The great pixelated yonder.
Some days, I wish the Internet would stop asking me questions.
Have I seen this? Do I think that? Can I believe what just happened over there?
I understand it is hard to get our attention. We are intrigued by a question. Our natural bias will be for, or against. In the face of a question, we’ll likely have an opinion.
But some days, I do not want everything to be a conversation. I have enough of those going on in my head right now anyway, I don’t need more.
Whilst we are at it, I also wish the Internet would stop disagreeing with itself.
It’s all there, in the comments. Right at the bottom, under the headline, and the content. The bit that says in various ways: I do not agree, it is obvious that the opposite is true.
I understand there are almost no barriers to publishing an opinion or an emotion. We can all react, and in the tap of a keyboard it is real and rarely goes away.
But isn’t that just what I’m doing right now? Even if it is not CAPS and underlined?
What a wonderful thing, what a terrible thing, our connected world is. And what a conflicting thing.
It is a wonderful thing at it’s best, because it means we know. No longer are those who make decisions on our behalf able to fudge or hack with our lives.
No longer can those with whom we have a contract of truth pretend something didn’t happen, or that it happened in an entirely different way to what we might think.
But. Often we see the worst. And at the worst it is angry voices, shouting into the pixelated yonder.
Or voices asking us to look, but not to see. To grab attention, not invite connection.
I guess the problem with all this, is that the Internet is me. A giant mirrorball. Reflecting back my own worldview with a thousand nudges. Spinning, learning, changing. Enticing, compliant to my every thought.
The trumpet fanfare behind my every whim, and the whimsical violin behind my every fear.
It knows what might intrigue us, and motivate us to dig more, to go down that rabbit hole. It knows how to inflate our own bubble and call it a community. But too often it is a mob. It gathers quickly, it is angry, and it doesn’t listen.
And because mobs are easy to join and emotion is easy to exploit, the Internet does not do too much to create a dispersion of the mob, or to dampen emotion. It is not in the interests of the mob to have real conversations. The kind that happen when one person is talking, and the other is listening.
And because the Internet is me, this is all my fault. I asked for it. I invited the nudges, even on the days when I don’t want them. The Internet knows that with the right number of nudges, I will act. Maybe after the first one, maybe it will take a few, maybe many. Whether I asked for one today, or not.
A lot of the nudges are also against what we know is true and against who we want to be. We know our bias reinforces inequality. We know that kindness, generosity, and empathy are the differences between a mob and a community. It is just too hard to resist a nudge, sometimes.
Nudges are like that. They move us by small, imperceptible increments. In a positive direction until we make a change, or a negative direction until we take a side.
It is time for me to notice the nudges. I can notice the nudges and I must.
I can use my interactions to see others, not to look at the latest distraction.
By noticing, maybe we can resist a few of the negative nudges. Remember that my Internet can be controlled, if I choose to do so. That I can use my great power to bring positive nudges. Remember that my opinion is a gift to build, not a weapon to beat and belittle others.
Over time, we can allow ourselves to be nudged less when we do not want to. Over time begin to trust more. We can nudge back, towards positivity. With empathy. We can pause, and look around. Put ourselves in the shoes of others.
We can see each other, more. And realise that it is kinder to disarm than escalate. To understand and appreciate the stories of others, rather than be desperate to tell our own.
We can give. We can celebrate. There is no map for the great pixelated yonder, but every journey can be taken with positivity.
And eventually, we can look at ourselves in the giant Internet mirrorball and learn how to say: how can I use this to do good today?