Like most of you, I see people write things online that make me very angry. Not sad, not disappointed, but angry. Angry not because they have said those things, or for their lack of understanding, callousness or ignorance, but because regardless how heinous the declaration, not matter how cretinous, impossible, or untrue the statement, someone will get into it with them, creating a turbulent pocket of needless discourse.
‘Needless’ is perhaps a casual term for something profoundly important, and yet ineffectual at the same time; it is essential that human beings have debate, that we don’t all agree with one another, as this approach, if literally applied, would bring stagnation. Imagine if every statement made was unilaterally agreed upon – would we ever move forward? ‘Guys, the earth is flat’. ‘Well that’s that done. Cool.’
Of course this is an extreme example, but there’s nothing wrong with the principle. However, when debate exists between two or more people with no effect other than to piss each other off, nothing is achieved other than the strengthening of the resolve behind those ideas. What makes matters worse is when we start name calling, or even worse, using hateful slurs.
This is the golden age of the Asshole, where everyone has both the right and the opportunity to say whatever the hell they want, whether it needed to be said or not. In fact, the more it didn’t need to be said, the more likely you are to find it. If you want a neat synopsis of this, go and read any of the comments on trumps’ Twitter feed, pick up your jaw, and come back to this post.
Some of the things I’ve read even in the last couple of hours are incredible. Click on any picture, any video of anything, and there’s a fight going on. If the video says ‘I Love The Colour Blue!’, scroll down and you’ll be see someone saying ‘so u h8 purple u f*g lol fuk u’, or alluding to their religion, skin colour, clothing, height, fiscal circumstances, mental ability, upbringing, parentage, taste, or any number of the other things that we as a species deem worthy as avenues for direct hatred.
The Bottom Half of The Internet, as a friend of mine once described it to me, is a miasmic, turbulent pool, where grievances are aired in their millions. Post occurs. You get mad, and reply. Sneering/hateful/violent response is issued. You get madder. Your measured/condescending/pious reply gets up the arse of the person/people on the other end, and you spend the next hour locked in rampant conflict with a total stranger; meaningless because you’re trying to change the mind of someone who is absolutely not interested in changing their opinion, the same way you’re not budging on what you think.
Once, and only once, I posted the most innocuous of comments on a video on YouTube, only to receive the most unbelievable abuse from a total stranger, which escalated to threats of violence and assertions that I was an unclean lady’s body part among many, many other things. It was at this time that I decided that I could experience a lot of the internet without interacting with it, and have kept to this, outside of Facebook.
Because on Facebook, you’re fighting with your friends, or at the very least, people you’ve met or know, and so there is an inherent accountability. Fighting with strangers on Twitter, or some of the horrific stuff I’ve read on Tumblr or Instagram, seems to be infused with this idea that there are no consequences for anything you say, where anyone who disagrees with you opens themselves to as much bile as you can squeeze into the character limit.
The next time you find yourself drawn into this sort of behaviour, close the program, and think about what you’re doing. You’re not a great political leader trying to solve a humanitarian crisis. You’re on the toilet, telling a racist that they shouldn’t be a racist, which is like telling a tree not to be made of wood.
If you want to make a difference, don’t be a penis to other people because you can, or shout down anyone who disagrees with you. Recognise that those individuals who spout hateful polemic online have no courage to do it in real life, and they’re posting it online because you can’t punch them in the face from there.
This doesn’t mean your cause isn’t just, honest, or right, but the best way to make a change in the world is to do it in real life, so go out there and do it.