It's a Cruel World (the Internet)

The other day, I commented on a remark a friend posted to Facebook. He wanted to know how a flash mob advances the cause of preventing violence against women. Though I suspected the remark was more of a commentary than a question, I weighed in anyway. I said I thought it was about raising awareness around an organization and a cause. I mentioned that I hadn't previously heard of the organization in question--which had organized a recent flash mob in San Francisco (One Billion Rising)--but that after learning of it, I wanted to get involved.

In my case, the news of the planned flash mob served its purpose.

My friend responded that he had doubts about certain organizations' publicity stunts, as well as the overarching purposes of many non-profit organizations, but that he was in favor of fighting the good fight. I believe my friend is a good person who does fight good fights (both in the courtroom as a lawyer and in the ring as a MMA fighter).  So this blog is not about him.

It's about a friend of his (unknown to me), who responded to the initial comment with the following. 

First:  If your dancing all day your too tired to beat the misses when you get home

I ignored that comment. I get that it was meant to be funny, even if it's not my sense of humor.

After I left my own comment, he wrote the following:

...if you need to be made aware of stuff, you prob need to get your head out of your ass. Cancer has always been around, so have starving people, child abuse, violence against women, bla bla bla if you need some people dancing in the street to remind you, your failing as a human

My first and ultimately prevailing notion was "don't feed the trolls." There are people who want nothing more than to make potentially inflammatory comments to strangers via the internet and then see what sort of debates/sludge-fests they can get into.

Are they bored? Are they conflict oriented, fed by the adrenaline rush of a well-timed, well-placed insult? Is this what fun is to them? Is it the often-blamed anonymity of the internet that causes people to say thoughtless things to people they haven't ever met?

I don't know. I admit it baffles me.

I mean, I can understand that if you're having a substantial debate with a person and you simply cannot respect or even make sense of his logic, and you're frustrated after multiple rounds of miscommunication, etc....I can see getting to a point where you feel the person is insulting your intelligence and you act on an impulse to hurl an insult. Though I wouldn't likely go that route myself, I can at least see how things might eventually come to that.

But I definitely don't understand the impulse to just tell a stranger who made a single (pretty uncontroversial) comment that she needs to get her head out of her ass and to accuse her of "failing as a human." Don't get me wrong. I was not personally offended or hurt by this person's words. I figured he must say a lot of things along these lines, and I didn't take it as a reflection on me personally.

But I admit I was intrigued. Not in the way I think most people would like for others to find them intriguing. I didn't think him captivating or articulate; I didn't want to get to know him. I suppose I just wondered how a person gets to that point in life. I wondered how he sees himself--Clearly Winning© as a human (as opposed to my failing)? Funny? Authoritative? Insightful?

Or maybe I just spend too much time thinking about things that other people simply fling out onto the interwebs without a moment's reflection or re-visitation.

Whichever it is (or neither), I just find myself wishing people would be nicer online. I heard a news story recently about extreme misogyny and sexual harassment endured by female gamers online. While many people find it off-putting, the eventual consensus seems to be that the internet is still a frontier of sorts: cruel insults issued by strangers is the way of the land; enter at your own risk; if you can't take the heat... That sort of thing.

Is it really that most of us have this hateful side inside us and we were just WAITING for a seemingly safe and consequence-free place to let off some steam?

I admit I have once committed such an infraction. I repeated things I that been told to me about somebody online, and though I thought them to be true, I know it was hurtful for the person to see them repeated in a public way, and I acknowledge that airing them served no honorable purpose. That was a lesson from which I learned plenty.

Perhaps it is in light of that experience that I can look at comments like those of my friend's friend and know that there is nothing to be gained there.

Being cruel makes you go to sleep feeling like an asshole. At least it should. It makes the world a more, rather than a less rotten place to be.

For the record, I am always in favor of the less rotten. The less rotten, the better.

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