Monday, July 10, 2017

Something in the Air?

Lately I’ve been seeing people flip out on others online to a degree worse than usual. Being a target of it out of the blue a couple of times myself, it has been an exercise in Christian forgiveness followed by deliberate avoidance since the attackers persist no matter how much you explain yourself patiently. This is nothing new on the Net for I remember the flame wars on Usenet decades ago.

Yet it is the random nature of the attacks lately that has me wondering if there is something going on in the greater world that I’m not noticing. Instead of being passionate ideological/opinion based positions the attacks follow a variant of normal flaming:

  1. Someone posts something innocuous or trivial that is completely uncontroversial.
  2. Second person with no prior contact replies with something mocking or overtly hostile.
  3. First person assumes there is a misunderstanding and tried to clarify.
  4. Second person ridicules the first in insulting fashion, then declares their expertise in the subject and/or personal superiority to the first.
  5. First person tries again or quits the discussion (the latter is the wise thing to do).
  6. Second person ups the ranting, often with a wall of text declaring their superior knowledge and status while continuing to personally belittle the first person.
  7. Discussion dies or goes nuclear, eventually resulting in warnings from moderators (if there are any) or somebody quitting the site, usually the one who posted first.

All of this is over something… utterly unimportant. Not that I’m condoning political rage fests, but at least that is somewhat understandable. As are sports team and movie franchise rivalries, though they are still superficial causes. This is something newer and disturbing with people getting weirdly quick to be offended or to attack others just because something trips their trigger.

So why is it getting worse now?

Societal stresses may be a contributing factor as cracks have become chasms politically and culturally. Far too many have gone clinically insane over President Trump being elected and that includes people on both the Left and Right. With the media proving completely untrustworthy, people who believe them are panicking from being fed constant tales of dictatorship and oppression.

On the other side the distrust of news has put people on edge too. Why? Because there is constant uncertainty as to what is true and what isn’t and most people don’t handle uncertainty well at all.

That makes for a lot of jumpy people.

Adding to the problem is there seems to be a growing number of individuals unable to control their anger while simultaneously wanting to be looked up to. Insulting and attacking others boosts their self esteem just like the typical school yard bully. Incapable of being polite or considerate, yet demanding those very things of others is associated with this behavior. Of course this brings forth the question of how these individuals would act if they didn’t have the virtual walls of the Net to hide behind.

The intrinsic growing narcissism of modern western culture is manifesting itself rather clearly here and may be the largest contributing factor. Only associating with like minded others fuels the narrow and narcissistic viewpoint with empathy or true tolerance becoming the first casualty in online interactions.

Consequently, it seems the worst of Internet based behavior has spilled over into, well, everything now. May God genuinely help you if you try to be the voice of reason these days, because nobody else will. Perversely, support is more likely to be given to the aggressor than the person attacked.

Is this the end result of the Web 2.0 as social media was once described? People getting ruder and often downright vicious over even the smallest of things? Anger turning to mindless hate over any disagreement? Are people showing who they really are knowing there can be no immediate punishment for bad behavior?

These questions aren’t ones I wanted to be asking.

Alas for me the initial promise of the World Wide Web has turned into one of the biggest disappointments of my life – which given how lousy that has been is saying something. Disengaging from the virtual world is more and more what I wish to do.

Having long ago abandoned Facebook except in times of emergency along with the recent retreat from online gaming, I’m now considering the additional measure of no longer rating or reviewing products at retail sites. Between people having gone nuts there too and the staggering amount of paid fake reviews (positive and negative), I question what good I’m doing anyway.

This is an odd position for me to be in, by the way. Due to my only having somewhere between 10 and 15% of the energy/capability of a normal person due to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (oh how I can’t wait for that name to change), having a life in reality is pretty much minimal. Being able to “live” online was very appealing when I was younger due to a belief that it could make up for what I couldn’t have in the real world.

Except the experiences over time soured with the negative ones far outweighing the positive ones. With the cost to benefit ratio being very unprofitable, it isn’t worth my time and energy.

Hah, I just realized I’m close to declaring myself a virtual hermit aside from my blog posts. On reflection, it sounds awfully good to me.

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