We live in a culture where there is almost a savage thrill which comes with exposing other’s folly, stupidity, insensitivity, or down-right polluted opinions. Recently it seems like this kind of action has become the bread and butter of some individual’s/group’s social media fame achievements, and the most cunning of all have even managed to monetize it *ahem* TMZ.
It’s got me thinking. It’s got me thinking about sometimes there are things said online that need exposure, correction, challenging and perhaps a controlled chastisement or two (e.g. unprovoked personal attacks). But it’s also got me thinking about what happens after the fact; to the person in the firing line, and the snipers doing the shooting.
Can you take what you give?
I can’t list every example recently of people who’s comments/actions have been lambasted online publicly, I’d be here all day. But what happens after the moment people catch wind? The shares start to spread like Ebola across the internet, lots of people get angry, and before the person knows it, they have thousands of RTs or shares, a vast majority of them personal insults, their career/family/life is suddenly thrown into the Roman amphitheater of online public opinion, and it all gets pretty savage in 0-3 seconds.
The thing is, there’s a couple of things we the ‘correctors’/exposers sometimes forget:
1. They’re human beings like us too, they are still learning everyday and no-one knows it all. Some of the views I had five years ago, I don’t have now. How comes? Life experience. Exposure to different situations, people and things.
2. Sometimes people have a bad day that manifests in something they write online in the heat of the moment – does that mean they are a bad person? Why is an apology not enough? Why do we desire people to grovel and write an effusive apology, then when it comes, we don’t even want to hear shit, we’re like – ‘Look at this weak-ass apology. You’re still a prick’. Um…in real life…in the real world…when people apologise (dependent on context), you cannot consistently throw an apology back in someone’s face with petty indignation. That’s not conducive to living in a peaceful state. I’m convinced that some people just want to be angry for the sake of it. Trip on, tripper.
3. Can I tell you something? There is so much I’ve written online over the years in a moment of youthful folly, foolishness, rudeness, or downright indiscretion, that I wish I could delete not just off the internet, but from the almighty servers in a desert somewhere (we all know these exist), Sidney Bristow and multiple wigs style (for those of you that used to watch Alias), and set that gat dem building alight watching all my internet history burn to the ground in flames doing shoki. But in real life, I have to make do with the fact that I might have deleted something online, but there is every possibility that in 10 years time, some demon enemy of my progress will be able to scrape it up, and use against me an opinion or perspective I don’t even hold anymore. And no-one will care, they’ll just want to slay me.
I’m really sick of sick of seeing online drama that centers around something like this. In the future, no-one is going to be able to forget or move on from the errors of their youth – it looks like some people desperately want past folly to be the standard by which present character is judged. That’s dumb as hell, and I feel sorry for a lot of these kids writing absolute trash on the internet right now, not understanding the flaws of the tools they are using to express themselves, or the ramifications these things may have on their lives later.
I say all these things not to say that people shouldn’t be corrected/exposed, but put yourself in their shoes before responding back…just pause. If you found yourself in the same position, taking heat from the four corners of the earth, your entire character being judged on those comments by strangers who’ve never known you, being abused on every social platform, being maligned and dragged and called out…are you really bout that life? Could you take it? Because if the answer is no, you ought to consider cancelling your vehement response.
Responding to things
Now when it comes to responding to things on the internet, there are ways to do it, and there are ways not to do it. Firstly you ought to consider the purpose of your response; if you’re doing it just to show off, look smart, and prove that you’re right, sit down. What does this achieve beyond a momentary exultant feeling as everyone praises you for your vigilance, and the smug feeling of being superior with every clocked up share, like or RT? How does this meaningfully impact the person you responded to? Do you think their mind changes? And even if it did, would you care? (I say this because as mentioned before, some people don’t want to see someone they have challenged apologise or develop – they weren’t in it for that, they were in it for the drama and the drags). I’ll wager that they don’t give a shit, and just get angry. I’ll wager that.
If you really want people to listen to you, it’s not every day clapback. Sometimes have decorum with a fool until their folly becomes woefully apparent to them, or until you discover you ain’t got time for this. Sometimes don’t engage the trolls – yes, some people are sitting there online, waiting for jumped up people like you to respond, and get your knickers in a twist against someone who may not have left the house for days, surrounded by empty cans of baked beans and spaghetti hoops (yeah that’s a stereotype and I don’t care). I have wasted some hours of my life responding to trolls, and I wish I had been wiser and left it.
Sometimes people aren’t being trolls, and generally have those heinous opinions you hate don’t like – is it about forcing them to be like you, think like you, speak like you, and act like you? Does everyone in life have to agree with you? I don’t like the opinions of racists, but I’m not here to force them to see my humanity. To be honest. When I see racist things online, 9 times out of 10 I move on because most of those people have zip zero power or input into my life. It’s only if it’s going to affect me personally/socially/in the work environment, that I might tell someone to hold my keys, my earrings, my bag, it’s about to go down. I also believe in free speech, and if you want the freedom to express yourself, you have to afford others the same rights even if you don’t like what they’re saying.
I think the things that need to feature more in all our online interactions are:
- Consideration of context
- Purpose in response
- A moment spent thinking on the issue before responding immediately
- Resisting the urge to construct a denigrating response
Yes humility. Because as surely as you snatch the clothing off the back of someone over something they said/wrote/did which appeared online, is as surely you will be left in your underwear too, should you inadvertently find yourself in the same position. And the likelihood of that is 100% if you have ever used the internet, because we are not perfect, and ‘delete’ doesn’t mean delete…it means stored somewhere but still accessible in caches or servers if swine someone really wants to end you. Also, sometimes you will have to pay for what you have written…and it is right, and it is just.