The Internet Is A Weird Place!

Photo by Joshua Sortino on

How long has this inter-webs thing been around? Not long enough? Too long? Has it overstayed its welcome, or is it just getting warmed up? Let’s start a post with half a dozen questions because everyone loves a pop quiz first thing in the morning. Start your day with a cup of coffee (or tea), a bowl of cereal, and an endless list of questions from a faceless droid.

Wow, in the age of bots, that could be misconstrued. I’m not a real droid or fake one either. I am a humanoid with a sponge-like consistency. I just happen to look like BB8 after it got trapped in an airlock. The vacuum of space sucked, and the artificial gravity pulled. Poor thing will never be the same. Round but elongated ever so slightly. Still, it manages to be more coordination and elegant than I’ll ever be.

Am I jealous of an animatronic toy from a movie I watched once? Can I tell you the difference between Wars and Trek? Am I trying to start an online war between two distinct communities? Again, with the questions!

Shush, don’t judge. This is a judge free zone. Unless, of course, you wear a mask that turns you into a creepy heavy breather. No one likes a heavy breather. Stop calling! I’m not interested. Arg, weirdo.

On the other hand, we are in a pandemic so wear that damn mask if you can. Do as Vader did, and cover up. Oh, uh, and to that heavy breather? Sorry, I misunderstood your intentions. You were simply doing your civic duty, and I called you names. My bad.

But I digress! Yet, only slightly to the left.

I’ve been spending way too much time online, and it’s doing things to my brain. I need to walk away before I meld with my computer. I don’t want to spend the rest of my days as zeros and ones. That’s coding stuff, right? I saw a movie, understood that they were speaking English, but that’s as far as I got. I’m not that technologically savvy. It holds my interest for about as long as it takes a squirrel to scarper. 

I can turn on my computer, open a document, and type a lot of words really quickly. I can open a browser thingy, and Google office supplies for hours. Social media is a thing I use, and I know how to post things to places. Occasionally, when the need arises, I purchase goods and services online, but none of the weird, creepy, stuff.

My technological proficiency is incredibly basic, and I’m okay with that. It’s not something that interests me. Then again, I enjoy looking at the latest toys in tech because I like shiny things. Did you see the new stuff from Apple? Yeah, it’s nifty, sparkly, and they’ll have that plastic screen cover. Who doesn’t love pulling that thing off? The satisfaction is almost unparalleled. 

Oh, a girl can dream but as long as the gear I have can do what I need it to do, then I’m happy. Unless Apple wants to send me free gear? No, I didn’t think so, but you can’t blame me for trying.

That should establish my level of expertise, and where I fall on the scale of Luddite to Bill Gates. While I’m not opposed to technology, it’s not something I spend copious amounts of time trying to understand. I’ll never write a functioning code or create paradigm-shifting gear. I appreciate the work of others and enjoy the benefits of their ingenuity.

Thanks for the toys that keep my fidgeting fingers occupied, but sometimes the things created are…Strange. Weird. Absurd. I can’t think of any more synonyms! But one of the most bizarre (Oh, there’s one!) inventions of all time has to be the internet. I mean, have you seen it? It’s losing its collective bytes. It started out as something noble. Then it devolved into chaos, barbarianism, and maybe even cannibalism. I don’t know! It’s the internet.

It’s a strange, magical, world where possibilities seem endless. We can learn a new language and ride a rover across Mars. There’s so much streaming content that we could spend a hundred years watching one video after another. Yet, we wouldn’t make a dent in our playlist. That thought shouldn’t make me sigh in contentment. 

It should go without say, but I think I should say this just to be safe. Don’t spend the next one hundred years streaming content without a break. Don’t spend the next one hundred minutes doing it. It would have horrific effects on your health and overall well being.

Well, I assume it would, but I’m not a doctor. It seems inadvisable, and that’s my public service announcement for today. You’re welcome?

As wonderful as the internet is, it’s one of the weirdest entities humankind has ever created. It merges technology with humanity. It has spawned a semi-organic life form that grows and evolves. It has a heartbeat. It breathes. It’s lungs expand and deflate. It’s alive!

Dr. Jekyll would be proud.

As a sentient life form that has a voice and opinions. Those opinions come from a steady diet of comments left on any platform that provides the option. Naturally, all of these comments have been thought out, carefully researched, and shared in the spirit of kindness, compassion, and basic human decency. Because that’s how the internet works!

