I feel like I’ve talked about this before, but I’m feeling too lazy to go look it up.
We, the inhabitants of The Internet, are collectively immature.
There are many parts of maturity, but the one I’m specifically focused on is the denial of reality. When confronted with views that are opposed to the ones we carry, Internet folk reject the opposing view and instead look for other people that support the perspective they carry.
We don’t just slip into echo chambers. We actively reject opposing views, sometimes attacking the people that present the ideas that offend us. When someone offers an opinion that is not in alignment with our own, we unfollow, mute, and block them.
I keep saying “we.” I try hard to keep an open mind, but it is challenging
because I’m always right, and none of my views are wrong because keeping an open mind takes energy and patience, and the world moves pretty fast these days. I do tend to block people that are anti-vax, pro-fascist, or offer a perspective that is ultimately dehumanizing or harmful. But that leads to…
It is extremely difficult to carry a nuanced view in social media, or online in general.
Nuance takes time and effort. Nuance demands more than 140 or 280 characters. Nuance is a blog post, and most people aren’t out there reading blogs. Ha ha!
Let’s go through a couple of examples of where it’s inconvenient to live in a technicolor world, when black and white is so much easier.
Black and White: It is always bad to kill someone.
Technicolor: Well… sometimes a bad person is going to something absolutely terrible and the only way to stop them is to kill them. Sometimes, you’re a soldier in a war, and your job is to shoot a gun at enemy soldiers, possibly killing them. Sometimes, someone gets sick and is in pain, and will never get better, and death is a merciful end to their suffering.
Nuance takes work. Let’s do another one.
Black and White: Freedom of Speech should be absolute. No speech should be infringed!
Technicolor: Well… shouting “fire” in a crowded theater is not protected speech and can lead to people getting trampled to death. Provoking someone to kill themselves is not protected speech and is morally reprehensible. Doxxing, SWATting, posting intimate photos of someone without their permission, and peddling child porn… these should not be protected speech. When speech and expression is weaponized to do actual harm, protecting that speech and expression is an amoral thing to do.
What if someone says something that hurts another person’s feelings? Am I saying that people shouldn’t be allowed to be assholes?
No. There is a difference between saying something mean and posting their address and phone number onto a public forum. There is a difference between telling someone to fuck off versus putting in an anonymous phone call, lying to the police, all in an effort to get a swat team to kick in another person’s door with guns.
Nuance matters. If you are incapable of this kind of discernment, you shouldn’t be in charge of hosting web content. This is a focused comment, and I’m not going to name names, because then this page might show up in a search engine, and one of those assholes might start doxxing and swatting me.
No thank you.
I’m talking about maturity like we all need to grow up. We can and should still play and have fun. Keeping an open mind and allowing room for nuanced views does not mean we have to be dour stick-in-the-muds. I may be a dour stick-in-the-mud, but that’s just how I’ve always been.
But McDonald’s has happy meals for adults now. Sometimes I wear a cape when I write. We should all stop working so damn hard from time to time and just be big kids.
Just… remember that there are real people with real feelings on the other side of the screen, and know that we’re all going through some stuff. Maybe we if just exercise a little bit more empathy and compassion, this whole Internet can be a little bit better.