“The psychologists call it ‘deindividuation.’ It's what happens when social norms are withdrawn because identities are concealed.” And, “The implications of those liberties, of the ubiquity of anonymity and the language of the crowd, are only beginning to be felt.”
For me, these two sentences summed up Tim Adams’s article “How the internet created an age of rage.”
It reminds me of a featured article in the latest issue of Outside, that speaks out against cyber-bullying in the form of Instagram comments. I must admit that my first reaction was, “Oh brother. Are you serious? Why are these athletes (who make their living off their sponsorships, who are probably required to have accounts for that reason) taking these comments so seriously?” Well, I decided to try and put myself in their shoes, and perhaps now also Stewart Lee’s shoes, and consider for a moment how I might feel if people asked me how many cocks I had to suck in order to get on the cover of some magazine. I’d probably delete the comment and move on. Cyber-bullying, like a lot of things in life, too, gets old though. And I have compassion for these people who are having to deal with such bologna. What a waste of time it must be to pilfer through comments and delete the nasty ones, for instance. It is, unfortunately, another example of how our world is slipping away from itself.
Of course, I’m still speaking from a position of someone without a social media account. I do have this website though, and if I’m being completely honest, it freaks me out that now people can Google me and pictures from this website pop up. Whatever, though. I certainly don’t spend time worrying about who is commenting what, whether or not they are some internet troll or some asshole in the Bay Area. I feel lucky, relieved, and possibly more accepted because of this perhaps.
It seems to boil down to respect and reputation. It already requires a great deal of energy to maintain character in person, and it seems now we must stretch ourselves even thinner to keep our online lives in tact. Sigh. It’s abstract. It’s complicated. It’s even harder to do, I’m sure, when thousands and thousands of users have access to a comment feed, each one with their very own precious opinion about a posted picture.
I like how this article ends because it stresses that writers need to own their work (and I guess we should count minimal word count comments, too): “Generally, though, who should be afraid to stand up and put their name to their words? And why should anyone listen if they don't?”
People tend to be quick to judge as it is, and being the well-practiced swipers and double-clickers we have become, I believe this bad habit has been silently encouraged.
Let us all strive to become more aware, articulate, and perhaps most of all, nice.