Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Apocaversary and Everday Internet Cruelties

The apocaversery was yesterday, of course,but I also remember November 9, 2016 as horrible, sleep-deprived aftermath. I never really slept the night of Nov. 8, instead checking the returns and news updates every hour or, so the days sorta runs together until the nightmare realization of our new reality:
This past year has, in many ways been hellish, politically, as I wrote about yesterday.

But also, for me personally, in some ways. On top of the political shit, for several months of 2016 I was the primary caregiver for someone with terminal cancer that, yes, ended up being terminal.* "Grief, when it comes," says Joan Didion, "Is nothing like we expect it to be." That's about right. A week later, you can be okay. And then months later, suddenly, you're not. I feel parts of myself shifting, adapting to new realities while never really being okay with them.

And then, there are the ongoing, everyday cruelties of Internet culture.

I read a recent piece by James Bridle, "Something Is Wrong On the Internet." First, duh. Many, many things are wrong on Internet. But secondly, more specific to this piece, I'm still trying to wrap my head around it. Bridle describes humans and bots that create kids' content that is frightening and traumatizing to children. He ends:
"What concerns me is not just the violence being done to children here, although that concerns me deeply. What concerns me is that this is just one aspect of a kind of infrastructural violence being done to all of us, all of the time, and we’re still struggling to find a way to even talk about it, to describe its mechanisms and its actions and its effects. As I said at the beginning of this essay: this is being done by people and by things and by a combination of things and people. Responsibility for its outcomes is impossible to assign but the damage is very, very real indeed."
I think often, and have written about over the years, the everyday cruelties many (most? all?) social media and Internet users are exposed to on the various platforms we use.

As just one, ongoing example, during some of the worst times of my grief this past year, an Internet "leftist"/"socialist" who I blocked on Twitter periodically stalked, mocked, misrepresented, and sent leftbro harassment my way online for no reason other than that I don't sufficiently "feel the Bern."

Some of the cruelty we experience, we learn not to take personally. Other times, it all feels very creepy, obsessive, and personal, particularly if you're, like I am, a relatively low-profile blogger in the grand scheme of things.

A whole Internet culture has sprung up where a predominant thinking is that people are "weak" or "anti-free-speech" for using the few tools platforms give us to set boundaries, such as blocking and muting. But, we have to continue to push back on this narrative. The political climate is shit. On top of that, people have every right to block others on Twitter for any reason we want. First, because we have the right to set boundaries. And secondly, in light of everything else we navigate in our lives, we have a right to decide how much cruelty, bullshit, tediousness, or time-wasting bad faith foolery we want to absorb on these platforms.

We don't know the overall impact yet of our social media usage. What I do believe, more than ever, is that what happens on the Internet is real, actually, contrary to popular sociopathic thinking on this matter and can compound offline stressors in people's lives.

And yet, to end on a more upbeat note, not everything is terrible.

We march. We write. We make calls. We live. We resist. We build community. We love, even though we inhabit a cruel, cynical, too-cool-to-be-sincere Internet and political zeitgeist.

In these things, I still find hope.

As a wise woman once said, "I'm not giving up and neither should you."

*I don't share this news to oblige anyone to offer condolences. My point is more that it remains a remarkably stupid "socialist" praxis to bully progressives online. Some people don't "feel the Bern." Get over it. Bullying people for that is loser behavior.

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