Nathan Heller notices a change in Internet culture:
These days, life online has become friendly, well mannered, oversweet. Everyone is on his or her very best behavior—and if they’re not, they tend to be quickly iced out of the conversation. The sweet camaraderie that flourished during Sandy isn’t just for terror and crisis anymore; it has become the way the Internet lives now.
And it’s made converts of even the most truculent cases. In mid-October, Perez Hilton, the famously snide online ogler of celebrities, decided to turn over a new leaf, and delivered the message in song. “I resolved I must be kind!” he sang onstage at a 42nd Street theater, the New York Times reported, part of a recent public shift he’s tried to make toward a friendlier, gentler approach to celebrity culture. (It meant a lot to publicists.) Gawker, once considered the reigning champion of snark, has similarly moved away from its claws-out mission and toward more earnest investigative efforts—often with the aim of making the world a better place. Among the site’s most notable stories this fall was the outing and shaming of Reddit’s ViolentAcrez, one of the Internet’s most notorious trolls. (Gawker and Hilton’s site are surely catering to the market in some sense, but the market itself may be changing: For years, it was their meanness, not their generosity, that earned them page views.)
His big fear:
If anything, these days, we risk regarding the web as too much of a cultural mirror or, at least, a mirror pointed in the wrong direction: Good faith has become indistinguishable from good speech, and agreeable words risk outweighing the actions that push them toward fruition. In truth, crucial decisions are never quite as simple as an exclamation-filled post of support. We’ve just emerged from a bitter election season through which many of us moved forward fueled by like-minded applause, seeing only what we wished to see. Yet what comes next isn’t a cuddle; it’s a struggle.