Like A Girl

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The Hitler in your comments section.

The other day I found myself reading this really great Medium article that thoroughly explained why the Black Panther movie was so meaningful. It was objectively written, well-thought-out, eye-opening, and it helped me to process why I had felt so much pride leaving that theater on opening night.

These are the moments that I feel such a deep appreciation for Medium.

I reached the end of the post and I began to hold my thumb on the clapping hands to applaud until it had reached a sum number that was divisible by 20 (coder-brain).

Then, it began.

I continued to scroll down, in search of my next hit.

Show out of network responses? Sure! Thanks for asking!

I read the first two comments. Awesome. Like me, they really got something good out of this well-written article. I kept scrolling. Another positive review followed by another.

Then, I found what I was looking for. A comment from someone in Sweden claiming that the movie was racist simply because it stars an all-black cast. I look to see how many claps this comment got. The verdict? 200! I shake my head and I keep scrolling. I find another negative review that pointed out how movies are not supposed to be political and therefor he will not ever be seeing the film. I think to myself, “how exactly is this super-hero movie even pretending to be political? Better question — how did you read this carefully considered article and end up with such a dismissive comment?” I got so upset, that I closed out of Medium all together, went into the living room and began to vent to Ty about how ridiculous people on the internet are.

This isn’t an article about the Black Panther movie.

This is an article about our behavioral patterns on social media.

It’s been something I’ve been gnawing on for a few weeks now. I’ve been trying to witness more of my subconscious behavior in relationship to how I use apps like Instagram, Twitter, and this time, Medium. I thought to myself, “I read the article and it was great. I clapped and showed my gratitude. Why did I scroll down to read the comments? Positive comment after positive comment… It wasn’t enough until I found a negative one. It wasn’t enough until I got my hit of opposition”.

If you’re like me and find yourself more engaged in the comments section of a post than in the post itself, then you know that the comment section is where your hope in humanity goes to die.

People on the internet are so ridiculously objective about things that clearly have many perspectives.

Everyone is screaming, and no one is listening. If social media is supposed to be a place for open dialogue, then the comment section shows us that this is one big dysfunctional fucking dinner party.

Social media shows us how insensitive our human race can be to one another.

Or…maybe not.

Maybe we’re wrong about our perceptions of social media. Maybe in reality, it’s not that negative at all. Maybe, social media shows us just how like-minded we all are.

I’ve come to the conclusion, that secretly, social media is good for us.

Here, I will disprove all of the negative claims that I mentioned above and perhaps, I might just restore all of your faith in humanity by way of social media, itself.

Let’s talk about how ridiculous people on the internet are…

They’re not really that ridiculous at all, honestly.

We all have developed the habit of thinking of the internet as a singular being. We say things like “people are so insensitive” and “no one sees why this is a big deal”. How dramatic, we are! A few rotten bananas seem to discredit the entire bunch. We do this because as human beings, everything is much easier to understand once we categorize it into bigger collective groups, and when confronted with a myriad of opinions, our human instincts prefer us to remember and react to the negative opinions over the positive ones.

FSU social psychology professor, Prof.Baumeister states in his journal, Bad is Stronger Than Good, that “bad emotions, bad parents and bad feedback have more impact than good ones. Bad impressions and bad stereotypes are quicker to form and more resistant to disconfirmation than good ones.”

They performed an experiment in which subjects either gained or lost the same amount of money. What they found was that the distress they expressed over losing the money was greater than the joy that accompanied gaining the money.

We are more upset about losing $50 than we are happy about receiving $50. The journal states that “survival requires urgent attention to possible bad outcomes but less urgent with regard to good ones”.

In reality, most people on the internet aren’t really all that ridiculous, but the ridiculous ones are much easier to remember and react to.

Everyone is screaming and no one is listening…

Not really.

