Echo Chambers and keyboard warriors
Is it me or has social media become more of a minefield than it was about four months ago before we globally hunkered down for safety? Could keyboard warriors around the world be potentially taking out their frustration being stuck indoors by venting online on all issues big and small?
On a dog owners Facebook group I am a member of, I saw a post with the photo of a dog sleeping in a portable crate in the back seat of a car with the back window slighted cracked open for fresh air.
With no judgment or criticism, the original poster described the scene and asked for advice, as she wasn’t sure if there was anything wrong, but something about leaving a dog in a car just didn’t seem right to her. Alongside sensible feedback and advice came a barrage of abuse and insults within the space of fifteen minutes. Some claimed she was shaming the people; others asked why she didn’t mind her own business. It was vicious. Predictably, after trying to defend the reason she had posted, she took down the post.
I couldn’t wrap my head around such online brutality where even as you’re being accused of being judgmental, you are also being judged? When did we all become the judge and jury in the court of Facebook?
The trouble is these attitudes rule in all facets of debate on all social platforms, regardless of how small or the big the issue in question is. Only a fortnight ago, JK Rowling faced vicious attacks online for her comments on the difference between women and trans women. These attacks ranged from insults, mockery to outright rape threats. I don’t defend her opinion, but regardless of the opinion itself, but I do defend her right to share her opinion on her personal Twitter.
We have been stuck in our own echo chambers for so long, our own opinions magnified and mirrored over and over again, that some of us seem to have forgotten the value of differences of opinion or the power of debate. Any discussion that should be a healthy debate between opposite factions quickly descends into name-calling and mudslinging these days, from the existence of sex (as was supported by JK Rowling) to the picture of a dog in the backseat of a car.
In my experience and humble opinion, the debates to avoid on social media ranges from sublime to the ridiculous – let’s say, ranging on a scale from Black Lives Matter protests to clown Bojo. Along with keyboard wars comes the condition of ‘whataboutery’ too – symptoms manifest themselves as constantly asking the question “What about?” to distract from or minimise an issue. For instance, when criticised for attending a Donald Trump rally, the keyboard warrior will retort with, “What about the Black Lives Matters protests?” If schooled on why black lives matter, they will as “What about Yemen? Or Libya?” or a multitude of other injustices around the world.
When someone asks “What about?” instead of engaging with a different point of view, you know that that is pretty much the end of that conversation. Their shutters have come down and they will no longer listen to anything you have to say. This is why over the last few weeks, I had to call friends, and on one occasion myself, after trying to have a conversation online with people on social media about why all lives don’t matter unless black lives matter.
If I’ve tried to engage with them in the hope of having a grown-up debate, and they start name-calling, I just scroll on by. Unless they are friends, family or pay my bills, their opinion is not my concern and truly I will never change a mind that’s already made up. If they are any of the above, then it is time to decide whether I should still keep them in my life, and if their ingrained judgment hurts more than their absence, then the decision is made.
Hence, these days, I pick my online battles carefully, because whether on or offline, when you argue with a fool, they drag you down to their level and beat you up with their foolishness.