Why are you laughing?

Right, that’s the exact opposite of how the internet works. The online world is full of knee jerk reactions and unbridled rage. Let’s not forget about the righteous indignation. There is so much yelling. The name-calling is getting out of hand. Are we, as a species, experience a devolution of our minds? Are well selling our souls? Are we giving them away for free, or is it a fair trade for a joy ride?

The comments section of any page is a casual stroll towards inevitable insanity. A collective march to madness? Something happens to us when we sit behind a screen, hiding behind an avatar, and start typing. Our inside thoughts, the ones that should stay in the cavity between our ears, spills out of our fingers. There’s no thought or care put into our actions. We lose all impulse control and blurt out some words without giving ourselves time to process them, or the associated emotions. 

Some of the things I’ve said online would never come out of my mouth in the real world. If I looked into your eyes, saw you staring back, I would say something kind. Even if we disagree, I’d express it in a way that wouldn’t cause you pain. At the very least, I would pause and give my words some consideration.

And not because I have a deep-seated fear of conflict.

We could exchange our ideas with respectful discourse and, most likely, agree to disagree. We’ve had different life experiences so, it’s only natural that we’d view life differently. You don’t like pineapple on your pizza, and you like to dip your cheese into peanut butter. So what? We’re different people and we’re going to have very different taste buds.

But online! Oh, sweet Mr. Magoo, what’s going on?

When I share an opinion online, I’m very quick to point out that my thoughts are my own, and yours are valid. It’s not something I feel like I have to do when I’m having a real-world conversation. It’s a concept that goes without saying, but it’s a sentiment that gets lost online. If we don’t invalidate our opinions, we end up invalidating someone’s existence, somehow. It confuses me to no end.

So far, during my time online, I haven’t had anything too trolly come my way. Phew! Oh, that is not a dare or an invitation! I don’t feel like I’m missing out. I’ll happily take snippy comments over a full-blown troll. Please, be kind. I’m fragile, and I break easily. The last thing I want to become is Humpty Dumpty on the firewall. There’s only so much super glue to go around, and all my parts are vital.

I read through comments on other pages, and I shake my head in confusion. Why would you say something like that? Why would you be cruel and disguise it as constructive criticism? Why would you go out of your way to be rude, call someone names, and then defend yourself by proclaiming your right to express your opinion?

Why do we do that? Why do we devolve into kids on a playground? Isn’t that the intellectual equivalent? Is that the power of the internet? It allows us to be the bully on the playground; instead of the kid that got picked on. Vengeance is mine. Take that, Susan! 

We can’t pass up the chance to feel strong and powerful. Especially when we feel impotent in our real lives. Online, no one can see us. No one knows who we really are. We can be anyone we want. The choice is ours, so grow three more inches and scream as loud as we can.

I have a right to my opinion, you blockheaded fool!

Did that make me feel better? Not really. Was it worth it? Nah, I think I need to create six more accounts, and work on my insults. It will amplify my voice, and then I’ll feel vindicated. It’s not working. Why isn’t it working?

I’m not a ray of sunshine every time I open my typing, surfing, places. Sometimes I’m grumpy, angry, and a few drops of righteous indignation sizzle on the back burner. I don’t always read past a headline before catapulting to a conclusion, even though I know I should. I’ve typed words that aren’t kind and, if you look closely, there’s an avatar covering my face.

It’s easier to type these words and talk about difficult topics if you don’t know what I look like. The anonymity is empowering and freeing to someone like me. I’m an introvert with a sensitive disposition. I want to connect with the wide world of amazing people, but I’m afraid of getting hurt. This is why I hide behind a logo on a page, and I’m guessing it’s why others do it too.

I understand the urge and impulse. I know what it’s like to feel weak in real-life, and find some strength online. It’s powerful, alluring, and intoxicating. But with great power comes great responsibility. Oh, that’s such a cliche, but cliches are truths in flowery formations. 

It’s how we use our newfound moxie that matters most, but we have to choose what matters most to us. Ideally, we’d embrace positivity and find ways to help instead of hurt. We’d build people up instead of breaking them down. We’d share an idea with words of kindness instead of bullying or name-calling. Have a conversation without yelling. Validate other voices without invalidating our own.

Or, are these ideas too lofty for the weird-wide-web? 


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