Beyond emoticons: Emotional support online

The Internet can be a dark, dark place at times.

Although we have made notable advancements, having created a seemingly endless amount of online communities and social networks, it seems that our ability to ridicule one another has advanced alongside technology. Various online communities pride themselves on ripping one another to great degree. 4Chan, an image board not for the faint of heart, is probably the most notorious offender, anonymously spewing out racist, homophobic and generally damaging remarks all for the sake of a few laughs. And with the growing awareness of cyberbullying, Internet communities are being looked down upon more than ever.

It begs the question: Are there still good people out there?

Given the aforementioned example, it is easy to be skeptical. However, sometimes it takes a small, almost insignificant action to create something that’s far bigger than one would expect. Such is the case of Bridget Hughes.

KFOX14 published an article on Friday detailing Hughes’ search for a hat she lost at Sky Harbor International Airport. On the surface, her story seems fairly common among travelers, but lo and behold, there is far greater depth in her lost headwear. This hat, a floppy, brown corduroy affair, was worn by Hughes’ mother throughout her battle with cancer and chemotherapy up until her passing in 1997. The hat was given to her by her aunt some years after her mother’s death and Hughes has worn it ever since. Columnist Gina Benitez reports Hughes saying, “I've taken it with me all sorts of places the past year, as just kind of a, I guess a way for my mom to experience what I'm experiencing,” which is why after not being able to find her missing memento, Hughes went to Facebook in hopes of retrieving it. Little did she know, her plea would go viral, accumulating more than 37,000 “likes” and has been shared close to 224,000 times, receiving comforting words from all over the world, this attempt to reunite with the symbol of her mother has indeed turned into something far greater than a mere lost article of clothing.

As impersonal as Facebook and online communities often times may seem, it is things like this that give me hope not only for the Internet at large, but for humanity.

Nowadays, people (or at least Americans) seem so focused on the self. We spend so much time selfishly trying to mold our personal identities that we sometimes forget that there are people out there going through the same struggles as we are. Hughes’ plea has proven that.

Being able to empathize with one another and share our experiences is something rather unique in us as humans. That’s something we often take for granted. What Hughes has achieved is not merely a successful Facebook page. While she has yet to find her mother’s hat, she and those who have left her comments and have shown that even though the Web has seemed to increase introversion and user apathy, there are still good people out there that are ready and willing to comfort their fellow human beings.

To answer the question posed earlier: Yes, I do believe there are still good people out there. We need these people. It doesn’t matter if you’re from Arizona or Albany, the fact that someone completely different from you has gone through a similar experience, and the fact that they cared enough to reach out to someone, despite the distance, should give us hope for our future.

 

Reach the columnist at schergos@asu.edu or follow him at @ShawnChergorsky

 

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