“I’m in the weird part of the internet again…” is a comment commonly read on very niche Youtube videos, hidden reddit threads or any other website that seems out of the norm in any way. But what exactly brings us to these incredible online spaces? Usually, it’s boredom. We start by looking for cute cat videos and end up on Youtube channels run by people of the kittenplay community, for example. Or we google something science-related and end up on 4chan, reading a top-poster’s depressing life story.
This fascination with other people’s lives is nothing new. We’ve always watched reality TV shows and read juicy based-on-a-true-story epistolary novels. The internet just makes the content even more accessible – and even more rated-R. The anonimity of the internet truly is both a blessing and a curse: People feel free to post anything they like – from inspirational positive content to borderline-criminal posts. While the internet as we know it is rather vanilla, there is a far more vast online space out there: The Darknet.
To most digital natives, the Darknet is no stranger. The average tech-savvy teen simply uses it to download music, movies and such. However, the Darknet has a much grimmer side to it. Urban legends surrounding torture-livestreams aka Redrooms or live practices of the Blood Eagle are part of the mystery that makes the Darknet such a tempting adventure to embark on for those, bored of the normal internet. But the Darknet is not the sketchy, scary place that most people make it out to be. Surfing the non-vanilla web anonymously is not a crime. The problems begin once you actively start looking for trouble, i.e. purchasing illegal substances or weapons -mostly via bitcoins – or watching harmful videos.
Back to the world wide web as we know it
Even without using a tor-browser to go deeper, one can still find pretty spacy stuff online. Reddit, for example, is a popular spot on the internet for users to get things off their chest anonymously. Threads which are dedicated to making confessions to the nosey public are particularly popular. Confessions made on Reddit range from “I still sleep with my childhood blankey” to admitting to serious crimes of which the OP may or may not have been convicted yet. Other well-visited threads on Reddit are the so-called AMAs. AMA stands for “ask me anything” and basically means that the OP briefly introduces himself and then awaits questions which he readily answers.
Between politics and pedophilia
AMAs and many more threads found on Reddit tend to get very bold and very PG. It is not uncommon that an OP would offer to discuss the politics of their country, thus inviting fellow-Redditors to get an alternate perspective on certain topics. It is equally common for an OP to openly share their struggle with paedophilia on the large forum. Of course, when dealing with such sensitive subjects, you will find the odd troll, trying to get the best of the other posters. That being said, it is remarkable just how much support Redditors offer one another. Commenters will offer advice to people with mental health issues. Even criminals who show remorse for what they have done aren’t automatically shooed away and banned from the platform. Instead, they tend to be treated humanely and offered advice on how to become better people. Of course, there are certain taboos which Reddit will not tolerate, such as any active form of abuse or other malicious content.
What are these online spaces good for?
Entertainment. Mostly. But the really valuable sides to the internet -be it dark or vanilla- carry the potential of opening the user’s mind to things they have never encountered before. Becoming more understanding of mental illnesses, pouring your heart out to strangers or simply finding a wonderfully creepy based-on-a-true-story urban legend to obsess over for months on end – it can all shape you as a person. As long as internet users remember to take everything they read online with a grain of salt, there should not be any harm in innocently browsing the “weird part of the internet”.
Photo credits: All images by Pixabay