Sunday, 13 February 2011

On the unrestrained nature of vitriol on the internet

Claire Armitstead today tweeted on great article in the New Yorker by Adam Gopnik on the different interpretations of the Internet’s social effects. see

One point that particularly struck a chord with me was this:
“What we live in is not the age of the extended mind but the age of the inverted self. The things that have usually lived in the darker recesses or mad corners of our mind—sexual obsessions and conspiracy theories, paranoid fixations and fetishes—are now out there: you click once and you can read about the Kennedy autopsy or the Nazi salute or hog-tied Swedish flight attendants. But things that were once external and subject to the social rules of caution and embarrassment—above all, our interactions with other people—are now easily internalized, made to feel like mere workings of the id left on its own. (I’ve felt this myself, writing anonymously on hockey forums: it is easy to say vile things about Gary Bettman, the commissioner of the N.H.L., with a feeling of glee rather than with a sober sense that what you’re saying should be tempered by a little truth and reflection.) Thus the limitless malice of Internet commenting: it’s not newly unleashed anger but what we all think in the first order, and have always in the past socially restrained if only thanks to the look on the listener’s face—the monstrous music that runs through our minds is now played out loud.
A social network is crucially different from a social circle, since the function of a social circle is to curb our appetites and of a network to extend them.” 

The sheer irresponsible anonymity of utterances on the internet through the use of untraceable pseudonyms gives people perfect licence (and with that, the feeling of a perfect right) to unrestrained venting of spleen with complete disregard for the harm and hurt caused to those whose are the objects of their aggression – the aethereal equivalent of the gang or mob of anonymous thugs singling out a victim, at random or otherwise, and jointly and severally beating that person to a pulp, watched by a sullen crowd with a shrug of its shoulders – because freedom of expression is paramount and must not be restrained in this ghetto where social mores amount to nothing more than the dictat of the baying mob, only to be overruled where a more vociferous mob forcefully out-shouts the first.

Now that I’ve vented my spleen on this, I can return to the physical world a calmer, more restrained individual.