Art by @pinchiedraws
IS IT ME, OR IS EVERYONE ON THE INTERNET REALLY PISSED OFF?
Originally, I intended to title this article ‘Fuck your toast’, homage to a reply I read after watching a cooking clip online recently. It seemed the commenter took offensive to way the presenter spread butter on the toast, and whilst I could understand the critique, I could not understand the volume of hate that followed.
Firstly, hate is not hyperbole. We have all read hate, incredibly vile hate (and there is no better word to describe it) all over the internet. Not the hate of cyber bullying, public shaming or other crimes of that deplorable ilk, or the ideological hate espoused by certain groups, but the commonplace hatred found in the wars of words between everyday people. That wild anger, we’ve all seen, which ranges from the hilarious to the forever haunting, the violent back and forth of vitriol and ridicule that accompanies every post, every comment, every opinion, or anything with a feedback section.
This hate is pervasive and comes from everywhere. It is non-partisan, bi partisan, multi partisan and more. It appears in all forms, from all places and from all kinds. It is not localised to issues of major importance (subjective, of course) but rages to the seemingly innocuous, near neutral topics one might assume would garner no response at all – like the buttering of one’s toast.
It seems the majority of online discussions quickly degenerate into squabble and insult – virtual brawls between strangers. It’s normal to attack each other with almost evangelical zeal, and personal attacks in comment sections are as frequent as references to Nazis, and pictures of startled cats. Even seemingly innocuous statements are met with an instant impulsion to disprove, disavow, or discredit the author, with language too cruel for a burrowing tick.
Where has this come from? Have we always been this angry? Have we run out of honey for the flies? The reasons for how it occurred and why it continues are myriad, and there is validity to every claim. The internet has provided us all with a means to express our opinions, but is all this hatred merely the result of everyone’s voice engaged in global debate? Each side of each argument cites the other as motivation for their ire, each points to the ignorance or the oppression of the next. And if this continues, how much longer can a tit for tat battle sustain before permanent division occurs among us all?
It is easy to forget the power of our medium. It is easy to turn off the computer, minimise the window or close the app – it is easy to disconnect. We often forget there’s someone on the other end, instead we see our online opponents as simply a mix of statements and opinions, a representation of our most exclusive ideologies, and we forget the impact our words and actions might have on these other human beings.
This behaviour is harmful to everyone. It is harmful to those who write it, to those receive it and to those who read it. How many of us have been affected by this kind of wrath? How many have been hurt by the treatment they’ve received online and how many have been scared off contributing ever again, as every hate-filled action assuredly has an equally hate-filled reaction, doesn’t it?
But are our responses to each other justifiable? We all have our opinions, and we all have our buttons. I personally, have more of a Death Star weapon firing system than one single trigger. Is all this anger in the defence and promotion of our opinions merely the result of our passion? While passion is inspiring, and anger can be a force for change, unbridled passion delivered with rage often leads to pain – must passion always be expressed in impassioned tones?
It is time we all examined the way we conduct ourselves online. The days of furious retort have to end, a rage fueled response will no longer suffice. A decent into aggression of any kind reduces the platform your opinions stand upon, and provides ammunition to those who would silence you, and gives your audience another reason not to listen. Long and scornful arguments solve nothing, and childish – and often very adult – name-calling and abuse only further spreads the gulf between us. Surely, such a spiral of anger and hate will only produce more of each, won’t it?
We must change our approach. We must adopt a compassionate tone. One side cannot perpetually blame the other. Somebody needs to be the first to stop peddling on the cycle of rage. We must alter the way we see discussions. If one side speaks with pyschopathy, let empathy be the rebuttal. We should strive for reason and rationality rather than for a rancorous grab at victory. Knowledge is the key. Understanding must be the voice; the response to ignorance should not be humiliation, but education, a good teacher does not impart their zeal with angry screams and violent derision.
Even those believed immalleable and impervious to change can be reached, it is the approach that is important. All of an opponent’s horribly worded phrases, incompatible ideas, and offensive ideologies can be allayed with proper discussion. I’m not suggesting that the most vile of us out there deserve more respect or special consideration, but the best weapon against hate, is not more hate.
It is important to remember that for every one opinion, there are many who oppose it, and many more have ones of their own. Changing how we treat each other does not mean changing our opinions, or relinquishing the validity of our claims or denying ourselves the right to think or feel, but simply altering the manner in which we all conduct ourselves. Is it unreasonable to believe that rationality would cause fewer problems than rage?
We must remember we are all pioneers in the early days of the global dialogue. We all must share this powerful machine to ensure its universality. This great forum we have been given will never be monochromatic, it will always be a kaleidoscope of thought and idea, it will be forever different and unique, and infinite in expression – and much of it, you won’t agree with. We will never think the same about everything and our discussions should always be diverse, but they should never be divided. The internet provides an opportunity for all of us to trial a world we all can be proud of, but it will only succeed with all of us involved. It is up to everybody to nurture the kind of environment that will shape our future.
This is not capitulation, or appeasement, but a new tactic altogether, a new way of combating all you abhor. We should seek to better each other, muster others to our cause with logic, embrace constructive criticism, begin rational discussions, and use these opportunities to help each other grow. Everyone’s opinion counts, success will come from understanding and no fear of reprisal. We should view every interaction as a chance to impart knowledge and learn something new. We human beings can overcome everything this world has thrown at us, except for each other – but we are very capable. Ask yourself; is the need to be right more important than the need to coexist?
If we all try to foster a culture of compassion and understanding, we will all see our own opinions better received, accepted and most importantly, often implemented. It’s easier than you’d think. It is a pledge to not intentionally wound others with your words, to impart information with a kindly tone, and to share insights, rather than firing opinions loaded with spite. You can call this high minded, an all-loving, liberal hippie pipe dream, and you may be right, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t achievable.
Above all, we must remember that behind the other keyboard is another human being, as uninformed, as ignorant, and as poorly educated on the issue they may be, but another person no different to you or I. And whichever side of the debate we may be on, we should never take the side of rage, and some things – like toast – deserve no hate at all.
Love and good tacos for everyone.
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(Full disclosure: Beyond all my illusions of altruism, I must be truthful and tell you I have a selfish motivation behind this piece. I have started this website recently and will feature opinion pieces – like this one. The objective is to promote thought, not stoke hate, and encourage any and all to join in discussions, even if one disagrees.)
Thanks for reading.