can see that. I used to publicly vent on Twitter, but it was damaging my friends because it made private situations public and dragged in more people, making things complicated. Imagine though if I was venting about personal, real life situations involving my very real family. There's a chance I could give something away that someone malicious could use against me. And, trust me, there are malicious people out there. I would know: I've been groomed when I was 14, and in my life I've been doxxed... uhh, roughly 5 times now? Not because I put anything personal out there, but regardless. It's unfortunate, but it's a part of my internet life.

Long story short, I am begging for people to please consider their internet privacy and boundaries. You can make your best friends online, but remember that they always start out as total strangers and you DON'T know them, even if they talk a lot about themselves through social media posts, YouTube, whatever. They have a whole private life and self that they have a right to. And you have that right for yourself.

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