The Internet – its power to heal or hurt

I am on facebook every day, for quite a significant amount of time. If I’m not actively working my page, then I’m checking it every half hour or so just in case. Just in case of what I don’t know but facebook is addictive as we all know and, well you have to check your page often don’t you…?

One thing that constantly amazes me is the way people are hurt or offended by the actions or words of other people. It’s as if the general population really do expect everyone to be nice, friendly and helpful all of the time and when they’re not, they’re surprised, hurt and angry. The thing that people just don’t seem to grasp, is that people aren’t nice, friendly and helpful. In fact people are normally the opposite and I’ve found that to expect otherwise is idiotic at best, and downright suicidal at worst. It’s a dog eat dog world out there and the internet revolution has enabled us to be more vindictive than we ever thought possible back in the day when we had to actually converse with people face to face. When I was growing up I had to actually talk to people and if I had a problem with anyone I had to deal with it and them physically. Being a non confrontational sort of person meant I tended to let things slide more often than not but conflicts did occur from time to time and when they did, I had nothing to hide behind. Nowadays the internet allows us all to be brave, pro active and downright aggressive if we desire to be, and the temptation must be extreme if you are the sort of person that has never had the balls to actually confront anyone in person. It’s so easy to be assertive online that anyone can do it.

People are now able to show their true colours like never before and so many are taking full advantage that an average day on facebook is tantamount to going into battle. Each and every day I piss at least one person off and get pissed off by at least another couple. Facebooking is fast becoming a stressful way to spend my spare time. There are so many weird and wonderful people on the internet and the popularity of social networking sites such as facebook make it so easy for these people to make their presence felt. when I was growing up, each town had it’s fair share of weirdos and oddities and they tended to keep themselves to themselves and everyone knew to keep out of their way, but nowadays the internet has given them the opportunity to scream their weirdness to the masses worldwide and they are taking full advantage.

With the ability to create completely false identities, social networking sites allow us to be whomever we want to be without the ever present chance of being found out that we had to worry about back in the day. One can create any number of facebook accounts and every one of your alter egos gets it’s voice heard..! Equally astounding is the fact that so many of these weirdos have entourages of willing and flaccid hangers on who make all the right noises and so encourage the weirdness even further. Many of them are just so weird that they are funny and it is not these that I worry about. The ones that worry me are the ones who use the internet to bully and demean others who may not have the ability to stand up for themselves. I have been bullied a few times on facebook and I admit that at times it has upset me to know that there are people out there who get a kick out of having influence on the emotions of other people without the possibility of a backlash. As time goes on I get more used to it and am able to brush it off more easily these days but I often see others who are obviously terribly upset at something one of their ‘friends’ has said to them. When you don’t have to worry about whether you are going to get a knock on the door, it’s so easy to express your darkest emotions at the expense of another and for every one that disappears off your facebook ‘friend’ list, there are ten others who will agree and laugh with you.

It’s as if we, as a species, are losing the ability to converse naturally. Nowadays we don’t write letters, we don’t phone people and we don’t talk and it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if we didn’t soon evolve without mouths at all…! With texting, e mails and now social networking, what use are mouths..? Without the visible feedback from conversing face to face, how can people learn how to behave socially? Human beings are social creatures; we are pack animals and cannot survive alone but today’s lifestyle seems to be trying to make us into solitary creatures. This can only lead to our downfall and at worst, it could mean the breakdown of society in general as we continue to do our interacting virtually and without the instant feedback that physical interaction gives us. I now find myself feeling more at ease communicating via text, e mail or social networking than I do on a face to face basis and that is worrying.

In order to try to counteract this, I have a little thing I do sometimes that helps me. Whenever I have to pop out to the shop I make a pact with myself that I will make myself actually converse with someone, anyone, about anything at all before I get back home. This has become easier over time and now it’s not so much of a problem for me as it was when I first tried it. Even if I just say a couple of words to someone at the checkout, so long as I actually talk and make something resembling a conversation, I go home happy with myself. Conversation is a dying art and I want to try to keep it alive if I can.

So what’s that got to do with being aggressive online..? Well it’s all about being real as opposed to being fake and that’s the relevant point here. Most of us wouldn’t have the nerve to be aggressive to people face to face as quickly as we do online. That’s because when we talk and interact face to face, we have to consider the other person’s feelings and we have to be aware that if they react badly to what we say or do, we may get either embarrassed or hurt or both..! Because most of us are cowards at heart, we don’t want to be embarrassed or punched in the face, so we moderate our language accordingly and that is what is missing when we interact online.

It is human nature to be a bit competitive. We have this inner need to keep up with the Jones’s and be better than the next person but when it’s done online without the usual signals that encourage us intuitively to moderate our language or actions, it quickly and easily gets out of control and that’s when people get hurt. When you are constantly having your feelings hurt by comments online, it can influence how you interact when you do meet people face to face and any reactions you display then influence the other person, who then has their feelings hurt and so they carry that to their own interactions, and so on and so forth. In this way, the social structure of modern society slowly and inexorably begins to crumble until we have de-evolved into the grunting savages that we so proudly proclaim to have left behind.

The one thing that you can never get across online, is the subtle meaning of your words. You may have meant it as a joke, but your written words alone often don’t get such subtleties across and more often than not, people get the wrong end of the stick and take offence even where none was intended. I’ve had this happen to me many times and have learned to make an effort to make sure the intended meaning of what I’m saying, is obvious in my comments. I’ve had my jokes and funny comments taken completely the wrong way and have had irate ‘friends’ sending me angry emails more than once. Conversely, there have been times when someone has pissed me off so much that I have fully intended to piss them off in revenge, but they’ve either refused to take the hint or just ignored it.

It just goes to show that the human ego is a fragile thing and the internet gives us a never before seen opportunity to take advantage of that. Whether we do that with good intentions or bad, is down to each individual at the end of the day but I fear that now the revolution has begun, there’ll be no going back. I fear for our social structure and am noticing more and more that the internet is making me more reclusive each and every day..!

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