Friday, March 29, 2013

Opinions on the internet are like assholes.

The internet is an amusing place. I lived through its advent and have witnessed it grow from being an awkward infant, completely unsure as to how to behave in its environment, to its current state as an ornery toddler. I don't even think we're even close to the teenager stage of this technology, sadly, so it's going to get worse and more defiant before it matures into generally an okay thing with some bad habits, like any healthy adult. Or maybe it turns into a sinister serial killer. Who knows?

Most of all, it's populated with people, and we all know that some people can be assholes. The whole anonymity thing kind of allows for this type of behavior, which is why I am kind of okay with people having to register and at least put a face to their assholery, although this is not a newsflash. I mean, why else do people write slur-laden graffiti on bathroom stalls? Because they can, and, unless they get caught by some over-zealous bathroom guard, they're not going to be punished. For some people, there's a thrill to be gotten out of pissing someone else off, which I can kind of understand; I mean, it filled me with joy every time I got my old supervisor angry by telling him to get out of my cubicle so I could get some work done*. But to just be offensive for the fuck of it? I dunno. Plus, people freak out over the absolute weirdest shit, online or otherwise.

One of my favorite things is when people react to other people not liking what they themselves like, as if I'm making a decision to offend you by not getting enjoyment out of a thing. Like, I don't like musicals**. Does that mean I don't think anyone should enjoy musicals? Of course not. I mean, my sister went to school for it, so I'd kind of be dooming her to failure if I tried to make people hate them. But dammit if people haven't tried to convince me that, if I just go out and watch more musicals, I will suddenly like them. Nay, I'd start to LOVE them. Isn't that kind of the argument people use against others who don't want to have kids? Um, no. I do not wish to subject myself to more of what I do not like. Thanks, though?

Sometimes, though, it can get downright nasty. An article of mine was published, in which I discussed my dislike of Jane Austen, and yes, before you say anything, I compared her to Stephenie Meyer. I don't take it back, either. In the comments, I further explained that it was more of a thematic comparison than anything else, since Jane Austen wrote quite well. It's not my taste of writing - not much from that era is - but it's well-crafted. (My issue with her has multiple layers, and you can go read it if you'd like, since I don't really want to rehash what I already said.) I was told, as predicted, that I should just read her again, "more carefully" this time, which no. I took a course on her in college, in hopes that I'd develop a taste for her so I could talk with my roommate about her work, and that was enough for me.

Another person who read the article told me that she was actually criticizing her culture, which I can see more in her later books, particularly Persuasion, but that actually got me thinking about Seth MacFarlane. Okay, stay with me here. This does make sense. When he hosted the Oscars, many feminist websites were railing against him because of how incredibly sexist a lot of his jokes were, and his supporters were like, "No, it's satire! You're just too dumb to recognize it." My argument was pretty much, uh, if the majority of people - even smart ones - don't get that you're doing satire, you're not very good at it. Jonathan Swift? Obviously satire. Stephen Colbert? Undoubtedly satire***. Seth MacFarlane? Not so much.

What baffled me the most, though, was how many commenters (not on the website itself, but also on Facebook and other sites where it was reposted) were just incensed that I spoke negatively about Jane Austen. I'm like, "Dude, I'm not trashing you personally. If you like her, awesome. If you view what she wrote differently from me, awesome." That's the beauty of art; it can be interpreted in many ways, depending on your lens. But I might as well have run over a box of newborn kittens twice. In a gas-guzzling SUV, nonetheless.

But I am not the worst case, either. The reactions I got were actually quite tame in comparison. Somehow, while I was browsing Google+, I came across this thread that initially started out expressing concern over the Monsanto rider in the bill that Obama just signed (I could do the research and find out the name, but I don't want to). I was hoping to find out more information about the bill, including a link to where I could read it for myself, and found myself staring at this really strange train-wreck sort of thing. People on both sides of the issue started out outraged at either the actual signing of the bill or the fact that the others were outraged. Some tried to present facts, while others posted links to dubious sites that were obviously some type of propaganda. And then the beast known as Name-Caller reared its ugly head, which eventually invited its cousin, Troll-Labeler, and brother-in-law, Crazy-Ranter, to join in the fun. I eventually had to quit reading because of an uncontrollable desire to find all of these people and slap them right on their faces. And it didn't inform me at all about with what they were up in arms****.

I mean, I'm not sure how to combat this or if it should even be attempted. I mean, I don't watch reality television, so I have to get my "watching people I don't know or care about do stupid things" entertainment somehow. There will always be disagreements, and some will be able to handle it in a mature, level-headed manner. Others? They'll threaten to stab you with a spoon because it will hurt more and they're not just trying to be funny with their pop culture references. It makes me hesitate to post anything because I don't really want to deal with people yelling at me. People yelling at me makes me stabby. I can handle criticism or disagreements as long as they are civil and respectful, but the second someone starts being an ass? Oh, I'm done. As a matter of fact, I have sworn off the internet at least 987354761 times, give or take a few (I'm looking at you, Tumblr). But I guess I should just get used to it, kind of like how I'm used to stupid drivers being everywhere, talking on their phones and being generally obnoxiously unaware that, oh, yes, there are other people on the road.

Sigh.

* In my defense, he always came over to my cubicle to talk about one of the following topics: 1) his daughter's bisexuality which I'm sure she'd be thrilled to know was discussed; 2) Vanderbilt sports, about which I do not care; 3) my dating life, prior to getting married to Three, and afterward our married life because everyone knows that's exciting; 4) the fact that he was a coach for a youth league of some sort; or 5) OMG my son needs special food that is expensive and you have weird food allergies what do you think? I actually just got annoyed just thinking of these. Ugh.
** I enjoy "The Lion King" because the stage technologies they use throughout that play are amazing and "Wicked" because it's fucking "Wicked." But, yeah, that's about it.
*** I have heard stories of people who think he's a For-Real Conservative, which does make me wonder.
**** I did find the bill online, and seriously, I fucking hate legalese. I'm no dim bulb, but shit if it's not hard to interpret what in the hell they actually are saying. I'm not asking them to write at a first grade level, but come on, there are simpler and clearer ways of doing this.
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