Friday, September 26, 2014

I've been using the Internet wrong.

I've been using the Internet wrong.
I've suspected it for a while. A recent article prompted me to think a little deeper, look more inward, on how I interact with the Web. It was a Facebook post that starts, "America has become the land of the perpetually offended," by Jim Wright of Stonekettle Station:
I first met Jim when we were sharing posts about the mass shootings hitting the news so frequently over the last couple years. I shared my own experience as a LEO, an armed private security guard and trainer, and a mercenary in Iraq in 2004. But I digress...
Back in 1988, when I discovered the Internet, it was mostly mailing lists and USENET. There was even a BBS or two that I visited -- all via 2400 baud modem and a dumb terminal.
While there is a flood of information, the actual interactions of most Netizens hasn't changed. Actually, it's gotten worse.
While the Internet and all it contains is amazingly useful information, research, discusson and work it's also something else. It's a perpetual, ever ending, self-feeding, offended outrage machine.
I've found myself, especially over the last few years, drawn in, time and time again, over this offense, that outrage. In some cases there was clearly someone wrong on the Internet and it needed to be fixed (yeah, right). But mostly, it was outrage after outrage. My friend @courtnee has mentioned this too.
I've come to the realization that, especially on places like Facebook, Google+ and potentially, new places like this, can turn into nothing more than fuel for the Outrage Machine. Are there things that truly deserve our outrage and, this is key, our attention and energy? Absolutely. It is only through sharing issues and challenges in our society, by communicating about them, that we get visibility and, hopefully, eventually, some action.
But a lot of it, a vast majority, is just information meant to poke, to prod, to entertain, and to outrage. It's toxic, I'm coming to understand, reading headline, after link-bait, after shared article, after stupid comment (I'm doing much better at not even looking at comments anymore on any newspaper article or story). Someone committed a horrific crime, someone said something stupid about equal rights, women, homosexuality, or politics.
Ick. Done with feeding at that trough for the most part. The world is vast, the challenges many, and the opportunities for useless and fruitless outrage so very, very many. But that is only if we eat, consume and contribute the never ending cycle of sharing, of promoting offense and outrage, of entertaining myself with conflict.
Don't need it. Don't want it. Time to wean off of it.
Outrage and offensensitivity does not serve my life.