Life,  Tech

I Blame the Internet

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But I’m not sure how to fix it.

Maybe I should reel back a little bit. It’s not a new problem I’m talking about, but it seems to get worse every day. There was a time, I think, when people were mostly polite to each other. But that day seems to be kind of in the past. There is a lack of respect for individual people by individual people. I’ll give an example.

A while back, we brought home a new pet, a ball python, a chunky, docile little snake who will never get appreciably bigger than the 3-ish feet long she is now. She’s cute, and I think reptiles are neat, and so I blogged about it and posted. And in among the various likes and positive comments, I had a couple of friends who felt the need to comment negatively, and not just some innocuous little comment about how they didn’t like snakes, which I could have lived with. One who suggested, and not terribly politely, that I was out of my mind and what was wrong with me? Another went so far as to say that if such an animal came into their house it would be dealt with in summary fashion, likely being chopped up into little bits.

I got publicly irritated with both of them. One of them possibly to the point where they may have snoozed me or blocked me. I’m okay with that. Keep thinking you’re an animal lover when you can laugh off telling me one of my pets was only good for killing.

In what social context is it essentially okay to be a dick to someone and tell them that their opinion or thing they like, not only doesn’t matter to you, but is worth your time to denigrate?

I blame Internet.

It’s mostly not anonymous anymore, if it ever really was, but it seems to have taught us to behave however we feel like behaving, say whatever we feel like saying, because there are no consequences. It’s not a real interaction so I can say whatever I want. Free speech, you know, freedom of expression.

To which I remind you that free speech isn’t freedom from consequences.

You are absolutely free to say whatever you want, think whatever you want, do whatever you want, so long as you’re willing to accept the consequences. I’m free to disagree with you, and free to do it out loud if I don’t like your opinion, particularly when it pertains to something that matters to me. It’s entirely reasonable for me to tell you that I think you’re being an asshole. And if you get offended, well, too bad.

There is an old, old cliché that runs along the lines of if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. I like a slightly modified version: if you can’t say something nice, say something nice about someone else.

Now, I am almost famous for trying to see things in a positive light, the best light I possibly can. I do get irritable, and I do get grouchy, I do have issues sometimes with people, places, things, processes, whatever. But I try to pay attention to what’s coming out of my mouth or keyboard, regardless of what’s going on my head. I am a firm believer in Wheaton’s law. It’s the same cliché, but expressed in more modern terms, and very succinctly. Wheaton’s law: don’t be a dick.

Seems pretty simple, doesn’t it? I don’t understand why it’s getting hard for individuals in our society not to be dicks to each other.

Where, exactly, along the line did we collectively get the idea that not only do I have the right to express my opinion, but that I’m entitled to an audience, that anybody who happens to be nearby has to listen to it?

Sure, you have the right to express your opinion, but why should I care what that opinion is? Why should I have to listen to it? Why, having been forced to listen to it at some point, should I have to agree with it or accept it?

The answers is quite simple, actually. I don’t have to listen. If I do hear, I don’t have to agree. If I don’t agree, I’m just as free to tell you that as you were to express yourself in the first place.

And sometimes I will.

Recent experience shows me, however, that there’s a good chance that if I call you on being a dick, your interpretation of that is going to be that I’m the one being a dick. Well, I can probably live with that. If you can’t, it’s kind of not my problem.

Sometimes, if you can’t say something nice, and instead choose to say something that isn’t nice, the appropriate response is actually for me to tell you to shut the fuck up. I’m sorry if that offends you, and I’m not usually going to go straight to that, but we might arrive there eventually. I’ll regret going there, but not for long, and not stress too hard about it after the fact.

In Wheaton’s name, be well, everyone.

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