Tuesday, October 16, 2012

What is happening to us?

May I gripe for a moment?  Not really a rant; I am not angry, I am just sad.

     Let me first say- I love technology.  I love the internet.  I embraced it when it first became widely available.  I love that it lets me talk to, and get to know, people from all over the country and all over the world.  I started out in Usenet.  Are any of you old enough to remember that?  I then "graduated" to groups on MSN, Yahoo and AOL and on and on.  I met some of the best people I have ever known (Ames, Amy, Julie et al) through these groups and still keep in touch with them even after our groups became defunct.  I can never adequately explain how much the gift of their friendship, that would never have happened with out ye olde internet, means to me.  

     One of the things I have always enjoyed is a good discussion/ debate.  From discussions as tame as "What kind of laundry detergent do you use and why?" and "What book should I read next" to really heated debates on topics such as "Pro-Choice vs. Anti-Choice" and Gay Marriage most have been really interesting as you see what other people think and where they come from.  Unfortunately, as the internet has evolved, debates and discussion have devolved.  

     Back in the day, trolls were fairly obvious.  You could "play" with them or ignore them but they were fairly harmless.   The biggest problem is that the trolls had the anonymity of their screen name to hide behind and it made them bold.  With that anonymity came the "ability" to be rude, to poke at topics to stir things up, to be obnoxious.  Every once in a while admins would have to play "Whack a Troll" and boot them out if they got really bad but for the most part groups were a fairly safe place to talk and discuss.

     I don't know if it's the outgrowth of the original trolls or if the fact that the world is so comfortable with  the internet but the bile that I see online these days truly nauseates me.  This being an election year means there are literally thousands of examples of this.  Pick any post about the candidates or about the individual issues and read through the comments.  No matter which "side" you are on, almost every discussion begins with a back and forth exchange and within moments devolves into name calling, cursing, CAPS FRENZY as people "yell" their point.  It gets very, very nasty almost every time.  I have also seen a huge uptick in posts essentially shoving religious points of view down everyone's throat.  Maybe they were already there and I just didn't notice but it is not a sharing, caring kind of post.  It's not "God loves you".  It's more like "If you believe in XYZ you are not a Christian."  or "How dare you call yourself a Christian if you vote for so and so." or "If you don't believe ABC you are a heathen and going straight to hell"   It's rude, it's judgmental and quite frankly it's offensive.  I find that it's doing more to divide any and all faiths (and those who don't believe) than anything else.  Like the political posts, it starts to get nasty when someone replies "Just because YOUR church believes this, doesn't make it right" or "If you believe that fairy tale, you are an idiot" and just goes from there.  

     The straw that broke the camel's back for me and is making me consider if it's time to step away from social media for a while is the viral video by a young lady named Amanda Todd.  If you haven't seen it, it's incredibly sad.  This young lady made a video about the bullying she had been enduring for years.  She made some mistakes- and admits them in the video- and was mercilessly bullied for them.  Moving to a new town, more than once, didn't stop it.  Changing cell numbers didn't stop it.  Disabling her facebook page (and then creating a new one) so that those people were not on there didn't stop it.  She talks about the pain, she talks about how it lead to her cutting herself to release that pain, she talks about everything she did to disassociate herself from her bullies and how they essentially stalked her and made her life a living hell.  Posting her video was not only a cry for help but was also a strong statement about bullying.  Watching it made me angry.  Watching it made me want to fight for this little girl.  Knowing that a few weeks later this little girl was so despondant that she committed suicide is just heartbreaking.   But it doesn't end there.  This video touched a lot of people- and it also brought out the animals.  If you read the walls on the Facebook pages that were made in her memory, if you read comments under the articles, you will see that for every 5 or so "good" comments, there are so many vile comments that it will turn your stomach.  Even in death this child is still being bullied; but now it's gone global so how much worse is that?  Her parents can see this.  Her friends can see this.  I cannot imagine the extra heaping of pain this causes them. The other night I was reading a follow up article and the comments made me so sick that I literally turned off my computer.  That makes me sad.  I love social media.  I love Pinterest and Facebook, Linked In and Instagram.  I don't want to give them up but I don't know how much longer I can wade through this mud to find the true discussions.  

     What has happened to us?  When did this become "okay"?  Do these people not realize that, specifically on Facebook, their true names are out there for the world to see what kind of people they really are and that if they are posting anonymously they can be found out?  Do they think they are "protected" by the first amendment?  They are not.  There's an article on the Huffington Post today that the well known "Biggest Troll on Reddit" was outed by Gawker and subsequently lost his job because his company did not want to be associated with his online persona.  I have to say- I can completely understand his employers points.   Personally,  I have found this very enlightening.  I have discovered that people that I thought I knew were the kind of people who will condemn you in a minute if you do not believe what they believe.  I have discovered that some people are not who I thought they were.  This too makes me sad because I cannot look at them with the same respect that I had before all of this.  I am just sitting here shaking my head because I just don't understand how anyone can feel that this vitriol is acceptable.    That's it.  That's all I've got.  I would love to hear if you have noticed this as well, or if it's just me.  


Miss Dazey said...

AMEN to this. I couldn't agree more that the online world has gotten BAD! I keep thinking us good guys will unite and change the online bad guys.

Julie Faulds said...

Gosh I hope so Miss Dazey! Unfortunately many people won't just ignore those people and rather feed into it. Maybe if we ignored them they would GO AWAY! LOL

Melissa Marsh said...

I've noticed it, too, and I'm so tired of one side of the political aisle thinking that "their" candidate can do no wrong, never lies, etc. They all need a good dose of reality! But oh, the comments are just horrifying. I used to get sucked into the debates, but I had to quit. Nastiness was just too much...plus, when you get sucked into that world, you tend to want to strike back when you're slimed, but that only feeds the frenzy. I had to stop debating. I "unliked" or "hid" those particular hot button sites from my FB wall so I wouldn't be tempted. It was a hard lesson to learn, but I'm so glad I stayed away. It takes the focus off of what I should be focusing on - my family, my writing, dealing with my RA, etc.

Liz Nameth said...

Glad to hear it's not just me! I unliked all of the political and religious pages on FB. Sadly, we are seeing the results of 100 years of progressively dumbed down education. The gentleman's art of debate in polite society is a thing of the past. It just breaks my heart.

Amy D said...

You are one of the smartest ladies I know.