The Web of Finger-Wags and How-Dare-Yous

Far too much of my experience of the Web is now dominated by folks pointing out with snideness or outrage just how horrible some person or persons are, in a kind of Niagara Falls of finger-wags and how-dare-yous. There is no room for human error, no space for discussion, no benefit of doubt. Sometimes these people are right about someone else’s awfulness, sometimes they’re not, but that’s not the point.

It used to be (uh-oh, already sounding like an old man) that platforms like blogs, Facebook, and Twitter were places I could find a wide variety of content, political and non-political, with ideas from every discipline and field of interest (plus cat memes and ruminations on what one was eating, as it ever shall be). But I happen to be in an indeological, political career, and I have friends and connections who are ideological and political, and it only follows that as more and more join these platforms, more and more of the content I see will lean in ideological directions. Which is fine on its own.

But somewhere we passed some kind of tipping point. Where once expressions of outrage and loathing for an opposing ideological side were just one aspect among many on these platforms, now they are, in my experience, overrunning them.

And it’s hurting me, I can feel it physiologically. You know, I pick up my iPad at the end of the day so I can decompress from a day already fraught with political and ideological battles (not to mention battles with my children to get them to eat their dinner or not physically harm me). But I can’t do that now, at least not the way I have things set up. Blogs I used to frequent are battlegrounds. Twitter is a machine gun of vitriol. Even browsing Facebook, which is supposed to be innocuous, is like walking through an infinitely-long hallway filled with angry propaganda posters. Rather than decompress, I compress further. And it’s painful. It hurts. 

(And as for the battles in my professional life, yes they are part of “work,” but it’s still personal to me. I care about the surrounding issues, I care about the people involved. The stress this brings makes the ability to remove myself from it even more important.)

I may need to make a big change. It may mean that I remove people who I really like and respect from my social feeds, because despite my otherwise warm and fuzzy feelings toward them, they’re part of the torrent. At work, it can be a different story, because there I have no choice but to be aware of and conversant in current controversies and arguments. But on my own time, I think a digital shakeup may be in order. One in which I ruthlessly curate who I follow and allow to appear in my various feeds, and even make a point to silence certain topics and “upvote” others. In my reading, I can favor richer, more contemplative writing over blog wars and news bites.

So this is not a post about how I need to unplug or leave the Internet or some such silliness. But I do want to make my experience of the Internet far better than it has been of late.

You might be one of those people I like and respect who nonetheless contributes to my stress. In the case of a shakeup, I’m sorry if you’re among those who get shaken-out in the process. You probably won’t even notice. Which is good!

And if there’s something you really need me to see, I’m not hard to find.

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