Twitter mobs and other human pastimes
The most dangerous thing out there is you
Hardly a day goes by without hearing about somebody being savaged on Twitter or Facebook. Or Instagram. Or SnapChat. Or YouTube, etc. I’ve never heard of someone being savaged on Pinterest but you never know.
Not because we are stupid but because we are smart. We’ve got thousands of years of history that makes it clear that our worst enemy is each other. Lions and sharks can only dream of the kind of slaughter humans are capable of. Gradually — so gradually you could watch a glacier form in less time — humans have drifted toward inclusivity.
Who is human?
If you define “human being” as “another person, separate from yourself, that is not to be killed, abandoned, or neglected even if injured, sick, or aged,” then the designation “human” has expanded over time to cover more and more people.
Right now there are nearly seven billion people broken up into more than 250 countries and an unimaginable number of ethnicities and tribes. That’s a lot of inclusivity available to us. It’s more inclusivity than most people can manage.
“Die, you freaking bastard!” And they didn’t say freaking.
It means exactly the same thing as: “I am socially rejecting you, Sir or Madam!”
In meatspace aka the real world “die you freaking bastard” would be an occasion to call the police. In cyberspace? Sticks and stones.
Social rejection in person hurts. Certainly emotionally, sometimes physically.
Yeah, the problem is, it hurts in cyberspace too. A death threat can be frightening but it also hurts. It hurts even if you are only rejected for your opinion and just called names.
From the point of view of the mob, they are throwing stones into the sky. But from your point of view, it’s raining rocks.
The boys throw stones in jest. The frogs die in earnest.
People who attack you on the internet are trying to kill you socially. They are failing because they can’t — unless you fall on your sword on their behalf. Trust me, that’s not a requirement.
Meat versus cyber
I’ve run into rabid maniacs online and in person. That is, I think I’ve run into them in person. In person — because of my age, gender, and specific demographic — I am pretty much instantly designated “human” and not harmed.
Usually. There are some people who don’t understand what it means to put quotes around a word. Which means they will pull out the Glock they bought at Walmart and shoot you and anybody standing nearby.
That’s meat space, i.e., in person
Cyber vs. meat
But in cyberspace, there is a lot less chance you are automatically covered by the designation “human.”
On line, you are far away and out of sight. If you don’t display human markers, then I can kill you — defined as “socially reject you.”
You may remember your mom telling you to ignore “them” when you were 12 or 14 or 16. It felt like shitty advice then and it hasn’t improved with age.
So do the next best thing. Don’t respond. If you have responded, stop. it’s not easy to get things to trend on Twitter. If you hush up, they will have nothing to respond to. Sometime in the next 24 hours, they will forget you existed.
The dogs only chase the rabbit because it’s running.
We all know being surrounded by vicious humans is the most dangerous situation in the world. And your heart might be racing with fear, anger, or righteous indignation.
But once you switch off the phone, the tablet, the computer the mob vanishes.
With a pen and paper write your responses / defenses / explanations.
There’s always a next
When you are done defending/explaining yourself, turn the page over and at the top write “WHAT’S NEXT” and make a “what’s next” plan.
The reason “ignore them” is such lousy advice is because it doesn’t mention a next step.
What’s next? The path, at this point, can go in a lot of different directions. Almost all of them are fine. It can be anything. Delete Facebook / Twitter, get a new account and reboot. Plan a distraction. A movie, an audiobook, a real book, coffee with friends. Play loud music and clean the house. Your choice.
And when the plane landed her life was over.
So in 2013, a woman got on the plane in New York heading for South Africa. She only had 173 followers but she was tweeting comments on her journey. Finally, on the last leg, she tweeted: “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” It was a joke. I agree she has no future in stand-up.
She fell asleep on the 11-hour flight and when she woke up she was a world-famous racist who should be mocked, scolded, be fired from her job, raped, killed, and on and on.
She did lose her job — whoever would fire someone for that shouldn’t be an employer anyway. She deleted her Twitter account and hasn’t been on Twitter since.
Back then, we didn’t even have a Twitterhead president. Obama tweeted, but his messages would put a tweaker to sleep.
We are the most dangerous thing out there. One of the leading causes of death among humans is other humans.
That’s you and that’s me. Wherever we are, we have brought danger with us.
“But you speak of him as if he was a friend.” [said Gimli]. “I thought Fangorn was dangerous.”
“Dangerous!” cried Gandalf. “And so am I, very dangerous: more dangerous than anything you will ever meet, …. And Aragorn is dangerous, and Legolas is dangerous. You are beset with dangers, Gimli son of Glóin; for you are dangerous yourself…”
And if we can stop killing each other — in cyberspace and in the “real” world — we will have made a tiny step toward peace on earth. Or, failing that, slightly reduce the sum total of suffering on the planet.
We’re only human, after all.