I have been trying something a bit new on the internet for a while.
I think the inspiration was when I read about a woman with the name Rebecca Black who got a twitter outpouring of rage because a teen with the same name accidentally became famous for having a naff video. They were all going “Rebecca Black! You are the worst! Because you made a naff video!” and this lady happened to be an etiquette coach. So, instead of going “OH FUCK YOU, YOU TOAD” or “YEAH BIG MAN, threatening a 12 year old!” she responded with “grace” and “class”.
Also, the real Rebecca Black also responded with similar levels of grace and she was a kid and had no idea her video would be so popular with anyone, let alone haterz. Plus, they meant HER and they were saying personal stuff about HER. Etiquette Rebecca might have found it easier to stay calm because it wasn’t about her at all.
I found it in my heart to see the good in her video (which is actually ok, the lyrics are silly but that’s pop music, right?), because she was resolutely not a prick in those firestorm days of being hated by haterz.
Now, before I read about these Rebeccas Blacks being all friendly and gentle up in everyone’s grilles, I had given as good as I got on the internet.
If people were cocks, I would respond more or less in kind. Unless, you know, I could tell I was being trolled, in which case a non-response is usually the best.
I thought about this incident a lot and wondered what the best reaction to online provocation really could be. Sometimes people are incredibly rude and it’s not because they are a troll but because they are stupid or mean generally. But more usually, they are temporarily displaying stupidity or meanness which they find easier to express online because the usual social pressures are suspended on this channel of communication.
With online “men’s right’s activists” (who are roaming packs of men who go to feminist sites and try to derail the discussion somehow), I enjoy (like REALLY enjoy), preempting their derailment tactics and using them first. I probably shouldn’t reveal this here because, you know, they might get mad. But that’s what I do. I accuse them of being “emotional” and “spoiling their cause by their tone” (when they haven’t), and all the classics used to shut down discussion of the issues they do not like being discussed.
I really enjoy it! But it is not graceful.
With Danes and Dane-enthusiasts, I was often not very graceful. This is “because” they started it. Often if I would make an observation, instead of dealing with the content of my argument or discussing what I said, they would say things that translate roughly into “The reason you think that is because you are a bitch” or “You have no right to free speech”. And these people, were often not even trolling me. They were just THAT poor at discussion with another living, breathing, sensitive human being.
After years of dealing with the same arguments, I have become better at coping with it. Though, it does get to me. I’m not a professional troll, I’m not trying to upset people. I’m speaking my brains and I don’t mind people saying “ahh, bollocks, dude, that’s so wrong” or “Why do you think that?” I DO VERY MUCH mind it when people are mean or stupid. Shit man, can you imagine if I’d gone to a country where people were better at critical thinking and they attacked me in a different way every time? Christ upon a penny farthing.
So, despite my itty bitty fweelings getting hurt by people who are not being very sensitive to my needs as a overly-sensitive self-facilitating media node, I have been trying not to go on the offensive when I reply to unfair or unkind criticism.
(The most recent exception was to someone who claimed what I really needed was “a dick in a box” and I said that his gay mom said I could borrow hers. I am still proud of this. Inordinately so.)
Also, and maybe the Rebecca Black thing is a coincidence. I am not anonymous anymore. I blew my cover and people I know professionally get to see me in action if they google me. So, I need to be a good role model because I work with young people and people who think I should be a good role model. I’m cool with that, though, the reason people are getting lairy in the first place is because they know there is no consequence to their real reputation. If they had the idea that their poor behaviour would lead to people thinking less of them in the real world, they would also probably knock it the shit off.
Next year, then, I am going to work really really hard on being graceful on the internet. Really really hard on it. And I hesitated to write it in public. Not because I don’t want the accountability, because I do, but because it might arouse troll-penises and then I would have to fend off troll-boners all year. NO ONE WANTS THAT.
I was thinking of doing it like a book-deal project without a book-deal. You know, like when someone does something wacky for 12 months and releases a book? Like that but the wacky thing is “behave well”. So I might set myself mini gracefulness projects if I can think of them. I saw a programme on DR2 about this called “Politeness in 100 days” where a Danish guy tries to bring back courtesy with mini-projects. Like that. Or like what Lars AP is doing with Fucking Flink. Or Rachel Held Evans when she went for a month without expressing opinions, but put herself in situations where people had opposing views and she had to talk to them. I am copying other people, is what I am trying to say.
And in the spirit of that, I have started a brand new discussion forum where people can talk about Denmark if they feel like it. And I hope to encourage respectful and compassionate dialogue. Because remember, “dialogue is very important!”
Happy New Year everybody!