Except that I do I know why - I study this stuff, computer mediated communication and group polarisation and the freedoms of anonymity and the ease of miscommunication and all the factors that can make these worse;
and Tumblr, in the way it’s structured and the demographics who use it, is the perfect medium for fostering the kind of out of control hate that builds on itself and gets worse and worse, people getting angrier and angrier over what started out as relatively minimal, trivial issues.
and I get caught in it too, every now and then, but I’m trying consciously to pull away. And I’m trying to remember:
1) everybody is human and everybody slips up sometimes. Every single person on this planet who is a conscious moral agent has at some point done or said something that really hurt someone else, intentionally or not, or that is thoroughly disgusting and offensive in some way. If you’re most people, it’s eventually forgotten and forgiven and no one holds an eternal grudge against you for it. But if you’re famous, either as a celebrity or as someone who has a lot of Tumblr followers, that one bad thing is going to get quoted and reblogged with vicious commentary as people analyze it to death and make various conclusions on how you’re a terrible human being who doesn’t deserve to live. Imagine if that was you. Or a friend. Or a loved one. Be merciful.
2) people are individuals, not groups. It’s easy to group people together, especially online, when the only things you know about a person is one tiny aspect of their identity and you extrapolate from there. There’s this thing called the Social Deindividuation Theory which explains our tendency to abandon individual identities in favour of group identities, especially online, and treat others on an in-group vs out-group basis, automatically ascribing positive traits to in-group members and negative traits to out-group ones.
But people can’t be simplified that way. Your worst enemy has some good in them too. As does that person you’re bashing on Tumblr, or that politician, or that famous actor, or that specific group of people you’re antagonistic towards for whatever reason, justified and not. For any perceived or real enemy, think of them as a person. They too have feelings, problems, likes and dislikes, hopes and dreams, people who care about them, people they care about. They too believe that they’re doing the right thing. Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
3) Everyone likes problematic things. Everyone. Films, TV shows, books, celebrities… None are perfect, because we don’t live in that world. If you’ve ever enjoyed a piece of mass media, you like something that’s problematic. All of us are problematic in some way. Let them who is without sin cast the first stone. I’ve defended my fandoms countless times in the past, not because I condone their problematic aspects, but because they’re so much more than that to me, and I get upset at seeing them piled upon with hate the same way I’d be upset if I saw it happening to an also-flawed friend. Things don’t need to be perfect to be loved. If that were the case, there’d be no love.
4) and learn to let go. Sometimes it’s more important to be sensitive than politically correct, even where criticism is valid. Sometimes the latter causes more harm. Telling someone in evident distress that they used problematic wording is the wrong time. Telling a survivor that things they said contribute to rape culture is cruel. Derailing well-intentioned discussions into much-longer critiques of ableism because someone called a bigot ‘retarded’ takes time and energy away from addressing that bigger problem. I’ve seen all that happen.
Can we make Internet social justice into being more about helping and comforting the oppressed rather than fighting the oppressors? About doing good rather than winning arguments? About defusing hate rather than creating more hate?
And can we just be excellent to each other? Just a little more than usual? please?