In the last fortnight I’ve jettisoned two internet friends – one for posting something that I personally found appalling, the second for being unable to engage in any kind of intellectual debate without getting pissy and personal.
The first example is something that seems to be becoming annoyingly frequent – the people who share shite. Let’s call them Shitesharers. Shitesharers are not necessarily bad people, but they like to ‘inspire’ their friends with pictures of unicorns and positive messages. When I say positive messages, I don’t mean “Hey Brian, I see you’ve been having money trouble – why not get in touch with this organisation; they can help you manage your debt”, I mean messages like “Hey everyone I know, every day is a special miracle – embrace it”. Shitesharers have family and friends that they love very much, they may also have dead relatives that they miss – I know this because they share pictures of generic women/children/angels/unicorns and implore other people who love their relatives to do likewise. I’m not quite sure what they’re trying to convey with this – it seems more like online diarrhea than anything more meaningful. I imagine that the people who create these images are probably women who have houses stuffed full of pottery cats.
The people who create ‘warning’ messages, on the other hand, are playing a game: let’s see how far we can spread this bullshit. Concerned shitesharers see these warning messages and instinctively click ‘share’. This is because they think we are living in a rational world, I mean, why would anyone make this shit up, right? Unfortunately we don’t live in a rational world any more, and this stuff gets churned out as spam and we need to CHECK IT before we share it.
Back in the day, the written word was king and much of it went through some sort of validation process before it reached us; editors looked at it, sometimes lawyers would check it, academics would read it. Unless you were self-publishing pamphlets, there was a reasonable chance that another human being would at least read it before it became available for public consumption. This leads me to jettisoned friend #1, who posted a link to a blog by some crackpot who claimed that the images shot immediately after the Boston bombing clearly revealed that amputee actors were involved in a massive government cover up. I know that governments are evil, but seriously!!! Conspiracy theorists analyse the world, forgetting that these are real events – they are like a sicker version of people who watch films to find continuity errors. They forget that these are real events happening to real people. Some people seem to believe that because it’s on the internet it automatically has some sort of validity – I don’t want to be friends with people who are that dumb.
The second friend jettisoning (is that a word?) came about through more complex interactions. A photographer has published photographs of people reacting to her obesity on the street. I expressed doubts that some of the photographs were accurate, in that if you secretly take photographs of people on the street you will probably capture a million expressions – sadness, anger, disgust, weird gawpiness; all sorts of things. The photographer admitted that her method involved taking hundreds of pictures and then sifting through to find expressions of disgust. Friend #2 had posted a link to the photographer’s work and I expressed my doubts – and also concerns about all those people outed as ‘fat haters’ online. The response I got was heated, to say the least, and reminded me why I generally don’t get involved in online discussions and forums anymore. I like a good disagreement, and I will generally approach it in good humour – like a debate, or a discussion in a seminar – but some people are incapable of disagreeing without becoming utterly obnoxious and personal. I was going to say that perhaps that’s the limitation of purely written communication, but actually I just think that some people are MENTAL and they will ascribe the worst possible motives to someone because they believe that they are RIGHT and everyone else is stupid and WRONG.
If only I had my wand of reason – I could tap people on the head with it, and then they would all think like meeee and agree with meeee! Until then, I will have to make do with my baseball bat of truth, and will just have to beat good sense into people.