The epidemic of being “chronically online”

Emma Minnick, Editor-in-Chief

If you have been on the internet lately, I’m sorry. Just kidding. But seriously, the internet has been an absolute nightmare lately. And I say this as someone who is online all the time. The current online climate is incredibly tense, and ruled by discourse and arguments.

I want to clarify that important discussions can (and should) take place online. Social media in particular is a good place to talk about significant issues because so many viewpoints are readily available at our fingertips. Now, its easier than ever before to discuss the issues that matter. But there are considerable drawbacks, and I would argue that the cons far outweigh the pros.

The fact is, the online world is a breeding ground for misunderstanding, contention, and overreaction. A popular term floating around social media, especially TikTok and Twitter, is “chronically online”. This term is usually aimed toward those who, as the name suggests, spend an extensive amount of time on the internet.  As a result of this, these people are deemed overly sensitive and easily offended.

When the term “chronically online” first gained traction, I was skeptical. Oftentimes people use words like “snowflake” or “sensitive” in situations where offense is justified. That’s not to say overly offended people do not exist; I have seen my fair share of them in real life as well as online.

But the term “chronically online” encompasses something more: people who have a problem with seemingly anything. I mean anything. Countless times I have watched a harmless video about a completely innocent topic only to open the comment section and see a firestorm of discourse. A recipe video turns into a debate on veganism, a character edit into diversity discourse, a cat video into an argument about the ethics of owning pets. Some of the comments I have seen on harmless videos have been baffling and frankly disturbing.

“Chronically online” individuals have a way of twisting anything into a controversy; usually in order to make themselves seem more socially aware. The result, however, is the opposite. It is very obvious that these people crave conflict and “correctness” above all.

Is online discourse important? Of course. We should be discussing morality, ethics, politics, and religion, both online and in person. But above all, I want to emphasize that time and place matters. And I would argue that a 15 second video on an app marketed toward children is not always the best place to argue real world issues. Issues like racism, poverty, misogyny, war, political strife; these are all real things that hurt real people every day. And to simplify and inflate these topics just for the sake of an argument is harmful and reductive. “Chronically online” discussions take the spotlight off of important and relevant discussions, and turn important topics into a laughingstock.

So, next time you type out a long winded rant in someone’s Twitter replies, consider the impact your comment may have on the real world.