The events of the last two years have shown the Internet is going through some growing pains. Things not anticipated, because the Internet was so full of optimism and happy thoughts in the 90s and early 00s. We were finally getting quality content! We were seeing images larger than a postage stamp, and we were receiving them in less than an hour! Sites began to focus themselves on topics, arrange themselves into groups (“networks”), and generally up the ante.
But underneath it all, there were hate-groups were collecting like-minded bigots and building recursive-feedback loops of poison and lies, and incels complaining about the fact that women weren’t throwing themselves at them to the point of encouraging violence and hatred against women for just not giving them what they want, and human-trafficking groups trading children and women like things to possess, and even worse things in the Dark Web, where everything is for sale.
The Internet brought out the best in people, and the worst. And the best is amazing – the ability to find a restaurant anywhere, to speak to people across the world in meaningful ways, to share knowledge and collaborate and be creative.
But the best can also be used for the worst. Twitter is full of hateful contrarians, who pick fights just to separate us. Groups have harvested our data from Facebook and the like to manipulate us and gaslight us and sew confusion. Extremists of both sides “shout” and “scream” online to keep us from understanding things, coordinating between platforms to make sure we don’t forget our differences and keep us shouting at each other.
The very tool of knowledge and connection has become a tool of disinformation and ignorance-mongering and division.
We constantly forget that we do not have the right to ignorance, nor do we have the right to hurt others because we have been or currently do hurt. We are encouraged to be hateful of people, and to believe that happiness is a limited-quantity resource, and not just a state of being, that money isn’t a concept created ten thousand years ago to facilitate trade; that it is only gold or silver or specially made objects.
It’s not even the hateful ones that do this. Marketing departments from a bazillion directions keep trying to convince us that we cannot be happy without their latest and greatest version of Product. They willingly mislead people for the dollars we can part with.
I do not want to go back to the days before the Internet. I really like the connectivity and the sharing-thing, the increased, speedy access to ideas and stories and recipes and videos and… …stuff.
But the ethical decline, not religious decline, paired with the speedier endorphin hits has already led us to a dark place.
How do we fix this? How do we make this better?
Well, we have to start with a couple of concepts I touched on in the above paragraphs.
- Just because we’ve been hurt or are hurting, we don’t have the right to hurt others. Hurting people should be a last resort, and only when they’re being assholes/hurting others.
- Hurt feelings are not the same as a broken leg, nor are they the same as being traumatized or victimized.
- Caution is not weakness. Understanding is not weakness. Being decent is not a weakness. Unless you are only being cautious or understanding or decent to make someone else do something for you.
- Just because we feel like we deserve something doesn’t mean we will get it.
- People outside our own groups are not automatically evil or wrong or bad, they’re just people not in our group.
- If we don’t talk about things, others don’t know what ideas we have inside our heads.
- You do not matter more than me, just as I do not matter more than you. People should not be evaluated as dollar amounts.
- Want does not matter more than need, and want is often confused with need.
- Happiness is not water in a bucket – it is not a fixed-amount thing. Happiness is a result of not being sad or worried or hateful. Happiness is a result of endorphin being released in our brains.
- Ignorance is not a right, and denying knowledge is not a right. Denying knowledgable people their credibility because you don’t know what they know is wrong.
- Good and Bad are not easily defined, nor should they be.
- Laziness isn’t a right, either, but it’s a really fun activity, in moderation.
I could go on for a billion words, but I’d be repeating myself more than I already have. And it’s really not necessary. These are things the Buddhists and some Hindu groups as well as Pacific Islanders and Australian Aboriginals and many, many, others came across at least 4,000 years ago, and continue to try to convince us of. We, as a collective species, keep harping on these things to ourselves, and we continually don’t get it.
I think it’s because those things are not automatic knowledges we are born with, we need to learn them, and we keep having babies that don’t come out with those concepts as automatic knowledge, either.
We keep treating knowledge like technology, once we come across an idea it’s permanently in the world – it’s not. Ideas disappear when the people who have that idea die, and the places they wrote those ideas down or drew them out crumble.
The only constant we have is time decays things, even us. We have to continually rebuild our knowledges as different records, and repair the existing records. Ideas do not exist on their own, they exist in neurons and as the patterns of neuron-firing that are spurred on by those records we make.
So, every day, deny a hater. Shut down a troll. Tell a misogynist to shut up and be a better person. Stop a racist person from denying another person of basic decency because of skin color or ethnic background.
Things we are dealing with today are no different from the things we’ve dealt with for 10,000 years – they just have different methods of delivery, so we have to adapt.
Just don’t hate. Blind hate is the worst.