Iread a lot of stuff online, and write a lot too. It’s part of my job, and I enjoy it. However, sometimes the replies people leave on the things I read (and write) are pretty daft. (Notice I said replies are daft. Not people.)
It’s a type of communication marked by reactivity and derailment, one I’ve sought to understand in-depth, that of which doesn’t just pertain to feminist topics. It extends to all topics.
I believe I have a firm hypothesis for why certain content provokes this, despite the content’s efficacy.
That of which is the theory of ‘filtering’, self-identification, and reactivity being the result of ‘threat topics’ that spark ‘ego-survivalism’.
I like to dub this theory by its acronym — SHART:
Here’s some terminology before we begin:
‘Threat Topic’ — a challenging topic that provokes ego-survivalism. [ex: feminism, recruitment, socialism et al]
‘Ego-Survivalism’ — ‘reactivity’ behavior sparked by a desire to protect the ego.
‘Digital object’ — ANY piece of online content.
‘Reactivity’ — ‘suspiciously hasty aggressive/accusatory reply’ level, measured between 0–10.
‘Filtering’ — act of identifying oneself as relevant to a ‘digital object’s’ devices, sans awareness. [ie: you filter into the category].
‘Shart’ — replies to ‘digital objects’ that display ‘filtering’ behavior due to ‘ego-survivalism’ beyond a ‘reactivity’ of 5.
‘Shart-like’ — replies that display ‘shart’ behaviors but not reaching 5.
‘Honeypot’ — content created to evoke ‘filtering’ of ‘sharts’. [ex: ok boomer / anything I write]
‘Derailment’ — shifting a ‘digital object’s’ premise to suit ‘shart’ ‘reactivity’.
‘Sharts’ employ ‘filtering’ ‘reactivity’ responses between 5–10 when ‘threat topics’ are present in a ‘digital object’, in an exercise of ‘ego-survivalism’.
‘Sharts’ will employ ‘derailment’ responses to seek optimal ‘reactivity’ if initial ‘digital object’ lacks the vehicle for it. [IE: purposeful misreading, assumptions, false comparisons]
‘Sharts’ will always self-identify via ‘filtering’ when a ‘honeypot’ ‘digital object’ is present, and will not be aware of it.
The level of ‘shart’ ‘reactivity’ replies is incumbent on how threatening a ‘digital object’ is perceived, not by how threatening it actually is.
‘Shart-like’ replies have the propensity to reach ‘shartdom’, but haven’t reached ‘shartism’ ‘reactivity’ levels of 5–10.
Now that we have that out of the way, here are some examples:
Looking at ‘Losing Lena’ from a SHART lens:
A Nude ‘Playboy’ Photo Has Been a Mainstay in Testing Tech for Decades
The documentary ‘Losing Lena’ is about the many small ways in which women are told they don’t belong in tech
Let’s see dude-bros try to argue this isn’t really, really sketchy and doesn’t have contextual connotations.
The responses were generally positive. When I say ‘generally positive’, I mean constructive conversations were present, at large.
There were also outliers of responses showing ‘shart-like’ methodologies.
As I consider the comments section of the initial article as a far greater display of ‘reactivity’ and ‘derailment’ replies, most negative responses to my post did not reach ‘reactivity’ between 5–10.
Unlike this response, found in the comments section of the above ‘Losing Lena’ article:
This is a 7–8 on the ‘reactivity’ scale of ‘shart’ ‘filtering’ behaviors. Self-centric ‘derailment’ replies are a less powerful example of ‘filtering’ than below:
This ‘reactivity’ is a solid 9000. Notice how the ‘shart’ reply compares an initially pornographic (objectifying) image of a woman to an actual object, a teapot.
Also notice ‘women, blacks, and latinos’, which underlines lack of self-awareness, self-identification of prime ‘shartism’, and racism and sexism on a ‘reactivity’ scale that breaks the model’s upper registers.
The initial article posits that using a Playboy model circa 1972 for image compression software perhaps highlights sexism present during that time.
This is further supported by the documentary the article addresses, which when one watches, illuminates how this image is still used to this very day.
This documentary argues that ‘Lena’ perhaps illuminates a barrier women have when pushing through STEM, even metaphorically.
This topic, in and of itself, is not threatening.
It is exploratory and suggests a way to move forward: quite simply, let’s ‘Lose Lena’. No person is hurt by this suggestion.
Regardless of one’s feelings on the ‘Losing Lena’, it does not warrant the ‘shart’ replies displayed above.
Looking at ‘ok boomer’ through a SHART lens:
Before that, I concocted a post about the ‘ok boomer’ phenomena, linking to a ‘honeypot’ op-ed I wrote examining its ‘threat topic’ efficacy:
If you’re mad about ‘ok boomer’, you’re part of the problem
Why Gen Z’s retort — and the response to it — is so powerful
The replies to this post were mostly decent, with a chunk of responses containing ‘shart’ methods due to the ‘honeypot’ of ‘ok boomer’.
