Thanks to Internet, We All Live in Glass Houses Now

And there's a rock headed for your window.

This headline got me: “Internet Defends Man Accused of Reading Porn in Public. Things Get Ugly.” The story: A Japanese man was reading a gaming mag on a subway. A high-school girl mistook the mag for porn, and tweeted that she was on the tube with a creeper.

Rather than vilify the man, “Internet” went the other way, and commenters immediately defended the man, proving that the mag he held was for gamers. Internet then did what it had to do: Vilified the girl. Who did she think she was making false accusations that could’ve lost a man a job or got him in trouble with his family? I mean literally, who is she? Easy enough for Internet to find out that she is a high-schooler with plenty of shared photos of her own, showing her drinking, gambling, cheating at school and shoplifting.

The old adage of glass houses has never rung more true: We all live in glass houses now. Internet just keeps doubling back on itself in this meta fashion—so frequently the instrument of demise, the weapon, and the method of meting out justice.

A few weeks ago, a Massachusetts woman named Lindsey Stone posted a photo of herself on Facebook, flipping the bird and pretending to yell next to a sign that asked for silence and respect at Arlington Cemetery.

Internet wasn’t having it. Thousands of people wrote her employer—getting her and the employee who took the photo (her supervisor)—fired. Within days, a hater (with too much time on her hands?) had created a site: “Lindsey Stone: self proclaimed douchebag.” Old, embarrassing photos have crept up, as well as her name, address, and the fact that she is 30 and lives in her parents’ basement.

Internet battles are one thing: The Lance Armstrong debacle had two sides with some teammates, handlers and other people close to Armstrong insisting on his innocence, and some admitting to doping right along with him. But I’m talking about cases like Brie Lybrand, a You-Tube-famous actress and “beauty guru” from New Orleans, who made a video solely to expose and hopefully punish her father, who she claims raped and tortured her for nine years. When Lybrand found out her father had subscribed to her You Tube channel, typically featuring shopping and beauty tip videos, she made a video naming him and his new wife, detailing the hell he put her through, and showing him (and Internet) the guns she has purchased in case she ever sees him again. Do I need to tell you that Internet seems to believe her but some small part of it is using itself and attempting to make sure it’s true and that Brie isn’t simply a really good actress?

Internet is used for good—Kickstarter, Soul Pancake—but just this morning at the gym, a guy whose name I don’t know but who I call “the overly dressed curmudgeon” (I have now officially called him this on Internet) stormed into the spin room (yes, the spin room) and asked if we had seen the photo of the man who was pushed onto the subway tracks, while another man decided to take his photo rather than help him. Internet had shown him this incident, of course.

A woman in the spin room attempted to correct curmudgeon man, and told her that Internet had told her that the photographer was a professional who was taking flash photos as a way to alert the driver of the subway that something was going on, in the hopes the driver could stop or would at least brake. Curmudgeon wasn’t having it. They both did what we do now: whipped out their phones in an attempt to ask Internet for the truth.