A good chunk of my day is spent on the internet. Part of my professional job is to deliver content to intranet portals, and that includes searching for interesting information to post. My homework partially involves researching articles and journals for content for my eventual capstone project. And as a info-savvy person, I like to stay abreast of the latest news on subjects of interest — namely video games, technology, music, bargains, TV, movies and goofy-ass shit.
So it was inevitable that I would get burned out on the same information source that has become integral to my life. The burnout isn’t so much information overload — though it has played a role — as it is about the people. Much like a weary pornstar gearing up for a day/night gang-bang doubleheader, I approach each website with anxiety and caution. It’s not comforting when I wonder what person or persons will say something annoying, racist, sexist, stupid, antagonizing or a combination of the five. I believe that anonymity, combined with a lack of concern or knowledge of the message they put out there, empowers behaviors seen as unwelcome in the so-called real world. And it makes for a lot of muck to wade through.
What kinds of behaviors and communication problems are grinding my gears? Oh, there are plenty, internet reader. There are plenty:
LOL. OMG. WTF. SMH. Internet acronyms for emotions and actions have their place. Unfortunately, that place seems to be everywhere. It’s one thing to do this when texting or messaging friends on Facebook, but it comes across as lazy and silly when used as words. It’s annoying to do Google searches to understand what someone is saying to engage in conversation. It’s comparable to that coworker or boss that communicates in company/industry jargon inside and outside of work.
2. Bacon, memes and horse beating
We get it: bacon is awesome. The obsession with bacon — from heart-stopping recipes to fashion and gag gifts — online seems to parallel the rise in Muslim hate in America. (“Those Muslims want a community center near Ground Zero? RELEASE THE BACON EXPLOSION.”)
There are some things that bond people together in mass masturbatory responses. Bacon is one of them; others include Christina Hendricks’ breasteses, [insert random celebrity] hate (I’m guilty of that), and guilty pleasure admission (“Here are 10 things I like that I would never admit to my parents!”). Again, we get it. No need to beat that dead horse like it owes you money.
3. Playing Devil’s Advocate
Oh God, I hate this.
Think about the last comment you left on an article or a post on someone’s Facebook wall. For some reason, at least one person feels the need to take an opposing viewpoint — no matter what their actual beliefs on the subject are. (I’m guessing low self-esteem.) The topic can be as universal as the fact that ice cream has calories, and yet someone will debate this within an inch of their life as if their internet conversation is being broadcast on CSPAN.
There is a psychology behind this behavior, perhaps a narcissistic need for attention or validation. But that would apply to most of the internet. Any insight into this is greatly appreciated.
Communication is a tricky thing. We operate from a place of unique life experiences, backgrounds, languages and outlooks. When communicating with someone in person, for work or for school, you would not intentionally offend someone unless there is a mutual understanding. And yet it is amazing how often people fire off messages without insight into how their thoughts are being perceived.
Due to that whole anonymity thing, people are more likely to antagonize in their online relations. Laziness and/or a lack of concern for the feelings of others are to blame. These messages are read and interpreted by real people, and their reactions are real.
If people took an extra few seconds to consider their tone before responding, it would make browsing the internet more enjoyable. Hell, reading online articles on tone (like Purdue Online Writing Lab’s excellent resource) are a good start to reconsidering how to not be an internet douchebag. But if being a trolling dickface is your bag, this won’t convince you.
* * *
Reading over this rant, I appear to be an old crank that is yelling at online users to get off my lawn. But it’s all about enjoying the experience. You wouldn’t want someone to be talking loud during a movie; I relate to the internet in a similar manner. I also realize that making something better starts with yourself, and I will provide a better example. Maybe being kind to one another may start one of those internet trends, but this one will be more helpful and enjoyable than death by bacon.