A month ago, I wrote an article addressing a troll that I had on Medium. I still get applause on that article every single day. People still comment on it as well. Today, the article has almost 2.5K claps, but a mere 10 negative comments (out of 28 total comments), made me question whether or not I wanted to continue to post articles on Medium at all. Logically it makes no sense to weigh the naysayers so heavily. Here’s the math. Out of 2.5K, only .4% of the reactions were opposing opinions, leaving .7% of positive responses.

Only 1% is screaming in actuality.

The vast majority is just listening. Perhaps even, the vast majority is reading and not responding at all. The vast majority doesn’t give a shit enough to really express any opinion. The vast majority, isn’t the right or the left — it’s the passive middle.

Next time you dive into the comments section on a divisive Facebook post, think about the Views to Comments ratio. Then consider the Views to Bad Comments ratio. There are a lot less assholes than you may have believed there to be. 1%? That should be expected. NBD (no big deal).

Social media shows us how insensitive humans can be…

Not quite.

Social media is just inadequately equipped with the variety of tools we’re used to using to express our sensitivity. See, there’s Internet Reality and then there’s your Actual Reality and they are not 1 to 1, though we tend to think of them as such.

Have you ever noticed that in your Actual Reality, you maybe get into a real confrontation like 3 times a year? I’m talking about a confrontation with another real human being stranger that is actually in front of you. Maybe it’s some guy who hit your bumper while you were in traffic. Maybe it’s some jerk in a customer service job who you feel is seriously falling short. Maybe it’s a coworker who you’ve been building a dislike for for months.

Well, not in Internet Reality. In Internet Reality, people can get into confrontations with strangers all the time. It’s something that just does not translate into the real world, and here’s why.

In Actual Reality, confrontation takes a wide variety of context into consideration that the Internet just can not. Body language, vocal tones, eye-contact, facial expression — all of these need to be in alignment in order for a confrontation to be justified in person. Someone who is saying “I’m sorry, I can’t help you” while expressing a sad face, a regretful tone, hands over their heart, while maintaining eye-contact tells us that this person is being genuine and that this is not a justified moment to call her an asshole.

In Internet Reality, that context is just not there. We fill in the blanks with our imagination in Internet Reality. We cause issues that don’t exist. We perceive people to be worse than they are. In our minds, we read comments in vocal tones that they were not meant to be interpreted in. Have you ever considered, that maybe someone was being sensitive and you just did not perceive it that way? Perhaps they read your article wrong and perceived the article to be written in a voice that was more critical than your own. Perhaps they did not perceive you as being sensitive, even though you may have written your post with sensitivity in mind.

The internet can’t compensate for this valuable context, which is why confrontation is much more viable online. Not to mention, in person, if you start a confrontation, you essentially have to be willing to die. The person in front of you whom you are confronting may physically harm you, so the stakes are much higher and confrontation is much more carefully considered before it’s decided upon. Online, there are very little consequences. The absolute worst thing that could happen to you is that you get blocked. Getting blocked and getting punched in the actual face are completely different. Getting blocked would be the equivalent of being ignored. There is no face-punching equivalent online…yet.

So you see, we give social media a bad rep.

Mostly for reasons due to our human instincts and the lack of ability for these platforms to compensate for them.

If you look really really closely, you just might see that the comments section isn’t where our faith in humanity goes to die. It’s where dying ideas about humanity, say their last words before their deaths. It’s not the guillotine as much as it’s a graveyard. The vast majority do not feel the way that the negative commenter does. The vast majority doesn’t even care enough to comment. The negative commenter feels the need to scream his opinions because he is aware that his ideas of humanity are dying and he is fighting for them to continue to live.

When you get out of the comments and focus on the likes, claps, and views, you see that most of us are open minded enough to read or watch something new and controversial. Most of us are respectful of one another despite their opinions. Most of us disagree in private.

Most of us are not the Hitler in your comments.

Love,

Felecia

— I’m a coder, designer, and YouTuber.

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