Over the past few weeks, I have spent a lot of time away from the computer. Some of that was not by design – some of it was quite intentional. What I am looking to address is the intentional part of that. Many of you who read my blog, or have listened to my podcast, know that my mundane career has been focused in the area of technology. So, for me to say that I have been intentionally stepping away from my computer – a location I have been quite comfortable with over the last twenty-five years of my life – is an odd statement indeed. There’s a lot behind that though….
Slowly, over a LOT of time, I have noticed that people are becoming far more adept at using attacking language in their interactions with others – specifically in the online format. As the Internet allows for a large degree of anonymity, its only natural for people to use that anonymity as a shield against the repercussions that would be typical of hurtful and hateful language within discourse. After all, let’s be somewhat clear – I use the moniker “Tommy Elf” rather than my real name of “Thomas Van Hook”. Why? Because I like the nickname, its been with me for a large portion of my life, and honestly I am far better known by it than my own real name. I could easily use my moniker as a means to launch hateful tirade after tirade against whatever political platform I disagreed with, or against specific individuals. I don’t. But I definitely could.
And to be blunt – many others definitely do just that. And it spills into every social media platform out there. I have an acquaintance that constantly re-tweets pro-Israeli statements from others every single day. To the tune of eight to ten re-tweets a day. Who he believes he is getting to change their opinion of the Israel-Hamas issue…I have no idea. And his example is a far subtle one compared to that of many others. And it happens on Facebook, Google-Plus, blog postings, directed Emails, and on and on.
To be fair, I don’t have a problem with people voicing their opinions on issues. I do have a problem with the manner in which it is done. President Obama is a filthy Muslim. Hillary Clinton is a shrill bitch. Former President George W. Bush Jr. is a moron. LGBTQ people are an abomination and an affront to God. Libtards are a joke. Re-puke-litans are a bigger joke. …and the list goes on and on, as well as getting far more hateful in tone.
Back in the mid 1990s, I used to listen to AM radio to hear a variety of viewpoints on the topics of the day. Gradually, the shared aspect of viewpoints disappeared – to be replaced by one-view statements made by the program hosts, along with extremely hateful interaction with those who braved the moment to make a contrary perspective. Suddenly, the airwaves went from providing a spectrum of perspectives, to becoming the audio version of the Gods-awful television program: The Morton Downey Jr. Show. One viewpoint, disparaging and degrading all other viewpoints that provided a different perspective. And now I see this within the social media aspect of the Internet.
There are several people on my friends-list that enjoy debating and arguing over this or that little aspect of some topic. They seemingly enjoy scoring some invisible aspect of “points” over others. As if there were an invisible scoreboard that an audience may consult to see which side is winning. Perhaps, I am from a different planet…my preference is to have a discussion to not only find common ground with another person, but to also find out our differences – including the distance between us on those differences. That will provide me with an understanding for better communicating with that person in the future – utilizing a frame of reference to effectively communicate a point or topic with them. Instead, it seems that the primary preference is to approach conversation from the perspective of professional wrestling: loud, arrogant and fake.
So why I have I stepped away from a lot of Internet communications? The same reason I will get up and walk away from a discussion that turns into a debate. When the terrain turns into something I find to be unhelpful to a conversation, I step back and find other productive uses for my time. I have no desire to endless debate over the rightness or wrongness of issues that are barely relevant to the topic at hand. I’m quite sure it works for others – I have watched them do so. I’d honestly rather watch a good movie than be subjected to the poor acting skills that passes for professional wrestling. The same holds true for a conversation over a debate.