It Is Not Your Job To Be A Jerk :: On Social Media Vulnerability And Distance

If the only people that are elected to public offices of representation are those that are skilled at hiding their vulnerabilities or lack transparency, what does that say about the entire body of elected officials? That’s just a really provocative way of opening an essay, not exactly what I want to write about here. What I do want to write about here is about public digital space and how that impacts personal relationships. As I wrote in this piece about here about the Law of Acceptance, I think it is necessary that we all take a step back from machines that promote antipathy more than they promote sympathy or fear. What does OWL mean by that?


The distance created by the devices used to connect to the interweb and thus our social media applications provides us with a lot of space for not caring or not being close enough to feel threatened by social miscues. In fact, it is very difficult to read a social miscue across a screen even if it is a video stream. Which means there are going to be a number of errors of judgment. Couple that with the often overlooked factor of personal entitlement that in some ways is accurate or at least understandable. We pay a bill for our phones, we pay a bill for our interweb access, we pay a bill for our electricity. We are paying to communicate and often in a space where we are paying we wish also be treated with a certain VIP status if all that means is being less than cordial to the hired help. The interweb for most people is an escape, it is a form of entertainment, and the most analogous form of entertainment seems to be the video game. In video games, I can kill my best friend and still borrow money from him five seconds later. In social media, there is a slight disruption in that particular paradigm!!!


Going back to the idea of acceptance: it really can be easy to forget that there is someone on the other side of the screens that we are typing into, but there is. Not only is there another human on the other side of the screen that we are typing into, but they are going through their own day, tumultuous or other. As a portion of the escape, as a portion of the entertainment, treating others like text-based punching bags becomes a predominant sport. Ideas and concepts become our digital weaponry;Google and Wikipedia are like the Ammu-nation of the social media world as we arm ourselves to belittle someone, often our actual “friends” and family, while our ideologies form our digital gangs. Ideological gang banging is the plot of this game and yet, there is no turning of the game and laughing about it with friends.


In places of business, the “professional” notion is to keep political and religious discussions out of the office/work place. Online in social media, it would seem as though the opposite is at work. Ideological gang banging demands that the hot button topics of the day, or even the hot button topics of two thousand years ago are always on the table. These tend to be issues and concerns that generate the most personal passion and they should. We are discussing the intentional and blatant attack of the ideas and beliefs that form a person’s identity. I do attempt to tread lightly with identity politics because they are fragile by nature. They are designed and programmed into us(socialized) with the intention of being used as forms of defense and separation. Add to that the social reality that some people simply do not feel they are performing “intelligence” without arguing and debating everyone they scroll past!!! And some humans learn best by challenging those that possess greater amounts of data.


For me and as a tenet of Asylum, objectivity is necessary for acceptance, but so is sympathy and empathy. It does me know good to know that fire will burn me if I do not handle the fire appropriately as well. It does no good for me to know that you are offending by XYZ topic if I am only going to bring XYZ topic up every time we have digital exchanges unless my goal is just to be a jerk. I am willing to give a permissible set of offensive moments to those that operate under the auspice of “shock” programming, but there should be an announced and promoted distance from engaging directly with people that might not “get” the joke like stand-up comics might customarily do. In superficially marketed and cliche driven hip hop certain things might be more acceptable, but in emotional day to day check to check driven regular real grown people life, what is understood often has to be explained two or three times in very small words.


Even in the less interpersonal digital space, the need to accept certain realities goes neglected. If I am operating a more raw sort of presentation of my perspectives of society, that might demand a more organized manner of updating social media sites. For instance, if I know that discussing or updating about sexual activity is going to need me to having images in my content, then I might want to consider what time the audience I cater to most is at work. Not a lot of thought needed, but some. It is an acceptance that these are tools that connect me to other people with lives and emotional considerations and not just characters on a screen that disappear from existence into some programming trash collection function of the application.


In a world where we are more and more connected to people that we really do not hold any reasonable obligations of transparency on, distance and respect for emotions seems perfectly civil. When dealing with people who are not being paid from my taxable income to be vulnerable for the purposes of integrity, I do not find it meaningful to force them to adhere to my way of thinking or reasoning. I know that I operate a fairly “raw” and often jarring Twitter account, I am also one of the few people with over ten thousand followers on the application that still keeps up with people I followed four years ago. I do not pretend to owe anyone any explanations, but I also make sure to follow up any statement that might be off-putting with a reminder that I am just a cordial fellow who has seen a lot of society’s ills from the bottom of society’s shoe. Yet, I am not paid to debate anyone, I am not paid to be “thick-skinned”, there are no immediate incentives for me to embrace attacks on my beliefs with a smile.


It is probably not your job to be a jerk.