Global Community, or Global Catfight?

The optimist in me wants to continue believing the Internet is a wonderful place, where people from different cultures, backgrounds, religions, and worldviews all over the world can come together in a happy global community of understanding and unconditional love, unrestricted by political or geographic boundaries.

The cynic in me knows this will never be the case, because humans online are the same as humans anywhere else – sometimes kind, but often petty and mean, and always limited by our own knowledge and experiences, our views tinted by realized and unrealized biases. The Internet has the potential to reduce us to a Hobbesian state of nature, “nasty, brutish and short.”

So which is it? In reality, it’s not an either/or but a both/and: We can participate in the global community, or we can participate in the global catfight. Both are happening simultaneously, and sometimes those who are trying to participate in the community become casualties of the catfight.

I’ve heard the above quote before, but I was happy to find it on my Twitter feed today, for Writing 101’s challenge to find inspiration on social media. Earlier today I was sad to read a farewell post from a member of my online community, about how she is leaving us, largely because the meanness of people online is adversely affecting her offline life.

I know she’s not the only one who’s had to unplug because the corrosiveness of interactions becoming overwhelming. The Internet is all kinds of paradoxes. Connected but disconnected. Together but fragmented. Social but isolated. Tolerant of all views except those that don’t follow the same creed of absolute tolerance.

Is it so hard to remember that the person on the other side of the screen is a human too? Unless of course they failed the Capcha test but let’s be clear even robots have feelings.

All of us have struggles and fears and dark places inside. None of us are perfect or all-knowing or above reproach. All of us might slip up and say something dumb, or offensive, or insensitive sometimes. None of us deserve the kind of vitriol often unleashed by Internet vigilanteism and misguided social justice warriors. We are all a little bit broken inside. So… let’s just be kind, even just a little bit, okay?

What do you think of the Internet and social media? Is it a “new way to be human” or are we going back to a “nasty, brutish and short” state of nature? A little of both? 

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11 thoughts on “Global Community, or Global Catfight?

  1. The good parts of the community, such as people like you, are why I wont stay away long. I just realize now I put my trust in too many places when before I think I would have been more cautious. I have fault in this as much as those who abused said trust…but it will be OK. No major harm done yet (other than hurt feelings, but that has been ongoing). I figure with everything else going on in my life I will just transform online at the same time.

    I’m super slow getting to comments on my blog, but thank you for the beautiful one that you left me. I’m truly lucky to have you as one of my friends in this community and no doubt we will “talk” soon on here (and I’m still on Instagram no matter what, just may be changing my name there) ❤

    1. I’m glad to hear you haven’t endured too much harm, but am genuinely sorry to hear you no longer feel safe in your own online space, but sometimes it can be nice to start fresh. You know where to find me, and I’ll continue to look forward to your awesome lego and other Instagramming!!! 😀 😀 😀

  2. I agree with Kate, you will find both sorts here as the internet is so very vast and so very many people have access. I must approve comments before they appear on my page, and if I come across a troll I either reject their comment or spam them. My page, my rules. Of course, I haven’t had enough exposure or written on very controversial topics to receive such attention, so it’s only happened once. Or, you can post the comment and respond in defense of your beliefs and against their ignorance. There are options, and the nice thing is that there IS the separation of computer screens and often cities/states/ or even counties. The positive connections I’ve made far outweigh the negative, thus far, and it would take a lot for me to throw in the towel (so to speak). Very thought-provoking piece, thanks for sharing!

    1. Being able to monitor comments is the benefit of managing your own blog – doesn’t mean you won’t be affected by seeing the comments you opt to delete, or things people post at you on Twitter or Facebook though. Thankfully I’ve also fared pretty well so far, but I’m pretty low key. It helps to participate in blog communities with other positive people. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  3. I think it’s both. A dichotomy. Because on the one hand, it can be a tool for bullying, unrestricted bigotry, and trolling. But at the same time it allows people with horrible social anxiety or who are otherwise isolated to find a community and interact with other humans. I think, like everything, it’s all a matter of intent. Every tool is a weapon if you hold it right. And vice versa.

  4. You know, it’s both. I’ve met some AMAZING, gorgeous, generous and kind people on the internet. I’ve formed strong friendships with people here and the Tiny Peppers are proof of those brilliant connections. But I’m cynical too, so I blog under a pseudonym and I’m not active or vocal enough with my opinions to attract trolls *touches wood*. While the internet is an amazing platform to meet and interact with brilliant people, it also provides a platform for angry cowards who are incapable of expressing an opinion with empathy and rationality. It’s no different to reality, it’s only the access is different. For what I have gained here, so far, it is still worth it.
    Thoughtful post, thank you.

    1. Very true that it is both. I wish I could say I don’t care about stupid trolls, but I do avoid discussing certain topics that I am passionate about because I want to keep my online space a positive environment. Thankfully it has remained that way so far!

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