January 21

2016 Resolutions: Updated!

angry-emojiWe’re already almost a month into 2016. How is that even possible? Despite the fact that the new year is already a few weeks old, I’m not done thinking about ways to make it, and my life, better. I’m still looking for ways to improve things because modern life is stressful enough as it is. There have got to be ways to make life simpler. And happier. Much less stressful. And I think I’ve stumbled onto something that’s really gonna work. It involves how I spend my time online, whether it’s at home on the computer or anywhere on the smartphone.

Stopping the Internet Madness

Our lives are increasingly being played out in the digital realm of the internet. (Why, I’m there right now. And so are you! I rest my case.) Overall, taking in all the good and bad things the internet gives us, I’d say without one single doubt that the pros vastly outweight the cons.

world-book-encyclopediaThe internet has given us instant access to all the information we could ever possibly use. If you remember digging into your family’s World Book Encyclopedia, struggling frantically to get your homework done, then you know how the internet (Google and Wikipedia in particular) have made life infinitely easier. (There were of course other brands of encyclopedias, we just happened to have the World Books, like almost everybody else. Grown men made livings out of selling these thick volumes door to door! I seem to remember my mother getting our set, one volume at a time, through some sort of promotion at the grocery store. Jesus, the 70’s were strange.)

The internet solves our problems, and answers our questions. It makes us laugh, and connects us with family and friends around the world. It shows us things we never thought we would ever see. It’s amazing. And it’s getting bigger, and better, everyday.

But the cons. Oh boy, those cons. Over the years, spending as much time on the internet as I have, both working and playing (my time-wasting abilities on the internet are quite spectacular), I’ve seen a lot of the things that are harmful and counter-productive out there in the vast web of the internet. You know what they are? They’re other people.

The internet has given us so many things. One of those things is a great ability for anybody to express his or her own views and opinions with more freedom than at any other time in human history. This great flattening allows one person’s thoughts to be expressed to every other human being on the planet (well, at least every other human with an internet connection.) And that’s a good thing, right? Aren’t I expressing my thoughts and views to you right now? Yes indeed. But what I’m getting at, in my usual long-winded and digression-filled way, is the way that the ability to express ones’ views, in a largely anonymous fashion, brings out the absolute worst in people.

So what is my brilliant new resolution? It’s super simple. I’m not looking at or reading any comments left by people on the internet. Anywhere on the internet.

I’ve come to the realization that most of whatever stress, anxiety, frustration, anger and rage I feel when reading something on the internet is coming directly from the comments sections. And that’s got to stop; I’m not getting any younger and I do not want my first heart attack to come as a reaction to some dimwits’ internet comments.

Computer smash

The internet comments section (whether it’s a comment to a news article, social media posting, youtube video, instagram photo, literally anything) are the digital equivalent to being in an automobile. Driving in a car gives us a feeling of anonymity, which at times results in ugliness, from flipping off or swearing at a bad driver to much more serious incidents of road rage. We’ve all been there, me definitely included.

Well, as I see it, the internet is an even more anonymous place where people feel that they can say whatever they want, for whatever reason. I know you know what I’m talking about. It’s everywhere; go to any article, posting, video, anything, and start scrolling through the comments section. It won’t take but a few comments for the negativity and name-calling and insulting to begin. It gets ugly, and to me things only seem to be getting worse. An article on a political or religious subject is likely to illicit the absolute worst comments from people.

Why is this? Is it because people are frustrated in their own lives, or didn’t get enough hugs as children, that lashing out in public forums somehow makes them feel better? Probably, but that doesn’t make it right. There are very few good manners on display in public comments sections.

But I’ve finally figured it out; just because comments sections are there doesn’t mean I have to look at them. I can’t tell you how often I’ve gotten physically agitated at some comment somewhere. (I can’t tell you, but my wife probably can, so this resolution is for her benefit as well.) Haters gonna hate, but I don’t gotta participate.

So…I’m doing my best to refrain from being exposed to the cesspool of humanity that is an internet comments section. (editor’s note: I’m talking primarily about comments to new articles or social media posts by news outlets or other large sources of info on the internet. Most comments to smaller blogs are much more refined and positive.)

Many large organizations are helping by either hiding comments sections on their pages or eliminating them altogether. Some require users to use their actual names, which oddly doesn’t seem to get most users to rein in their horribleness. YouTube users are often shutting off the comments sections for their videos. And I thank them for it.

You see, just because anybody can post their opinion doesn’t make them right, or even interesting. And that’s another problem with the internet. Everybody thinks their comments are somehow helpful or are going to make the original content that much more valuable. It isn’t true. What wide-open comments sections show to me is that most people don’t have any idea what they’re talking about. Sorry, but it’s true. In many situations, one’s own opinion doesn’t bring anything to the table. I’m not saying that people’s opinions are wrong, or that they shouldn’t be free to share them; I’m just reiterating my right to ignore them. Too many bad eggs have ruined the beautiful omelet that is the internet for the rest of us. I am no longer going to be influenced (negatively) by the evil trolls that feel the need to deposit their droppings on internet forums and comments sections, and in order to do that, I’ve got to shut out everything. It’s the price I’m now willing to pay for a modicum of sanity.

As I mentioned earlier, the internet is a magical wonderland where I discover amazing things, and learn incredible new things, every single day. By attempting to control my access to the nasty shit, I’m making my life much more calm. If I feel the need to leave my own comment somewhere (always logical, reasonable, and respectful, of course) I will do so. But I will also ignore the replies that my comment conjures, which invariably will counter my comment with either an insult or a ‘fact’ that the commenter won’t back up with any source whatsoever (these ‘facts’ trollers are always using are almost always thinly-veiled opinions, and also almost always incorrect.)

Comment sections have devolved to such a point that I don’t feel that they add anything positive to either the topic at hand or to our overall way of life in general. The name calling and insults and overall negative vibes that are so pervasive…it’s harming us all. We’re slowly losing our civility, and our ability to hear differing opinions and opposing viewpoints without everything crashing into internet shouting matches. I’m sick of it, I’m tired of it. I’m longing for a more civilized internet experience that doesn’t make me angry or hurt my feelings. And by avoiding comments like the plague, I think I’m getting much, much closer to it.

What do you think? Are comments sections (in general) getting you down? Or pissed off? Hell, maybe it’s just me, I don’t know. I can’t believe I’m saying this after everything I just wrote, but leave a comment! (just be nice about it)

Interested in checking out the rest of my resolutions guaranteed to make me the perfect person in 2016? They’re right here!

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Posted January 21, 2016 by brainstembob@yahoo.com in category "Current Events", "Internet Culture", "Rants

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