There’s no question that the Internet has changed us. We’re much braver from behind our keyboards, challenging one another in sometimes contentious ways, relishing in the anonymity the Internet provides. While we would never barge into someone’s living room – even if the front door is open – put our feet on the furniture, light up a cigarette, and proceed to berate the homeowner about their social/political/religious views, we are certainly brave keyboard warriors when it comes to barging into someone’s website, criticizing their views, and even threatening and showering them with invective. No problem. No one will find us, right?
While in our real lives and jobs we would be circumspect about how we analyze information, ensuring that our product is of the highest quality – whatever our job may be. On the Internet, we don’t care. We share clickbait. We fail to analyze. We believe every report – even the most questionable ones – as long as they confirm our biases. We don’t mind losing our shit over said reports. Going unhinged on social media has become the norm – without so much as a fact check.
While in our real jobs we would never use political memes as part of any presentation (unless the presentation is about political memes, of course), these days, we seem to get the majority of our information from these irritating, many times badly-written, shittily-researched graphics.
The other day, some random shit weasel sent me a message request on Facebook, which I immediately deleted. In said message, he derped something about me upsetting his friends (we had no friends in common – I checked), and how I’m a “terrible person,” who should tickle his taint or something. He appeared to be a sub-millennial douche flake with a badly-groomed, patchy wannabe beard and a snively, pussy hat wearing demeanor. Would we ever say something like this to a living, breathing stranger, who was standing in front of us? Probably not.
The message didn’t upset me, mind you. I chuckled and deleted it, as any intelligent person would. But it does point out some interesting trends I see, as I travel the World Wide Web of Stupid. In addition to the increased boldness and visceral reactions above, I’ve noted a few other things that I either observe with dispassionate interest, or am disgusted by on a regular basis.
One is failure to read. Whether it’s sharing dated news stories and failing to identify them as old, or sharing a new story based on what often is a misleading title, this particular habit makes me crazy! Knowing how quickly things can propagate via social media, one shared old news story can quickly turn into 500 or more. That’s how celebrity death stories from 2012 continue to dominate our social media feeds. And if you’re going to share 5-year-old news stories, at least let us know it’s old news and why you see it fit to share it now, so you don’t look like a fucking moron for derping over old news.
And speaking of fucking… Has anyone noticed this weird tendency to criticize people’s language? I can’t tell you how many pedantic assholes have come over here gently chiding me for my language, or outright discounting facts, because they were offended by a bad word! I have provided plenty of warning about my use of invective on this site, and the bottom line is I don’t give a rollerblading fuck about your delicate sensibilities. If you can’t get over a couple of appropriately placed F-bombs in order to read an otherwise factual blog post, I cordially invite you to fuck a rabid hedgehog and to not allow the virtual door hit you in your virtual hedgehog-sodomizing arse.
Knee-jerking seems to happen a lot more often on the Internet than it does in real life. Am I crazy? I’ve been guilty of this myself. I read something without actually READING it, and I go into DERP! mode, immediately wanting to blast it out to an email distro or my social media contacts. There have been several instances where I’ve had to physically pull away from my computer to prevent myself from hitting the “send” button. Stopping and thinking seems to be out of style these days, because it is so easy to press that “send” button! It’s easy to hit the “share” button; I mean they’re provided in nearly every news site, blog, or information site, convenient for sharing. What isn’t convenient is stepping back and examining with a critical eye what you’re about to send. Would we do that in real life? Would we stick a letter that contains false information in an envelope, and drop it in the mail? Probably not. Convenience and our desire for quick gratification is breeding a whole lot of rude, false, misleading, and outrageous information being pushed out into society without thought.
I also think we’re getting quite inured to horror and bloodshed. This conditioning is breeding callous indifference to others’ suffering. I’ve noticed this trend is on the rise in the past several years. I remember in the aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks, a friend on the left making a comment about hoping that it was a white Christian, rather than a Muslim, so Muslims don’t get painted with that broad terrorist brush. I also see gleeful references to Muslim terrorism in the wake of any incident, as if my friends on the right are rubbing their hands in malicious glee, awaiting the inevitable “Islamic terrorist attacks” narrative. You know what’s ultimately missing? Kind thoughts about the victims. Horrified reactions about the deaths of innocent people. There was an attack in London today. I shared the latest story I could find on this topic – a story that changes as more information becomes available – and most reactions were political. They weren’t kind. They didn’t hold victims in their thoughts or prayers, even. They were just cold.
“Oh, they’re making it sound like the assailant had a gun! Guns are banned in Britain!”
“Oh, they banned guns in Britain, so now terrorists use cars and knives.”
“Oh, must be another attack by the disgruntled Amish.”
“Oh, they’re trying to hide the fact that he was Muslim.”
I consider myself quite a bitch, and there are few out there who are more dedicated to our gun rights and our national security than I am, but my first thought when an incident occurs is never, “Oh, I bet it was a Muslim, because POLITICS!” or “Look at the attack in a gun-free zone!”
My first thought is always, “I really hope everyone is OK.” And I’m not saying this to paint myself as some kind of concern troll. I’m saying this because I’m genuinely baffled at the fact that we’re so conditioned to immediately glom onto anything that provides confirmation bias to our political beliefs
For the record, if anyone gives a shit, one person is reported dead, and at least 10 people were injured. British authorities are treating this as a terrorist attack, which, by the way, occurred on the first anniversary of the terrorist bombings in Brussels that killed 32 people.
This callousness bothers me more than most other annoying Internet habits. It’s a complete disregard for the human experience. It’s indifference to the suffering of innocents. It’s cruel. No matter how much bloodshed we see, our first reaction is to wonder whether or not this incident comports with our political views. It’s on our screens, and even though those screens show unspeakable horrors, we are no longer bothered by them, because we’re so far removed and the information is so readily available, that we merely observe detached as bloodied victims and terrified families start to process their grief.
I don’t say this to shame my friends or to elicit some type of reaction I would feel appropriate in situations such as these. I say this as a not-so-detached observer, because having grown up without an Internet, I’m seeing stark differences in how people react to what goes around them.
The Internet, as anything else, brings with it both good and bad. It’s quick. It’s convenient. It can keep us informed. It can bring us vital news in the blink of an eye. We can do research, watch movies, watch cat videos, or write a blog.
But in this deluge of information and entertainment, I wonder if we’re forgetting basic customs, courtesies, and human decency.
Just some food for thought.