The Internet Is Not A Bathroom Stall

The internet is not a bathroom stall

and/or otherwise entitled how to engage with people online regardless of the subject, and actually be successful.

It goes without saying that the internet is endlessly scrawled upon by pseudo-intellectuals waiting for their turn to speak. People endlessly spin their wheels in conversations that ping pong back and forth between two unimpressive opinions by people who aren’t even experts in the subject about which they converse.

Spending so much time and energy with little result to show for it is not productive. This subject, and those conversations, aren’t even really up to debate (it actually is, this is just my opinion). Academically, logically, and logistically it just doesn’t make sense to behave in this manner.

Debate itself can’t happen until the two parties agree upon terms. That requires from the outset some level of understood cooperation between people of differing views. You don’t HAVE TO be civilized, but none of us were raised by wolves, so acting out isn’t going to all of a sudden be seen as ‘action movie tough’ behavior. You’re not saving the day here. The idea of debate and the standards of that is so lost on our contemporary culture that we might as well be Marco Polo. 


Structure and Perspective

There are strict rules that guide debate so that their participants productively engage with their opponents and impress upon those that observe. Debate teams have arguments judged and closely scrutinized. This teaches them not just how to argue well, but how to recognize what ideas and approaches have the most resonance with the people they need to convince of their respective agendas.

The discipline and skill set that’s developed is valuable to be able to have dialogue between people and groups of differing opinions. Structured conversation can actually end up in a clear cut conclusion, but debates like that now only happen in academic settings. It’s a lost art within public discourse, and especially on social media.

I’m not a debater, at least not anymore, and I don’t want to be. I don’t argue with people anymore online because that opens yourself to an endless stream of trolls and marketers who aren’t interested in making any progress, just in their own agenda and promoting it, or upending your position while getting a strong reaction.

Don’t feel the trolls.

Engaging in a healthy debate with someone with a new perspective can be amazing. It’s not all that hard to find someone who’s genuinely interested in a subject that you’re also passionate about. The conversation that follows this lead is pretty much on the opposite end of the spectrum to most online interactions. It’s vitally important though, because seeing something you care about through the eyes of another breaks your own limited sense of subjectivity and gives you a more balanced understanding of that particular ‘thing’.

The rules of debate and discourse are clear. They guide dialogue towards a heightened level of intellectual understanding. This is a dictum that should always be adhered to in conversation, especially if you have the privilege of living within a first world nation. 


Dancing to the Algorithm

A lot of people don’t use social media in a healthy way. There are endless justifications for why people will lose their temper or say something unreasonable. In the end it’s just unintelligent and childish.

I’ll never be impressed by an adult (who would otherwise be logical, smart, and polite) acting like a desperate animal. I certainly won’t be able to give that person’s opinion ‘a fair day in court’, for lack of a better term. Cruelty and ignorance, for example, as common behavior is the lowest common denominator. Acting that way is literally the most basic instinct aside from that mainstream softcore porn film starring Michael Douglas.

Most of the algorithmic designs of your multiple social media feeds are tailored to keep you engaged in controversial subject matter for as long as possible. They take advantage of your interests and use an automated formula to build an instantaneous psychological profile on you that enables them to manipulate you.

happily enjoy the interwebs
happily enjoy the interwebs

The longer you use their platform, the more intricate the manipulation and profile becomes. The goal is to keep you engaged as long as possible. They use people as a product with well established behavior-mapping.

It turns social media into an overwhelming addiction engine that most people can neither recognize as addictive or even imagine a way to combat. How do you fight such an intangible impulse? Am I supposed to not talk to my friends and family?

People don’t seem to be able to imagine life without a device attached to them. That opens them to be partially controlled by mathematical formulas so complex, that they could be seen as having bias. A good example of this is a filter option on your feed, where one is separated by the latest posts (no algorithm) and the other by the most liked (a really basic algorithm). 

Now imagine the difference between separating your social media feeds by the ‘most liked’ versus ‘’the most controversial’. The difference between the programming of these two options would be immense, with much more intricacy needed for the controversial option. The amount of data that’s needed to be included in that latter option is so titanic that this type of algorithm could be legitimately seen as having an individual opinion, versus just being a simple line of code.


Behavioralize Yourself

I can’t tell people how to behave, but as someone with a history of addiction and mental health issues, I’ve personally had some real problems finding a way to exist online without acting out. I’m especially susceptible to that type of digital poking and prodding.

I need to protect myself no matter what anyone thinks about it. I’m not going to ramble on with you or comment on most posts that are combative or argumentative because it’s not healthy for me. I’m not going to have endless back and forth with people. I feel that I’m especially vulnerable to the effects of algorithmic social media engineering, and have taken steps to improve my outlook.

What I found to be fulfilling and meaningful when using the internet or my smart phone is connecting with communities of people. People like me who have similar backgrounds. Sometimes that means supporting groups of folks who struggle to move forward with addiction issues, or people who like dressing up as furry animals.

Other times I’m interacting with artists, vegans, vegan cooks, musicians, writers, investors, and film geeks. Niche genres with passionate individuals who are friendly and want to connect in a healthy way. The idea of social media having a positive effect on my life still feels a bit strange, but at least it’s palatable.

I have a whole bunch of subjects that I enjoy, and being able to connect with different individuals and communities in a positive and productive way has improved my real world experiences and my digital profile. Adjusting my perspective to encourage this type of experiential process of “surfing the internet”, to use a now nearly defunct phrase, has even made my livelihood more financially viable.

I’m on the other side of this issue now. It took consistent dedication over time. First I had to take a long break from facebook in particular. That was the hardest part. I deactivated my profile three times before it took.

Without that overwhelmingly negative influence, I was able to learn to control my unhealthy impulsive reactions. Now I avoid uselessly controversial situations that I already recognize as a red flag. These situations are threads and posts that I would engage with in the past that I now know won’t end up with a positive conclusion.

The goal of these myriad social media platforms, and the programmers and data scientists that populate their inner machinations, is to collect information and waste my time. They don’t care about my mental health, my bank account, or my rights.


No Thanks

In retrospect, social media’s scam is now so obvious to me that it resembles a freshman boy fumbling nervously to unclasp his girlfriend’s bra in the darkness of the back seat of his father’s Cadillac. It’s a joke of an endeavor that any self-respecting computer programmer should be fucking ashamed to initiate, let alone propagate and uphold. Social media companies consist of shameful and dishonest business people.

So I try to be polite and positive. That doesn’t mean I’m going to back down to neo-nazis or alt-right trolls who’s commentary is inhumane and rooted in fascist ideology. I’ll simply organize against them and stay in my lane. That’s a reliable method to effectively debate and approach people, while still maintaining your psychological health. 

Your social composure is relative to your mental health. Keep control. Don’t allow yourself to become an addict on the hunt for your next dopamine hit. 

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