It's interesting how peoples' attention will often dovetail. Berry just put together a meme about making online spaces kinder and more compassionate; I've been trying to shift my own focus away from focusing on what I dislike and toward focusing on what I like with my Sunday Squee. I have spent a lot of time and attention developing my critical faculties for a variety of reasons, but I found myself struggling with how to love problematic things in a world full of problematic things.
One of the sources of aggression against others is internal pain; to focus on the failings of others is to give us surcease from our own suffering. Another source of aggression is insecurity, a need to take up space and thus show that one exists and is powerful; this is one of the more common motivations for online trolling and abuse of strangers who represent things one dislikes. Ironically, using aggression to alleviate pain is part of a cycle of increasing pain, as each person who is a target then has their own burden to try to relieve - and all too often it is through taking it out on someone else. Stopping this self-reinforcing cycle without letting those with actual power off the hook for it is one of the central struggles of most Social Justice movements, either overtly or covertly.
The worlds we make with each other online are mirrors of the worlds we live in offline.
- Have you ever been subjected to mean comments online by strangers? If not, then skip to question #5. – I've received a death threat - not a plausible one, but still - and had an individual dedicated to insulting me while I was a moderator on Gaia Online. The ones which hurt the most were from people I considered friends, though. One of the first people I met in Second Life went on to outright say I should seek psychiatric help and/or I was less intelligent than he thought I was because I was religious, and so it was obvious I was mentally ill/stupid. He dressed it up in nicer words, but it's what he thought and meant. To be that profoundly dismissed and insulted by someone whom you liked and trusted is incredibly painful.
- How did you respond to them? – In the case of the threat, I documented it and emailed the details to the safety contact for Gaia Moderators. In the case of the insulting gentleman, I got to ban him hundreds of times, so that was actually kind of fun. In the case of the ex-friend, I disengaged and he earned a prefix on his description, but he never really seemed to grasp how profoundly he insulted me, and I'm not sure how to put that sort of thing into words he could hear. From his perspective I was simply wrong, and if I was smarter/saner I would agree with him.
- How did they make you feel? – The threat was scary, but I expected it and knew what to do. The insulter I just found annoying, especially since Gaia doesn't delete accounts, so the account he made named "Deoridhe is a cunt" remains on there and shows up if you search for "Deoridhe" on the website - several users contacted me about it when they saw it, not realizing the account survived barely a half hour. I feel similarly about other strangers who have insulted me; slightly annoyed and very dismissive. The third... well.... it was a reminder that some atheist, intellectual men who value rationality more than connection will not only be cruel but will not acknowledge the cruelty they inflict on others, something which has been highlighted for me in particular during the last four years of concerted, aggressive, cruel abuse of prominent women online. There is a type. I try to avoid having them in my life.
- Can you share some of the mean comments you’ve received and your thoughts on them? – I've had very few recently. My online persona is specifically geared to discourage insults; I've been at this a while! The only one on this blog I actually made a blog post about called "How NOT to Get Your Links on my Blog". My "How NOT to..." series could be seen as a response to mean comments, or it could be seen as a source of me making mean comments, so in a way it exists at the nexus of this discussion. I don't consider the people I'm documenting the interaction with to be the audience for those posts, which I suspect shifts my judgement of them. Another experience I had was last night, while taking pictures for my RWBY Squee, when two individuals on the sim I was on walked up to me while I was editing pictures, started calling me a "rainbow fairy fag" and started physically pushing me. I might actually pull the local chat to send to the sim owners, but at the time I checked their profiles (one very new, other older, both in groups that implied a liking for annoying others), thought about the likelihood of them doing anything other than dismissing what I would say, and decided to ignore them; within ten minutes they had walked away. I find them contemptible, I often find bigots contemptible, but I can't say they hurt my feelings in any way.
- Have you ever ridiculed or negatively commented on someone else’s work, actions or personality with the intention to hurt them? – For the purpose of hurting someone, no. For my own amusement, as a form of analysis, as a way of trying to communicate about relational issues, as a way to comment on issues of Social Justice, yes. Aside from the "for my own amusement" I consider most of these semi-defensible (the negative comments, not the ridicule), but one of the flaws of critique is how quickly it can become a snake eating it's own tail, twisted around until one is reflexively dismissive. Having seen what that leads to in other people, I'm trying to mitigate the effects as much as I can while continuing to look critically at the world around me as well as myself. I've found shifting my emphasis towards things I love, toward critique in the context of love, has helped find a different way to engage in critique while still trying to hold on to the innate value each person has.
( More pictures here. )