Back in ye olde days, you could easily ignore someone’s behavior or laugh it off, saying that person is just the village idiot. Nowadays, thanks to social media, we are often faced with the fact that there are many villages. The sooner we accept this, the sooner we may realize that everything I have written about black holes applies online as well. Read that article first if you haven’t done so already.
Being online a lot is fine. I see no problem with spending a lot of time on Facebook or Twitter or whatever, provided that it doesn’t get in the way of real human interaction, career or other important stuff. I do consider it problematic when we are constantly faced with negativity, bashing, whining and people who believe their own opinions are important enough to warrant bitching on other people. Internet has been growing since… What? 20 years? Somewhere along the line, a lot of people seem to have forgotten that behind every computer screen is a human being with feelings. This brings us two problems. For one, people talking shit, safely behind their computer screen. I vividly remember around 8 years ago, when I was flirting with a certain girl for a while, I got a message on Myspace from a guy who was interested in her. Apparently, he ‘heard from someone that I’d been talking shit about him’. (Fun fact: I hadn’t, the girl had.) Shortly after that, without hard feelings or even a frown on my face, I ran into him and I asked him what the deal was. He suddenly became so friendly and ‘uninterested to put effort into finding out who was spreading those rumours about me’.
Really? Is that what social media is doing to us? Giving us courage to do stuff safely from the comfort of our homes, while not being able to man up and talk stuff over face to face? Maybe stuff like Twitter makes it too easy to say mean stuff. After all, when you’re in a room with someone, you actually have to pick your words carefully, consider the effects of your words and realize that you have to look your conversational partner in the eyes after you make your comment. (Actually, the above is hard enough for some people already.) The rule of “not saying things online that you wouldn’t say in real life” is a very good rule that I try to stick with, although I’m sure I’ve been guilty of false internet courage once or twice too.
Then there’s another problem, which is what I wrote about in the Black Holes post. The constant negativity that you may find online. Out of the 32456572 people I have on Facebook, I stopped following many of them because I saw them constantly posting negative stuff. There’s this ‘rule’ that you become the sum of the X people you associate with most. Well, imagine your Facebook news feed filled with first world problems, hate, drama, negativity, bashing and more of that. That doesn’t sit right with me. On the other hand, I love seeing funny stuff (which may or may not -ahem- keep me from doing productive stuff) or people do productive and fun things. Even if it’s not my own interest, I love seeing people being passionate. Whether that’s working on cars, something nerdy like cosplaying, maybe spending time with their family, working their ass off in the gym, competitive fishing (?)… And sure, we all feel shitty sometimes and I have nothing against people venting on social media once in a while. That’s not THAT much different from getting things off your chest when you’re with a group of friends. But combine the whole ‘less fear/less shame online’ thing with a ‘whine-all-the-time attitude’ and you can see why social media can be an environment that is… Well… Less than inspiring.
Solution? I don’t really have one, but to start with:
- Don’t say things online that you wouldn’t say in real life.
- Be wary of people who say things online that they don’t say in real life.
- If it constantly frustrates you, reconsider whether you need to see it all the time.
- Set up your online environment so that you’re constantly faced with things that inspire and energize you.
- Realize that many people that go into discussions online (and offline too, actually) do it to be heard, not to learn. Ask yourself whether that’s worth your time.
“What the hell is wrong with everybody? Has the internet, by enabling everyone to have a voice, rendered everyone with an ear suddenly stupid?” – Mark Rippetoe