Someone, Somewhere, Is Very Wrong On The Internet

During the last few days I experienced an unusual spike in activity in an area of my life’s which is relatively quiet (and it is like this on purpose, I try to keep it that way). It’s about social media, more exactly Facebook, where one of my posts ignited a whirlwind of comments, almost 100, many of them quite inflammatory. I won’t dive into the details of the actual post, because it is in line with other articles I’ve wrote here, about the generalized mismanagement of the Covid-19 pandemic, and all the changes that are caused by that. (If you’re curious, though, you can read some of the said articles here, here and here).

There is a certain type of reaction that people seem to be entitled to, every time “someone is very wrong on the internet”. I use this sentence very often as an ironical and sarcastic way to depict this utterly nonsensical noise we’re creating out of thin air. That reaction is a combination of, like I said, entitlement, but also anger, a desire for the other party to experience some pain, contempt and superiority.

I wouldn’t give too much weight to this type of reaction, if there wouldn’t be for a very subtle change in our lives. You see, as social media tends to be more and more an intrinsic, inseparable part of our lives, this attitude is pervading other sectors as well. Because they practiced it so many times on social media, and because the boundaries of social media and real life are melting, people are becoming arrogant, intolerant and enraged in their daily lives too.

How is this happening?

Well, here are a few causes (or at least some things that I consider to be causes for this type of behavior).


In programming, asynchronous calls are a pain in the ass. You can’t relay on a variable until you actually got it from the server, which may take seconds. So you have to take extra steps in your code to account for this. So, basically, your code “acts” like the variable will be present at some point, even if it isn’t. You prepare for everything (or at least you try to, if you’re not a lazy programmer).

Interaction in social media is asynchronous. Meaning you’re not talking to someone in real time, although the “wall”, the “stream” can give you this illusion. You’re saying something, then there is a significant time gap, in which you can do other stuff, then you get back to that point in the stream and restart the interaction. Being caught in that illusion of continuous streaming, you force yourself to get back into the initial state and refute (or support) an idea even more, although you may already have gotten away from the angry feelings from some time now.

In a real, synchronous interaction, things are solved much faster because everyone acts at the same level, in the same timeline. In asynchronous interaction, the lag conflates everything beyond normality. It’s like, instead of talking, you’re pumping hot air in endless balloons, which are never emptied.

Lack Of Physical Features

In social media you’re on a partial interaction. You don’t see the other person facial expression, body language, you don’t hear their voice. You rely on a very narrow channel of data. So it’s very easy to plunge into a sea of confusion and keep circling around unsubstantiated claims, or totally unclear concepts. When we communicate in each other’s presence, a huge stream of relevant data comes from other features too, not only from the articulate language. In the absence of these physical features, we’re left in a quite thick fog.

It’s not uncommon on social media that people who are starting to fight, after a few days of throwing shit at each other, realize they were actually backing up similar ideas, or they had similar positions. But the confusion made them “yell” at each other for hours or days, until they managed to clear the air somehow. Or got tired.

Lack Of Immediate Consequences

All “keyboard warriors” are fake warriors. They engage in spiteful and aggressive conversations without any physical consequence. If just 0.000001% of the words spoken in social media flames were spoken when the parties were face to face, a physical fight would have automatically ensued. But the physical distance and the “pseudonimity” of a social media presence are limiting, or even eliminating, any consequences of aggressive behavior.

When you don’t experience any consequence for what you do, not only you will keep doing it, because you’ve never been penalized, but you will never learn if, or how you’re doing something wrong. Consequences are the walls to each we bang our heads in the search of our unique path. Some walls are thin, and we can break them, or at least find our ways around them, but some are really thick, and we hurt ourselves and learn to avoid them in the future. In social media there are no walls, no limits, but also no consequences, hence, no learning.

There are probably many other causes for this “internet rage” phenomenon, some of them circumstantial, some of them more subtle, but the most important ones are these, in my humble opinion. If we would try to tackle at least these three and start working on them, maintaining a certain level of awareness about its limited, a-synchronous character, and its intrinsic lack of physical features, we would probably be far better off than we are these days.

And the fact that right now, someone, somewhere on the Internet is very wrong about something, would have little, if any relevance in my current life, where the cup of coffee that I’m about to enjoy right after I’ll press “Publish” for this post, will easily take precedence over it.

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