This post was originally published on July 28, 2012, on my other blog.
Why are you so angry on the Internet?
A lot of what I think confuses people about me is the fact that I interact with them in a way that’s unfamiliar to them. And that can be scary ‘cause it’s inherently scary to be interacted with in ways that you’re not familiar with. And that’s totally fair and valid.
The other night I was talking to somebody who was like, “It’s like you have split personality. You’re so different in person.” And the thing is, they were like, “Well, I hope the significant part of you that’s real is the part that’s in person because that person online is really mean, and really angry all the time, and I don’t like that person. But I really like to spend time with this person—you—IN PERSON.”
And the thing is, is like, yeah! I am really angry a lot. Heh. I mean, fuck! There’s a lot to be angry about, and anger’s a pretty valid emotion that I feel pretty often, and I feel like it’s a perfectly valid thing to express—often, when I feel angry.
The question is, do I express that in person or online? Where do I put this anger? How do I express this anger? How do I express this anger in a way that’s actually safer for everyone involved?
How do YOU express your anger?
I could express this anger in person, but if I did that in person the people around me would have much less control over whether or not they want to engage with that anger. Now, if I express that anger online, any one of you can literally press a button and get me out of your space. It’s called blocking—it’s why I use it so often. The Internet’s wonderful that way.
I use the Internet partially as a shield, and partially as a way to create a communications mechanism that gives the people who choose to interact with that communication control over their engagement of it. And that’s super important for being able to create safer spaces to express emotions that are uncomfortable. And expressing emotions that are uncomfortable is something that our society very rarely gives us a chance to do in person.
You’re supposed to be conciliatory, especially if you were socialized as someone who was always perceived to be female. It’s really…just a violent place to be.
Now, verbal violence is violence and can be awful. Physical violence is also awful. And verbal violence in physical spaces is way, way, WAY more threatening than verbal violence on the Internet.
I think it’s important to give people opportunities to express themselves in ways that are comfortable for them, and I also think it’s important to give those people that you’re expressing uncomfortable feelings towards—such as anger—an opportunity to say, “I’m done now. I check out. No more. I’m finished.”
And what easier way to give them that opportunity than to allow them to press a button and have your image and your words deleted off their screen, never to be seen again, if they don’t want to.
‘Cause y’see, most people use the Internet like a yes-machine, like a filter bubble, like a way to find agreement, like a way to create only the thing that they’re already familiar with. And I don’t think that’s a very interesting use of the Internet. (It’s called a filter bubble by Eli Pariser, who has a very good TEDTalk about that.) And it’s boring. It’s just a boring interaction.
I wanna use the Internet to find things that I disagree with, to find things that make me uncomfortable, to engage and actually interact with things that are really frustrating. Because if I can engage with things are really frustrating, when I get too frustrated or too angry then I can just…stop. I can just press a button and it all goes away. And that’s beautiful.
It’s something I can’t do in person. I can’t turn off the channel. I can’t change the web page, if I’m in person. But I can if I’m online.
And so can you.
So where are you putting your anger, and why? Who is at the brunt of that anger, and why? If you haven’t thought about that, and you’re upset or confused when I block you, or when I’m angry on the Internet, or when I engage with people in confrontational ways that force them to respond or act or think about something even if that response is just to block me, I don’t think that you really understand how I use the Internet. And I question whether or not the way that you express the feelings that are most uncomfortable for others for you to express is being expressed in a consensual way.
Give people the opportunity to back off, to say no, to check out and what better [easier] way to do that than by pressing a button?
Split personality? Maybe. I’m sure it can come off that way. But, it’s all real. I’m really angry. I have real reasons to be angry. I’m also really careful about where I put that anger. And I’d rather do that in a place where people can press a button and say “no” to the engagement of that feeling, than be forced to interact with me in person and not know how to press a button to tell me to stop.
Block people. It’s not a personal slight. Unless you want it to be. In which case, fuck you.