There’s a lot of rage going around the Internet. I’d like to say “lately” but I’ve noticed it’s a sustained rage for some time. It becomes more focused to me when I’m on the receiving end, but it’s not just me. It’s everyone and everything. The world is becoming a more polarized place, and not for good reason. Intolerance of any new idea that doesn’t fit the hive mind’s is immediately shouted down by the Internet mob.
It makes me wonder what is going on with our society.
Reading Angry Blog Posts
Recently I came across this piece on a blog. For the sake of disclosure, I do not know her, nor do I read her blog regularly, but I was taken aback at the overall rage she had in the blog. For those with the tl;dr attention of a gnat, she brings up the hypocrisy of caring about deaths of people whom we don’t know brought to our attention by the media and laments how people do nothing to help other people. (If I am wrong on this interpretation, let me know.) She has some good points, but I think she was a bit harsh when it comes to judging people. In particular, she points out she doesn’t know the people who died in Orlando and doesn’t shed tears for them. She sheds tears for friends who have died.
Why I Think People Show Sorrow Over Deaths the Media Brings Up
TL:DR version: People can only process about five to seven bits of information at a time. The rest causes information overload and we get confused, drop the information, or pay attention to other things more pressing. Most people unless they know someone directly involved end up becoming distracted by life.
The writer of the blog seemed to imply that people care about the deaths the media brings up but do not care about deaths in their community nor deaths that occur that aren’t brought up. (Again, if I made the wrong supposition, you can correct me on it.)
I’m not sure if this is correct. I believe that most non-psychotic people do care whether or not someone dies, or someone suffers. It’s human nature to care when we see something going on in our circle, whether it be our loved ones, family, or friends. Even if it is our acquaintances, we’re bound to feel something when someone we know is hurt or dies. The problem people run into is when they’re inundated with statistics. Joseph Stalin, the tyrant, stated: “If only one man dies of hunger, that is a tragedy. If millions die, that’s only statistics.” As much as I hate quoting Stalin, he had a point. People don’t notice the numbers of people dying every day. I suspect it has mostly to do with information overload and our overall problem with processing such numbers.
Let me explain. Humans have a limited processing capability in their conscious minds. One article says that we can juggle three or four things in our brain at once, but if I recall my psychology classes correctly, the maximum number is about seven, and the optimal number for most people is around five. At some point, if the person isn’t one of those affected by the deaths directly, other pressing matters of life take hold. In other words, if you’ve just lost your job, your rent is overdue, and you have a negative bank balance, that’s going to have more impact than someone you never knew in your local community dying in a car accident, especially if you live in a big city. If you read about it in the paper or heard about it in the news, chances are your mind went there for however long it took to hear or process the story. Maybe you thought about it afterwards, especially if the story was particularly poignant, but at some point, you let it go and move on with your day and your own troubles. It’s not that you don’t care, it’s just that it doesn’t affect you at this point and time.
But What About the Current Deaths?
Orlando was an interesting case. First off, it has happened in the United States by an Islamic terrorist. Yes, I just said that. Deal with it. Second, it happened at a gay nightclub, something that the gay community, while a minority, is a vocal minority. Many in the press are quick to cover this type of hate crime. If you’re LGBT, chances are you’ve agreed that they should cover this. My response is that it should be covered because it was a terrorist attack, and not because it was against a person’s sexual orientation. It was a hate crime, but then all terrorist attacks are hate crimes, when you think about it.
The attack on the cops in Dallas should be covered. The attack in Nice, France should be covered. You probably felt something when you read the news about these terrible attacks. If you are a cop or related to a cop, or if you live in Texas, you probably had more emotional involvement. I know that I did. As horrified as I am over the Nice attack, I admit I don’t know the people and I know I just don’t have the same emotional ties as the Dallas attack, even though more people were horrifically murdered in Nice. At some point if we’re not directly affected by these murders, the demands of life intrude.
Why I think the Orlando attacks draw more sympathy in the US is that was an attack on citizens in the US. Even if you aren’t gay, you can still make the association that ordinary people were harmed in a bar.
At some point, we deal with information overload and more bad news coming through the Internet. The other part of the equation is what information we’re given. If you’ve read a poignant story about a death in one of these attacks, that’s going to stick with you. Again, the Stalin quote rings true, and I hate the bastard.
What About Rage on the Internet?
I think that the overall impersonal nature of the Internet has not only created trolls, but has also created people who wouldn’t be so angry all the time. But the near anonymity, lack of accountability, distance between the posters (he won’t show up from 2000 miles away), and the inability to read people’s expressions while communicating has created generations of rude, near troll-like people.
People, if someone has ruined your day on the Internet, you need to get a life. Seriously. You need to unplug and get some distance from the computer or smartphone and live in the real world a little. If you’re always arguing with people, angry, and enraged, maybe it’s time for some perspective.
My sister once put my bad day into perspective back in 2001. She told me after 9/11 that if one didn’t have to make the choice of jumping to your death or burning to death, everything is good. No matter how bad you think your life is, think about those people.
Kinda makes our arguments trivial, doesn’t it?
A general note: I wrote most of this sometime back, but for whatever reason, I decided to not publish it. That being said, I’ve been late with posts. Yes, I’ll admit it; life intrudes. But I got a nice message from my readers. So, I dusted this off and finished it up. If it feels a bit dated by a few months, now you know why.