Glutton For Punishment: Cyber-Wars

A Typical Late Night

The story of my life

As I have written before, nothing enrages me more than stupid people on the internet. I hate reading an insightful article or opinion online then scroll down to the comments and see someone I KNOW is wrong discredit everything. I always get to pounding on my keyboard to put this unknown stranger into place and go away fuming and ranting to myself.  I promise myself to just stop reading comments, but then I find myself again reading the dumb things people say, getting upset, and losing faith in humanity. It’s a sadistic cycle that I and many others engage in regularly.

But why do I and many others do it every single time though we end up more frustrated than before and nothing changes? Well it’s because I think responding with reason will change that person’s mind, or embarrass them to the point that they will stop arguing. But it doesn’t.

Perfect example was the other night while I was on The Miami Herald site reading up on the last Florida state legislative session and there was an article about the new requirement that anyone receiving TANF benefits i.e. “welfare”, is required to take a drug test. Nothing was really wrong with that except requiring the people applying to pay for it (it should be free). What got me going was the  outdated “welfare queen” stereotype ladened tirades in the comments. Having read books and learned about welfare policy and the reality of the system, I felt it was my duty to deliver the facts. And I mean evidence too. I pulled up official sources on the amount of benefits received in the state of Florida, the requirements of TANF, and even did the number punching to demonstrate that is impossible by design to get rich off of TANF (though no one ever on welfare was ever living the “good life” under AFDC either) and that there is a high incentive to work.

Even after this long well thought out post with calculations and references embedded (with the links so they could see it for themselves), I got a “you must have relatives on welfare then since you know all of the stats.”  I might as well just typed jeiorqha;gfngazgvnafvb’fahhba’, because that person even confronted with hard evidence contrary to their view didn’t budge from their position that people receiving benefits are lazy and mooch off of tax payers instead of getting a job.

So the lesson is, don’t engage with people who hold illogical and irrational thought patterns. It is futile because all of the research and facts in the world that disproves their argument won’t change their mind.  People who take the time (like myself) to engage anonymous strangers on online forums going back and forth are the ones who feel the strongest and hold the most extreme views. You are better off focusing  on the rational more open-minded and moderate people you interact with in person. It’s way easier to sway someone in the middle to your side of thinking than it is to get someone to swing over from the opposite extreme.

Online Commentary and the Apparent End of Human Decency

So as a young person, I spend 90% of my free time on my computer reading the news, blogging, Facebooking, and watching videos on Youtube and Hulu. I also read the comment sections to read the feedback that posted material is getting from users and I almost always end up losing a little bit of faith in humanity and our capacity to be reasonable and decent to one another.

Youtube is the most notorious for comment indecency. You can look at any music video for any popular artists and for every positive or rational comment, there are at least 100 defamatory, profanity-ridden, hate rants insulting the artist or people who just may like them. Popular feuds on Youtube are Christina vs. Gaga, Beyoncé vs. Ashanti, and on and on and on. Some users will even make a handle like “beyonceadumbslut666” just for the sole purpose of visiting all of her videos and insult her.

And it isn’t only just music videos. Videos with a constructive purpose like the It Gets Better video found here is followed by tons of anti-gay hate speech. Now I don’t expect everyone to agree or be tolerant, but why would you go on a video that is suppose to be comforting and uplifting and really is targeting anyone who has ever been bullied or is being bullied and then take away from the positive vibe with inappropriate comments?

It gets more disheartening when you see hundreds of these appropriate comments and any feeling of advancement or progression for mankind is squashed, at least for me it is.

But then I remember, that though 200 or 2,000 hateful users seems like an insurmountable number, in a larger context, it really is insignificant and doesn’t reflect the majority. There are about 310.5 million people in this country, not all of which go on Youtube or read the paper online. Then even out of all the users who do, the good majority don’t even comment and are otherwise indifferent.

It’s like what Jon Stewart said when he was on Oprah (watch the segment here) that most normal, moderate, rational, and decent Americans are too busy living in the real world to go sit on the computer and insult people they don’t know and will never meet anonymously. It’s also true that the people with the most extreme views will put more effort into having their view heard than those who are more in the middle. (I’ll discuss maybe in another post the problem presented by both the extreme right and left).

So for those of you, who like me, feel that there is no hope for humanity when you read the comments under your favorite Ke$ha video (I don’t really like her BTW, but I don’t comment on her videos either) remember that all of those haters probably don’t have anything better to do with themselves and don’t represent the rest of mankind.