I realize, more and more, that the internet is a bad place. I don’t
mean with respect to child molesters and spammers, I mean with respect
to it offers little in the way of reality. People, more and more, are
turning to places like their blogs, facebook, twitter, and expecting
it to be a perfect replacement for reality. You know, the reality
where we meet friends at coffee shops, hang with neighbors at picnics,
go out to dinner with our spouse or nice date?
Why am I so angry when I don’t get above a certain threshold of email
messages or comments on facebook? Why is it normal that my husband
and I come home from a long day at work and sit in front of our
respective computers without talking? Where has the sense of
community gone in our lives?
The traditional “community” of family, friends, neighbors is gone.
Sure, we still have these people in our lives, but things are nothing
like the 1950s June Cleaver-esque ideal. Families don’t all live and
die in the same town that they grew up in. We don’t have
grandparents, cousins, aunts or uncles right down the block. If we’re
lucky, we live in the same region.
The truth is, though, as humans, we’re animals. We haven’t changed
much in the last 10,000 years. We used to rely on our evolved way of
living, with our community that supported and nurtured each person.
No one really fell through the cracks unless they were dead weight.
That’s how we evolved and hopefully still are evolving. As a result,
we’re not comfortable being in isolation. People who are neglected
and isolated have bad things happen to them because that’s just not
how people are supposed to be. So, instead of being lonely and
isolated, which is the way culture and technology are trying to push
us – longer hours at the office, a hellish commute, suburbs – we
desperately need to feel part of something. We reach out across the
internet to friends on other sides of the continent, in different
countries, to try to reach a common thread and build a friendship.
For some of us, this is pretty cool and it works.
Unfortunately, some folks who would normally be socially isolated
start to act out in this new community. Kate’s blog was hijacked.
Dutch’s photos were swiped. Thordora’s privacy was invaded. I hear
more and more about people doing strange things. I don’t know if it’s
because they’re missing a few tacos from their combo platter or if
they’re just desperate for the attention. I suspect, for most people,
bad – even nasty – behavior on the internet is the result of
loneliness. If they could just make themselves felt in the real world,
even if that real world is in another country and they’ve never met
you before or even sent you email, well, then to them it’s like
As for the ethics of it all, it’s not like the real world where, when
you see someone being mugged you’re actually seeing them being mugged!
No one is who they appear to be on the internet. It’s like House
always says, “Everybody Lies”. It’s especially true in internet land.
I would argue that, for all of the people who commented on your
tweet, there were many times more people who said to themselves,
“Whatever. She’s anonymous, I’m anonymous.” There isn’t anything
wrong with it. It’s necessary for us to block these things lest we
become consumed with the misery of the world. Again, we’re human and
we’ve evolved. Right?
Guest post by my good friend, Miss Pudding. (mmmmm pudding….)