What do you do when someone’s wrong on the internet? Is there a protocol in place yet? Naturally you’ll yearn to correct them, to help their views align closer to yours. Because our views are right, right? Or do you watch the shitstorm unfold from a comfortable chair? Perhaps with a tumbler of brandy on the rocks? At what point does someone’s logic tip so far from magnetic north that you can’t help but reach out an arm to help adjust them back to a happy median? Do we have any kind of duty to inform, educate and entertain those who seek otherwise? What if they’re promoting potentially hurtful views or societally harmful notions? Is it then the point at which we need to step in and help out, in the defence of those who might otherwise be too afraid to speak up for themselves? What if someone’s doing a fine job of digging their own grave, but the allure of heaping on another clump of dirt is irresistible? If their obstinate refusal to be a human and look at the wider ramifications of what they’re saying, what then? Is that finally the time?
Many things happened today, but by far the most fascinating was the Facebook “discussion” I was privy to. It was insane. Some guy posted an essay length disagreement with a meme that was posted and this thing took off. Now the meme basically likened the importance of consent to sex to breathing’s importance while swimming. Just click the link, you’ll get it pretty quickly. This guy did not. I figured it was an easy enough concept to grok but holy shit did this go on a wild ride. It’s a touchy subject, right? But this dude took it upon himself as a one man army to argue the semantics of the point. I’m guessing he was some form of android or replicant, given his utter lack of awareness. I don’t understand when it becomes more important to “score points” on the internet than to consider the feelings of those you’re riling up. I don’t even think trolling covered it, given the 30+ essay length responses he gave to each and every person pointing out the flaws in his logic. People swarmed around giving well nuanced and poignant rebuttals, which he wilfully refused to acknowledge. Then he tried playing the victim at every opportunity, creating straw man examples of just how rude everyone had been to him. He repeatedly claimed the long arm of the thought police was controlling language for all.
It was both infuriating and too tempting to not follow. The whole thing smacked of some 20 year old university student who’d finally learned some $10 words and wanted a chance to take them for a walk. Seeing endlessly insightful comments from friends refuting his aggressively obtuse rants was all types of inspiring. Seeing people band together in a compassionate community fashion was something else. Maybe Watchmen‘s Ozymandias was right. Strong, widespread connection can be forged from a great loss. In this case, time and emotions. This guy must have spent a whole day typing responses. Scrolling through the thread was exhausting enough, but to have spent so much of yourself trying to get the message through. Let’s just say they’ll all sleep well tonight.
Speaking of which, I should do the same. I need my rest. Someone might be wrong on the internet tomorrow.