Really? Did you have to say that?
I am a thin-skinned soft heart, I admit it. A pansy, a Pollyanna, someone who always expects to the see the good in people, and is reluctant to accept anything bad. I really do try to se the bright side of things. It annoys my friends. Maybe it’s this streak of optimistic innocence that leaves me feeling so shocked when someone is hurtful. I don't understand why that would be the response and I just never want to believe that another person could want anything but the best for others. Yes, we all have our moments wherein we say something that really shouldn’t have been said, but when you have time to think about it because you have to write it down and then send it, you have time to decide not to hit that 'submit' button. Sadly, in this age of anonymity, it seems that being a horrible human being on a regular basis is becoming the new normal. It shows up in all sorts of venues, even those you don't expect.
I started seeing this on Facebook; friends (real friends, people I have lunch with) would update their status to reflect some cruel dig at some other group of people. Bigotry thinly washed with righteousness, or even a complete trampling and rewriting of facts to say something mean. This is sometimes played off as “it’s all in fun!” well, no, it isn’t. Deliberately saying something hurtful and mean, especially when followed by some variation of ‘because I’m so much more Christian than you’ is not fun. I’m not at all religious, but I’m pretty sure none of the popular religions include a paragraph that says “and thou shalt spread my word by showing all how much better thou art than them”. Somewhere along the line I remember hearing things like ‘judge not…’, and ‘do unto others…’ Clearly I’ve only heard about the fantasy religions in storybooks. Real-life religion never seems to be quite as nice I suppose Facebook has allowed me to see a side of my “friends” that I would otherwise have never seen. This was probably the most unexpected to me. I assumed that interacting with someone in real life over several years would have allowed me to see all sides of that person. Apparently not.
It happens in open forums
Credit: flikr, Tony AlterThe same sort of thing prevails in open online forums. All you are is a picture and a made up name. You can say anything, right? What does it matter if your words put down other people, or dismiss their ideas? You have an anonymous presence, and you have the right to be as nasty as you want because your opinions are clearly superior and need to be promoted at all costs. If you make some people mad, all the better, it gives you more chances to spit your vitriolic spite, I mean, 'explain your point of view'. And you’re a member too, so everyone HAS to listen to you or they can just go away. Well, I guess these types of people have done something for the internet world. They have prompted the invention of the “block” button. This is sort of interaction is perhaps a little more understandable, since all you have in common is whatever random event brought you to the forum. A common interest in chickens doesn't mean you have the same views on anything else. Maybe religious forums are nicer. Maybe.
It happens in closed writers groups
Credit: aaron courterSadly, this sort of thing carries to private forums too, the ones without a ‘block’ button, because it’s assumed that everyone will be civil. I guess mean people are everywhere. It makes me wonder how I’ve managed to avoid them for so long in my life. More importantly, what can I do to avoid them again? On Facebook, I can unfriend (and I have), I liberally use the ‘block’ button on open forums, but I’m stuck with what to do about the closed forums. Never use the site again? Tempting, but I joined it for a reason. Bag that site and try to find one without trolls? That seems to me to be the online equivalent of quitting a job to avoid the office politics; you just end up with different politics. What then is the answer? I just can’t imagine that people who are now choosing to be nasty horrible people because they can hide behind a computer screen are ever going to change. I guess I just don’t know.
Is it a lost cause?
Credit: grumpy catIt makes me sad when I make a seemingly innocuous post on a forum or social media site and someone responds with something hateful, cruel, or spiteful. The anonymity you get from the faceless interface (ironic word, now that I think about it) gives people the freedom to reply with horrible things that they would never say in person. Is this a decline in society being exacerbated by easy access to virtual victims? Have some people always been that horrible and just feel more comfortable being themselves when their face is a cartoon or a puppy? Again, I just don’t know. I know, the obvious answer is that I need to change, either my internet use or my response (public or private), deciding how to go about that will take a little work.
I suppose there must be some good side to this; isn’t there always a good side? Maybe the people with empty souls who revel in provoking through the internet find it easier to pretend they are good when interacting in real life. Maybe they live longer by transferring their hate to strangers. Or maybe they just keep the nice people off the internet, and involved in real life.