Friday, September 25, 2009

Soap box weaving and bobbing on the waves of the sea of my frustration

I grew up before the Internet. My entire adolescence was devoid of Internet access. That's not to say there were no computers, but getting 'online' was a rarity and was limited to local BBS's. So I knew my bullies face to face. They were often big, dumb and mean. As a geek/nerd in that time, you learn how to face them, without stooping to their level or avoiding them all together (not really so easy). So what happened?

Now with the Internet there are bullies every where. Forums and chat rooms are filled with them. The thing is, they aren't the big dummies any more. They are reasonably smart people that should know better but they either don't care or never learned.

These online bullies, often known as 'trolls', pick on and laugh at the 'noobs', the less Internet savvy. Go to any forum, blog, social site, and you'll see it. I visit frequently for interesting news. From time to time I read the comments associated with the stories and the amount of trolling and ignorance is astounding. There is rarely respect for thought out discussion. More frequently than not, comments are emotional and based on misinformation.

What happened to intellectual discourse? Did it ever really exist in the general public? Is the lack or respect on the Internet a reflection of the lack of respect outside in the real world?

I wonder if the ease in which someone can post an anonymous comment gives the author the feeling that it's OK to let their thoughts go without consideration for others? Let's face it, most things posted on the Internet would never be spoken aloud in a face to face conversation.

It could be argued that it allows us to be more honest with our feelings. Perhaps, but if that's the case there are a lot of assholes and douche bags out there.

And really, if you cannot say it in person, but you can online, then it's simply another kind of passive aggressiveness. I should know I am passive aggressive myself. Does that mean human society is becoming more passive aggressive? I doubt it. I'm sure the Internet is just allowing everyone to see the true nature of some people.

The interesting thing is that passive aggressive behavior is often linked to being bullied, in one way or another. It's a defense mechanism. Direct confrontation is one sided. With a physical bully, they are bigger or have some power over you. Since direct is not available an indirect solution is found. Indirect doesn't mean bad, but it can lead to indirect attacks that are really no better than the bully's direct attack. I think that is what we are seeing online. The evolution of the bullied becoming the bullies.

Geek is cool now. That nerd sitting next to you might be the next Michael Dell, Biz Stone, or even Bill Gates. People are attracted to power. But these geeks and nerds are still often less confident in social situations and the big physical bullies are plenty confident. This struggle of powers is creating sides, sides that have been in battle for years but now with the Internet the geeks have a powerful new weapon. The problem is that this weapon has made them no better than the bullies they hate.

Originally I thought to blame all of this on the families that do not spend enough time with their kids. Parents that are so focused on their jobs that their kids suffer for it. While I do think this contributes, they are not completely to blame. Our society as a whole as shifted away from respect, so people are feeling that it's OK to not be respectful, even those who are old enough to have been taught respect.

We cannot discipline our kids, for fear of being accused of child abuse. Teachers are no longer allowed to have failing students. Everyone must be the same. We've gotten so politically correct that real life rules are pushed aside for lame PC rules. You can't lets kids fail, so everyone else has to dumb down for that one dumb kid in class. Sure no one wants to be that dumb kid, but everyone knows were are not all the same. We act like everyone should be able to be a rocket scientist. While I agree that everyone should have the equal opportunity to be a rocket scientist, not everyone has what it takes and that is OK.

Instead schools are judged on on standardized tests and truly gifted children are forced to be bored in classes so that a few less intelligent kids will be able to move forward. I remember kids being held back a grade for failing or having to go to special education classes. These were the kids who became the bullies because they had to make up for their lack of educational achievement with physical prowess. Now that the school says all kids are the same, the smart ones are turning into the bullies because they need to stand out. They need to say, "Hey, I AM smarter than you. When you are online I'm going to call you a noob and not help you because this is MY domain."

It's funny, that we fight so hard to stay away from a socialized economy and socialized healthcare. All I hear from the extreme political right is about how the US is becoming a socialist country, but I never hear anything about our education system which is trying to homogenize our youth. Trying to make them fit into cookie cutter molds. They fight it but don't know why, they just know it's wrong. Is anyone helping these kids focus their energy constructively? It used to be the teachers, but they are over worked, under paid and forced to teach kids how to take standardized tests.

So in the end these trolls and online bullies, who are smart enough to know better, are having to come to terms with who they are and how they use their knowledge on their own. If they are lucky they'll find a positive role model. If not it may take them years to mature into productive members of a society that has forgotten how to respect one another.

1 comment:

mattg said...

dude. digg is NOT the place to go for intellectual discussion on the net. the discussion there is inexorably stupid. It's worse than YouTube comments...