Thursday, 14 April 2016

Social Darwinism

There has been a lot of chatter about how disappointing social media has been as an agent for change. Some believed this new age of instant communication would be seized upon by free-thinkers, challengers of the status quo and world changers of all the rainbow colours of political thought. It would be a virtual melting pot of diversity and inclusion and wonder, where true democracy would finally bring about world peace and understanding and all those nasty enmities could be put aside for the good of free speech and love and understanding.

Really? I mean, you’ve met humans, right? Actually, given the reality that the internet gives a voice to everyone with a connection did anybody really expect it wouldn’t also be a vehicle for the worst of humanity as well as the change-the-worlders? The armour of anonymity does indeed confer a certain boldness of expression and much of the wondrous exchanges turn into bitter little battles between opposing sides, each with only simple understanding and appreciation of complex issues. It’s kind of pleasing that digital communication, being built on binary code, should reflect a largely black-and-white world.

Owen Jones has written in the Guardian (where else) about the trolls (everybody who disagrees with 'our kind of people' is a troll, by the way) who ruin online debate. And the same Guardian has done an extensive survey into its online comments and who gets targeted. From playground taunts, to personal abuse, to actual death threats it has come to the conclusion that women receive more abuse than men and that those who despite their massively inflated online presence still represent only the margins of society get more abuse still.

Here I sit, in my binary world, where you fit in or stick out and I wonder if maybe, just maybe, the views of those targeted for abuse are actually considered offensive by those who oppose them. While I have no sympathy for the truly vile and nobody should have to put up with some of the genuinely distressing messages posted, the effect of reacting to the mob is often to enrage it further. There are offenders on both sides of our generalised left/right divide but I find the love and peace brigade are often just as quick to rise to anger as those who jeer at them.

I get called a Nazi every day for disagreeing with morons and I’ve found that the easily offended are like little Duracell Trolls, electro-mechanical monkeys that go on and on and on; perpetual moaning machines filled with anger and frustration... which I sort of enjoy fuelling by replying calmly and offering sympathy and medication. They really don’t like that so they resort to the ultimate sanction... and block me. Most of the morons fold pretty quickly but if they don’t I can always choose to ignore them.

I have the odd, more persistent detractor, but maybe my views are just not far enough from the mainstream right to be truly offensive. I also choose not to take anything too seriously. The Guardian is concerned that its preferred people – the oddballs, the misfits, the minorities – are being bullied off the media, allowing what they see as extreme views (what enormous numbers of ordinary, inoffensive people actually think) to take over.

Troll food...

But isn’t this just what happens with real territory – the weaker, less confident species surrendering to the more successful invader? Maybe it’s just social Darwinism in action? And if so, I’m sure I’ll soon have somebody pop up to tell me that Darwin was a Nazi. There’s always the off switch, cupcake.

1 comment:

  1. The internet is really transforming us. We are communicating with each other much more broadly than ever before. What we used to say and do in small groups we are now only just doing the same in larger groups. I do believe that in the long run the benefits of the internet will grossly outweigh the disadvantages of it.

    The nasties and stupid will not go away but discovering and understanding one another better as the internet allows will make peaceful coexistence that much easier to achieve. Lack of knowledge brings with it suspicion the internet now gives us all the knowledge there is so therefore it must mute suspicion.