By Darin L. Hammond
The Idle Mind
An hour of aimlessly searching for a powerful story lead to boredom this weekend. You know the feeling, when your body requires productivity and activity, but you are surfing the web and cannot seem to move from your chair. Your eyes glaze, with your heart beating once per minute and fat cells replicating exponentially throughout your body from hours of inactivity.
On Saturday I decided to venture forth boldly in this moment, to actually exercise my navigation skills on the web. In such moments I often explore social media platforms. I do not jump from space, dropping to the ground beyond the speed of sound, but plunge, semi-conscious into more content.
The First Misstep
In this mode, I mentally stumbled on this rancid lump of text at Fark.com, the site for edgy wit and banter: "Girls, what did you think would happen when you wear a skin-tight, cleavage revealing costume and go someplace full of lonely, horny nerds?" What would "happen" was sexual harassment.
Naïve, I experienced shock, and I reread the question. You felt it too when you read this just now, right? Surprise migrated to anger. I could not fathom that a website would permit a comment so offensive to women, and most men.
The World of Fark
But, I was not looking at a random forum comment, but a headline near the top of the page at Fark, and not only was the question tolerated, Fark promoted it as a "hand selected" headline story marked as "obvious" ranking system. After all, Fark is the site where they provide "Real News. Real funny."
The original source was MailOnline based in the UK, which reported on a comic conference where apparently women parading in scanty costumes is the norm. The article was actually critical of the sexual harassment that occurred at the comic conference, despite the headline they created for Fark. So, they intentionally twisted the hook to grab the reader.
The comments on Fark so offended me that I was sucked into the conversation, and I stooped to make a comment involving cavemen and knuckle scraping. I went further, but I will spare you the horror. And, I will shield you from the exponentially offensive retorts from Farkers.
After pondering the matter, I respect free speech and never want that freedom restricted. I committed the error here in blindly investigating a social media platform, anticipating that the exchanges would be civil. I also erred in allowing myself to be drawn down to their level of conversation. I decided that I need to do research before plunging into the social media blindly. I bear that responsibility as a critical thinker.
I also bear the burden of critiquing the website, the other side of free speech. MailOnline appears to be a valid news outlet, but debases itself, as other popular media outlets including the likes of CNN and Fox News, for the sole purpose of exploiting unusual news events. to feed meat to the mobs at Fark and increase site traffic.
Free outlets such as Fark are necessary evils, important even. However, if we hold ourselves to a higher moral ground, we sink when we engage them. More significant, respected media outlets who feed the website shame themselves and taint their credibility by mixing and mashing their titles and stories for cheap and sullied website hits.
And, thinking back, I am at fault too for attaching myself to the website, implicitly supporting offensive material. I will not, however, continue the practice as does Reuters, The Huffington Post, MSNBC, and even the BBC. Shame on them.