|Posted on August 8, 2012 at 3:50 AM|
The Antisocial Social Network
Technology is our evolution. We have adopted it as, not just something we "use" or "do" but as an extension of our own existence. Our lives and ways of living become dependent on it, and we adjust what we do, say and think based on the technology that surrounds us. One of the biggest alterations to the way humans live and interact is the digital realm. Facebook. Twitter. Blogs. Message Boards. Video diaries shared with everyone. Short films that express your artistic creativity. Memes. Likes. Friend requests. It's a constant flow of information into our lives, but with a slight sense of "privacy" in that you don't have to always be direct about it.
It's a very strange brew: we're interacting with others, reading what they write, watching what they create, liking what they put out there for us to judge, yet we do so with a slight bit of anonymity. We're social...but without having to be social. We can interact and discuss and judge, but without that awful face-to-face attribute, which means we can pretty much say what we honestly feel, what we truly want to say without the fear of repercussions.
With that cover comes the cynicism. The negativity. The, above else, worse part of humanity given free reign to whatever they want. Even worse, is it gives normal, everyday people an outlet to do that as well, so you not only get the worst people continuing doing the worst things, but you have "nice" people suddenly turning negative, rude or just outright mean as well. They may not intend to, but they do. I mean, why not? If you're going to do it somewhere, might as well be the place where you can call someone names and rant all day yet remain pretty anonymous and away from consequence.
This, folks, is called antisocial behavior. You don't start shouting, trying to get attention, being rude, calling people names in reality...but in digital space you can do all you want. The thing is, digital space is still being social. You're stil interacting. Still connecting. But now you're just a complete asshole that calls people names and getting upset over pretty inconsequential things.
The worst example of this comes to online videogames. Yes, I've gone on about gamer's "rudeness" and their "negativity" before, but that's more a generalization of the gaming culture which is still in a state of arrested development where you can't tell the difference between a 35 year old playing a videogame and acting like an idiot and a teenager doing the same thing.
This is Jimmy. Well, I'll assume his name is Jimmy, it's a stock photo, but he looks like a "Jimmy" doesn't he? He's in middle school and loves being online. Specifically, he loves playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. Jimmy goes to school. Does his homework. And every evening he sits down to pass an hour or so playing online matches with countless others around the world. He also loves shouting the "N" word to people online and calling people "faggots." But that's OK, isn't it? It's just...online, right?
Yet, is it entirely their fault? Look, there's no one single answer to the causation to why people do things. From the insane types that take guns to schools or work to the hordes of Twilight fans, people have their reasons. Instead, this is more a look at the internet itself and how it allows people to be as negative or positive as they want. It gives voices to anyone and everyone, including those that weren't aware they even had a voice in the first place.
It's great that it's not policed. It's great you can put things out there, find what you want, but we're getting to a point where we use the freedom of the internet as an excuse for bad behavior. "Oh, it's just the way it is" is a poor excuse if you just ask me. What makes calling someone an awful name or saying they could kill themselves horrible in real life yet perfect acceptable in the digital realm? Why do we let this slide?
Is it possible, and I know this is a stretch, where we can just start having an intelligent, mature discussion about what is acceptable online? I've discussed the immaturity of gamers and the seeking of validation and, recently, the interplay between gamers and their supposed "representatives" in the media and, certainly, this old classic about the need to always be negative on the internet, but why is it so hard to just sit and discuss and, Hell, even admit that there are problems in the online world and how people seem abject to just being nice to each other? Can we have that talk without it falling into the void of line drawing and childlike arguing? Can we not, for once, just be civil and act the way online as we act in real life? You know...politely for the most part?
Can we make a point without having to shout it and try to drown out everyone else shouting? Probably not, as Fred here shows us. You might think he's getting quite upset at someone holding his family hostage. In reality, he's very upset that Kristen Stewart cheated on Rob Pattinson. Seeing as he can't yell at someone in real life, he's going to yell at someone online. Someone he doesn't even know or has ever met, and that someone has to deal with it. But that's OK, isn't it? It's just...online, right?
Did you know some people go online with the intention of just "venting?" Really, they had a rough day at work and their only outlet is to vent online to other people. No, this isn't "tell me your problems" it's more "How can I make someone more miserable than I am right now?" Maybe it's getting on Halo and shooting them then saying something bad about their mothers, maybe it's just making an account at a message forum and starting a racist thread or just having that lovely "direct" contact via Twitter and telling them they should committ suicide.
Yes, people do this. Why?
Because nobody will do anything about it. Nobody wants to touch it. Nobody wants to sit there and just say "let's fix this." Everybody knows there's something awful out there. When you go online it's a bit of a crapshoot on whether or not you're going to come away with something funny or (rarely) emotionally moving or if you're going to just see the worst of humanity vomited out on your computer screen. Hell, maybe that worst of humanity is directing itself at you for some reason.
You aren't going to change human nature. As I said, this whole awful boil on the skin isn't entirely the fault of those doing it. The internet is an open door and they just walk through it...repeatedly...and probably smash a few heads while doing so. The discussion is more how we relay and organize our behavior as a society and as a people, and it starts with admitting there's something wrong.
There's a problem, especially amongst the gaming culture who never, ever, ever admit when they're wrong about anything, or at least never have a civil discussion about it, but it's really the way we interact now with each other as a whole. In reality, we're kind, for the most part. We wait in lines. Help people find things. Give them the right-of-way at an intersection. (Sans the jerks...as I said). But online...we're just horrible horrible people. It's a completely different world and we create a completely different persona to achieve a sense of self-gratification of just being horrible to one another.
I sometimes wonder if it is, in fact, human nature to just be awful to each other...and maybe our rules and morals in reality are the slowly-slipping mask as more and more of us find our "calling" online and can act in accordance with our own nature. Personally, I find the hate mongering and hiding behind an avatar cowardly. The problem is, those are the people you need to have the discussion with, but they won't. They just hide, and the minute you bring up even having a discussion, they come out of the woodwork just to tell you how wrong you are and that you're infringing on their rights. Sorry, chief, you may have the right to say what you want, but saying what you want doesn't make it right.
The best solution is the most obvious one, but also the most difficult one for most to do.
The solution? Well, you can't just tell everyone to grow up and be civil, can you? As much as I wish this was a world where someone saying that would mean something, it won't. Because the internet is simultaneously a personal world and a social world, suggesting changing how you act on a social network suddenly turns into a personal attack. You can't single out the troublemakers because then you might be discriminating. You can't even attack them back, because then you're really no better. Instead, we just sit back and take it.
So my solution is this: ignore them. I know it's tough, it's the internet, but the first step of getting to acceptable social behavior is to work in the rule of what the online world gives us. As mentioned, it's not reality, so we must not act realistic. While in reality if someone calls us names and threatens us we'll attack back, online we have to do the exact opposite. They want that attention and that validation of their own existence. By acknowledging what they're doing or saying online or in a videogame is horrible, you're giving them exactly what they want. Saying what they're doing is wrong to them or getting into a debate that sinks to personal insults is still giving them what they want: acknowledgement.
So ignore. Even go an extra step: if there's someone on your facebook friends list that constantly is being negative and looking for attention by saying horrible things to others the block them or defriend them, if you're on a forum or a blog and someone puts up something that offends you, if someone sends you a tweet that suggests the many ways you or could die or how you're "gay" for liking something, block them and move on. It's no skin off your teeth, as they say...because at the end of the day you're a better person than they are because you aren't the one doing those things, and those people will continue on with their miserable lives in their miserable digital world to the point where, eventually, nobody will listen...and that's the worst punishment anyone could doll out to them.