The depersonalisation of the net (a rant in F minor)

by Suw on June 26, 2003

Warning! Contains strong language! (i.e. if you don’t like it, don’t read it.)

Yesterday and today have been two of the shittiest days of the year. Probably doesn’t seem like it from my posts – does it ever? – but jesus f fucking christ either someone snuck up overnight and put shit-coloured contact lenses in my eyes whilst I was asleep, or life really fucking sucks right now.

I have spent the majority of yesterday and today feeling physically sick from the stress of trying to keep my life from disintegrating, and on top of that have had to deal with people putting me through several levels of Dante’s hell because of a breakdown in communications which was not entirely my fault.

I’ve been having problems with this for a few weeks now. Posting what I thought were reasonable message board comments and then copping shit for it. The trouble is, the internet and email is all well and dandy when everyone is agreeing. We get to bask in that warm golden glow of vindication – people agree with us! We are right! We are popular! Isn’t that marvellous!

The moment one dares to disagree all normality flies out the window and before you know it you’ve got a Code:Red fracas going on with limbs and spittle flying in all directions. The internet is a supremely bad place to disagree with people. Even if your disagreement is about something really minor and generally unimportant.

I’ve fucked up on this front before, really, really badly. I had a stupid argument with a very good friend over something that wasn’t worth arguing about. We didn’t talk for months, but eventually we were forced to communicate over something important and eventually we both admitted how stupid we’d been. We made up, and we’re now very good friends again, although not without a slight feeling that we’d best both watch our tongues in the future.

Thus, I try very, very hard not to have kneejerk reactions. I try to go away, calm down and think about what I’m saying. I try to remember that there is a person on the end of my missive, however it is sent, and that they have real feelings.

That doesn’t stop me copping shit though, and not just because for all my efforts I do sometimes get it wrong, but because people just don’t like being disagreed with, and they often fail to extend the courtesy of forethought to those they are berating. And of course, once they’ve let me have the full force of their anger, well, that’s really the end of all civility.

So stuff gets said in writing, a really very permanent medium, that would never be said in person. If you and I were right now sitting in a pub on Clapham Common, discussing what to do next weekend, and if you suggested shopping and I said ?Nah, I hate shopping?, you’d likely say ?Oh well, let’s do something else then?. Moment over. No big deal.

But because words are written down, because they are permanent and can be re-read, the hurt inherent in badly chosen phrases remains fresh and available for further prodding with the sharply barbed mental stick of over-analysis. Soon enough, what was supposed to be a cooling down period of calm reflection becomes a session of self-incitement, and before you know it, you’re back in that whole char-grilled flaming row scenario all over again.

It’s just too easy to let rip, and when you add cultural confusion and the babelising effect of the Atlantic/Pacific into the mix, it’s a wonder that any internet communities last at all. I’ve seen stupid flame wars kill off otherwise really friendly and welcoming communities more than once, and I think it’s mainly down to people forgetting the humans that make up the internet, forgetting who it is that they’re aiming their vitriol at.

Of course, sometimes it’s just that you’re dealing with fuckwits who couldn’t own up to having made a mistake if their very life depended on it, and who use their own emotional fuckwittery to try to twist everything round to suit themselves. Their attack becomes their defence and nothing you can do or say is ever going to make them see that what they’ve said is out of line.

These are the people that that think ?I didn’t mean it?, means that they don’t have to apologise for having hurt you. Or that nothing they’ve said could possibly have been interpreted ?like that? because it wasn’t meant ?like that? and therefore any negative reaction you had to their posts is obviously your fault. They think that taking responsibility for what you write equates to standing by what you write, but has nothing to do with understanding, acknowledging or ?owning? the repercussions of what you write.

I hate arguments. People tend not to believe that because I am just a teensy bit opinionated. But I really hate arguments (as opposed to discussions, which are fun). So I tend to be the person to apologise and extend the olive branch, even when I do not believe I am in the wrong. I also tend to withdraw from situations when I’m lucky enough to be able to see in advance that they’re turning nasty.

But lately, even those tactics have got me nothing but huge dumpsters (you know, those really, really big ones that they used when they were clearing the pit ready for the Eden Project, those ones where the wheels are taller than a very tall man) depositing their over-sized load of brown stinking steaming shite all over me.

I’m starting to think that there’s something in the air, or the water, or the stars, that’s made everyone ultra-crabby right now. I don’t know very many people who aren’t going through some sort of pointless and unnecessary crap at the moment. Whatever it is that’s causing this, I wish it would just fucking piss off and leave me in peace.

I don’t need this shit, really I don’t.

And I guess you don’t either. If you’ve made it this far, congratulations and thank you for your perseverance. You might not necessarily feel any better for having read this, but I certainly do for having written it. So thanks for that – it’s been quite cathartic. 😉

A visitor June 26, 2003 at 10:14 pm

don't let it get you down. it's only one's and zeroes.

Gary Turner []

A visitor June 27, 2003 at 12:42 am

I'm with Gary. The world is filled with people who are unencumbered by the thought process. Let me offer a stress relief technique that may help you through.

Picture yourself near a stream.

Birds are softly chirping in the crisp cool mountain air.

Nothing can bother you here. No one knows this secret place.

You are in total seclusion from that place called “the world.”

The soothing sound of a gentle waterfall fills the air with a cascade of serenity.

The water is clear.

You can EASILY make out the face of the person whose head you're holding under the water.

Look. It's the person who caused you all this stress in the first place.

What a pleasant surprise. You let them up… just for a quick breath…

then ploop!…back under they go…

You allow yourself as many deep breaths as you want.

There now… feeling better?

Ken []

A visitor June 27, 2003 at 6:03 am

Suw, cheer up. Your written comments this week lead me to Elliott Smith.

Communication isn't all downside. Cheers for the tip, I'm balancing out nicely.

Tim Harding []

Suw June 27, 2003 at 7:39 am

Thank you, thank you, guys! It was nice to wake up this morning to such supportive comments, and from three people I've never met too! Restores my faith in the human side of the internet.

Ken – that's a great technique. I've used it already and it's so effective! Thanks! 😀

A visitor June 27, 2003 at 3:41 pm

Honest guv ….. it'll all be better after two weeks in “The Thcity” ….

arf arf arf

That Friend You Fell Out With []

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