“To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.”-Elbert Hubbard
I adore social media. I love being social. It is absolutely amazing to me that I can talk to a friend in Malaysia about the Umbrella Revolution, while talking Scottish Indy Ref with a friend in Houston, all while talking about the local news with a friend in the UK. It’s amazing. I cut my teeth on forums and group chats and have grown and evolved with the times, but somethings just never change.
But there’s a rather unsavory side to the internet.
The comments section.
Ah, yes. A vast no man’s land of villainy and trolls. And no, I don’t mean the newest plot to a Tolkien movie. And while we all know the famous slogan of the internet: “Don’t feed the trolls.” it becomes harder and harder to do so when you realize one strange and sort of terrible fact about the social web.
When conversation and healthy discussion breaks down, everyone is a troll.
We have to look no further for an example than the most reviled of internet storm drainage units: the comments section.
Now, I don’t just mean the ones you’d expect, like CNN, Huffington Post, TIME, Mashable…I mean everyone’s. Sometimes, mine included. It’s amazing what happens when you post something that someone may or may not agree with or how very dare you have an opinion and mature conversation just breaks down. At a certain point, no one is a person anymore both parties are just in effect frightful beasts that neither would recognize as the cause of the incident. (Which is beautifully illustrated here.)
We live in a polarized world. There is no longer just one view on an issue, and that’s splendid but often times both sides of an issue have verbal jousting matches that can in fact be rather gruesome.
In addition to vast polarization, we also have the occasional moments when social media produces a comment that…to put lightly, just need not exist. My favorite example is on the topic of feminism someone wrote to an effect that women should have rights. Yes, someone in 2014 wrote that. (The story is here and it’s one hell of a read. )
So what do you do at that point? What do you say? Do you reason with them or do you just…abandon thread?
All too often, I abandon thread, and here’s why. I’m the speechless kind of person when shocked. I am often just so gobsmacked by reading a certain comment or post that I just can’t even form an intelligible reply. I basically become this embodied:
Because it’s easier.
And here we have the problem with trolling online. It’s difficult to stand up to the bully on top of the slide, it’s far easier to leave a subReddit, to abandon a forum, to delete a Tweet and to block someone from Facebook than it is to stand up to the illogical forces that have amassed at the gates. Why be the brave Romans when fighting the Visigoths when you can just turn tail and run like in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Chivalry and standing up for what you believe in are still traits amazingly not prized in the social universe.
I speak from an especially sensitive realm of internet culture and that is the fanverse.
I’m going to go ahead and say this, and it may be unpopular…I await your comments with grace but….
Fans can be some of the cruelest, rudest and least supportive people in the entire world.
There. I said it. For every girl that has had a costume criticized, every guy who struggled during a VO cover, any time someone didn’t score perfectly on a difficult level in a game, the fanverse is poised like vultures ready to descend upon your flailing carcass and rip you to shreds. (This is likely an unpopular opinion. Again, awaiting comments.)
Not all of them, but the ones that are absolute jerks often are the ones holding the mythological internet megaphone.
So what do we do? We can’t keep hiding forever and I believe the day is coming where the internet will get a little less cruel. I certainly hope so, I know I don’t plan on leaving soon and the sting and hurt of having to abandon a thread or super harsh criticism has made me shy away from certain online ventures. In the end, we all have our opinions, and what makes that wonderful is that they are our own. But it doesn’t mean that anyone else’s are somehow less valid or important. When there is similarity, we should rejoice and even when there’s not, we can at least all agree that it’s okay to have a difference of opinion. You’ll find this hard to believe, but this former debate-clubber actually dislikes argument and conflict.
Now, let’s go over what I mean. I love a strong debate. Any time when 2 or more forces can get together and talk civilly about an issue is likely one of the greatest acts of human congress to me. On the other hand, I can’t stand senseless conflict and arguments, because when both sides are yelling, no one is listening and the heart of the matter is lost entirely in all of the noise and steep heights of personal pride.
As I embark on new creative ventures, I look forward to feedback. I await discussion, because I am always growing. I don’t mind criticism, I learn from it. But if you’re trolling me, or just being mean for the sake of being mean…you can abandon this thread now. Because this ship, this ship here…this is mine, and the crew I sail with is hand-select.