It’s hard to quantify the ‘reactivity level’ because I do not suspect vitriol. At the very least, the reply shows this person considers sexual assault victims being villified for what they wear as morally wrong.
Notice how the initial ‘shart’ response clearly links ‘ok boomer’ ‘reactivity’, and the hand-waiving inherent, as being akin to blaming sexual assault victims.
The topic in question, ‘ok boomer’, which is a ‘honeypot’, does not warrant this equivocally false, insensitive comparison.
(Notice I said the comparison is false and insensitive.)
Thus, it paints the replier as self-filtering ‘filtering’, due to the pertinent ‘honeypot’ ‘threat topic’ available.
They are, therefore, a ‘shart’.
Notice this, because this response-type is specific to the working SHART hypothesis.
Looking at the anime community through a SHART lens:
The only requirement of a ‘threat topic’ is that it challenges.
Notice how the above Twitter user does not say ‘The Anime Community Is Racist’, ‘The Anime Community is homophobic’, etc.
I would rank these responses at a firm 5–6. They are not at the level of ‘Losing Lena’ ‘shart’ ‘reactivity’ or ‘ok boomer’.
Notice that some replies feature ideas that were not present: OP doesn’t ‘not like’ the anime community. Their profile suggests they love it.
Notice how the ‘sun’ sticker brings up Japan, which isn’t present in the original Tweet. The original tweet references the Anime Community, which exists all across the world.
Notice this, because this behavior is what SHART hinges upon.
I’ve been quietly examining several cases of online reactive replies for the past few months.
It follows the same pattern, each and every single time:
The above is an obvious 9000, because ‘boomer’ is not a pejorative, and is not ‘the n-word’ which is a far more loaded term than possibly any other.
‘Threat topic’ is present, implied, or even vaguely possible in a ‘digital object’, that may or may not be a ‘honeypot’.
‘Ego-survivalism’ takes hold, and depending on ‘reactivity’, ‘shart’ reply behavior is exercised.
If no negative affect is explicitly present, ‘sharts’ will craft a higher ‘reactivity’ level by ‘derailment’ to reach that level: see above.
This form of reply is found on every social media platform, and any place a comment can be left by anybody, anywhere.
So why does this behavior persist?
The answer is simple: Ego-survivalism.
Imagine if someone told you that you were toxic. Makes you feel like you need to defend yourself, right? Maybe it’s upsetting, which is fair.
Now imagine if nobody was actually saying that you were toxic, at all.
Imagine now that they were saying, perhaps, someone who may share identities or interests you hold particular to yourself, is toxic.
Or, that behavior keeps cropping up in a community or group (anime? boomers? cis blokes? HR as a profession?) that seems toxic, etc.
These ideas — digital objects — could make you upset, right?
But what if you’re not toxic? ‘Threat topic’, then, doesn’t apply.
People who are not insecure will not worry about things that do not, at all, apply to them. They can choose to not engage.
But imagine now that maybe you’ve been seeing these ‘threat topics’ for so long that you cannot help but explode.
You aren’t like this, so nobody in your community is (untrue).
How dare somebody critique you unfairly (not about you)!
It’s not a big deal, it’s the vocal minority (often untrue).
You explode and become toxic.
You display the same exact set of behaviors you purport you don’t, or you hand-waive the behaviors of others who are displaying it.
People call you out on this, which further suggests that everyone that isn’t like you is against you, personally (untrue).
You double-down (weird flex, but ok).
Congratulations, you’re a ‘shart’.
You have self-identified. You’ve made it about you. You’ve shown your ‘ego survivalism’ takes precedence over self awareness, even when a ‘threat topic’ doesn’t apply to you. Your responses are reactive.
This is the SHART hypothesis of the suspiciously hasty, aggressive/antagonistic reply theory in action:
Every ‘digital object’ is a ‘honeypot’ when you cannot separate your ego and identity from ideas that may not, in any way, pertain to you personally.
This behavior can be seen everywhere.
It makes me sad that I even had to write this.
I have explained what constitutes ‘shart’ behavior, what it looks like with examples, and how your derailment-laden reactivity is causing you to embody the exact thing you say you do not.
If you aren’t yet a ‘shart’, and engage in ‘shart-like’ behaviors, I will almost always make the effort to debate topics with you.
This is why you may see me engaging with people I’ve said, repeatedly, that I do not agree with. I’m not complicit: I’m trying to communicate.
It pains me (I’m being serious) to see intellectually curious people craft ‘shart-like’ responses. I will try to work with them, regardless.
If you choose to stick to these behaviors, however, I cannot stop you.
I cannot stop you from ‘shart’, or ‘shart-like’ replies.
But what I can do is point out one simple fact:
If you do not want to be a ‘shart’, it’s probably time you start thinking with your head, and not with your butt.