Someone said something to me once at a festival a few years back and it always stuck with me. I’d been chatting to a few people whom where a number of years older than me whom had been teenagers through the 80’s. A woman said to me, ‘If I’d had twitter, or facebook, or the tools you young people have to rally others, Thatcher would have fallen’. And ever since she said that to me…I’ve always been fascinated….with the online world of the internet.
And the internet ay, it’s a funny old place. It’s full of lots of things. Like idiots falling of their skateboards, a whole website about a book of faces, you can watch cats doing funny things or, if that doesn’t tickle your fancy; get very cross about things.
Every so often, much like our delightful local bus service, something happens which everyone get’s rather angry about and gets on that bus. And it’s funny sort of bus where everyone feels like they should get on it, without realising firstly why they are on the bus, where it’s going and who they are on the bus with.
I’ve always been quite fascinating by the idea of two online states of mind, anger and hate. Anger being the sorts of things you read on youtube comments and hate being the sort of outrage that happens in 140 characters or a bookface status when someone says something on TV. And the reason I’ve been fascinated with these two ideas if because I’ve always been confused to why exactly this sort of behaviour happens.
Hate is rather more of a simpler one to explain I think. And my theory comes down to a basic human feeling, the feeling of self-preservation. It’s the reason that people would text a difficult message to a love one rather than speak to them; why an email is often better than saying difficult things face to face. We avoid open confrontation because to an extent it’s in our nature. It’s why people write facebook’s status’s about a whole variety of things but never say it in real life. Confidence and the barrier of the internet from spotting person x hitting person y in the face.
The result, depressingly, is pretty obvious to find. Youtube is a wash of angry comments left by people whom feel comfortable behind a key board. Many enjoy the antagonistic arguments as a result, many do it to provoke responses, many take a sadistic pleasure out of doing it. It’s easy to throw the phrase ‘trolling’ around but I think there is something much deeper than that behind why certain people act online in a certain way. And in a way, online hate, though pretty horrific, can be explained in way how the online world has changed the way we interact with other. We’ve become worse at human interaction and face to face conversation. Some may say the online community is a haven for people whom can’t community to interact and be together. Some would argue the internet is a place to hide in and inflict this hate onto those who cannot respond in a way which makes you question your own decisions.
Online anger however, is a rather different thing. Ever watched twitter during Question Time, or Prime Ministers Questions, or the latest Channel 4 circus, or when there is a debate or panel show. It astonishes me on a weekly basis how angry people become about all sorts of things, often condensed into 140 characters. In a strange way, as facebook was once the great hub of these sorts of things, we’ve sort of migrated over to the great campaigning tool of twitter. And in a way that’s sort of a mistake. Because people get so angry in what people say on twitter, without trying to piece together what can and cannot be said in the space of a sentence-and a short one at that. It amazes me that intelligent, clever people are often so offended when someone makes a statement of twitter that is clearly a fragment of the argument. I’ve seen campaigners, politicians, broadcasters from both the left and right side of the political sphere attack, be attacked and be offended by the smallest of statements. I find a sort of irony, if that’s the right thing, in the fact we’ve condensed out arguments down to 140 characters, almost in the same way we’ve condensed our ability to think beyond it.
This isn’t to say however, we should abandon our online activity. People my age are the first generation of young people to have such access to technology at our fingertips. Never before have we had the ability to connect with so many people and them with us. Never before have we had so much access to technology and information at our control. Never have we had to much influence and the potential change. But I would argue are we using it rightly. I personally don’t see the point of a blog to try and solve a problem, or a few tweets, or a facebook status here and there. I see it as a tool to convey your ideas, not the your ideas to be immersed in the tool itself. We should never give up the causes we believe in and social media for all it’s faults gives us so many tools to help promote and bring awareness to things that otherwise would have been left forgotten and hidden away.
Interestingly, I became interested in the world of online hate and anger when the Kony2012 video came into creation. Never before had such a campaign risen and then fallen in such a short time. People where trapped between a force of a ‘on paper’ good idea against a online community whom were primed to pull it apart. I have no idea whether the project really was a good or bad thing. Shamefully I was more interested in the reaction. People almost took pleasure in pulling it apart, as opposed to others whom took it upon themselves to be great social campaigners through clicking share. Which brings me to my final point.
Take hate and anger. Take the online community. Take campaigns and causes and believe. Take people day to day. Why do I have this almost sad feeling that really I wonder if they should be left apart. Kony2012 was a example of the best online viral campaign that failed. A combination of hope and angry wrapped in the concept of something going viral. Real chance comes to slow work, from conversations, from working hard, grinding results and trying to achieve change in a world obsessed with process and digital inter-action. I don’t think the online world should be the focus for change or social interaction. I’ve always feared facebook instead of aiding community is really destroying and twitter in a scary way again almost…reduces the ability to say and articulate meaning into nothing really.
I often don’t understand online outrage. Because it doesn’t really achieve anything. Really. As all of these things there is example occasionally where chance is achieved through pressure and on-mass support. We’ve become desensitised to that of shock because the internet is flooded with it. I wish we wouldn’t get so angry online. I wish we weren’t so hateful. I wish we’d actually thing about the things we’re saying and what we wan’t to achieve. I wish we’d stop thinking a blog or a post, or a tweet, or an article or a video would solve all the problems or annoyances we have. And I wish we’d actually stop typing and actually fucking do something.