Anonymous Antagonism

The article was one that caught my eye on a feed. It turned out to be a well done, wonderful read that caused an ache deep inside of me. The article was by Jon Ronson ,  How One Stupid Tweet Ruined Justine Sacco’s Life.

I won’t bother with the tweet in question, because  it doesn’t matter at this point.  It was a mistake. We ALL make mistakes, all make stupid, offensive, thoughtless comments, in print or in the blogosphere or in person. Everyone does.


She certainly did. The problem was it left the confines of communication between those who know one another in the arena of context-givers, the person-knowers, the sympathetic understanders,  and thrust it into the maws of distorters and judgers. Those who knew her not at all were savaging her personally and professionally; “they” demanded her head on a pike and the right to piss in her head once it was hoisted. They ignored all attempts at apologies, all attempts to explain, all attempts to diffuse the event.  Only once they achieved the goal of driving the victim out of a job and into hiding did they for the most part return to looking for the next target, the next victim. Eventually, the original retweeter apologized in the media for his role in damaging her and her life, although true to the form of the e-world, the apology gained little of the notoriety, traction and visibility that the original posting received.

WHY do we take such delight in the personal pillaring of people we don’t know, for things we have no part in, to an audience we don’t see?   Is it the animalistic nature left over from years of civilizing influences (despite the apparent lack of civility)? Is it an increasing lack of self-worth in what seems like a community that has everyone in the world in it? Or is it our god-like state within our own cyberworld, a world we create through our words and thoughts and that has no contact with living flesh people and living flesh consequences.  Is it because we can  inflict harm with impunity? Is it blindness, and the inability to see that there are people at the other end of the barbs and assaults? Or is it a lack of care about people?

I wonder if the basic problem is that the anonymity of the internet removes our social filters, our moral guidance, and gives us a vent to the hurts, pains, anguish we feel inside that we want to give to others.  Any e-platform you want to vent from can be set up anonymously, can give you the ability to isolate yourself from the victim, while at the same time giving you access to others.  People, real people of  flesh and blood and nuance of tones and intonations, disappear and what’s left is viewed only as a target, a target people are often too willing to threaten.

We seem to have lost the ability to express grace, forgiveness, caring, empathy.  What has happened in the last few decades that has atrophied that portion of our psyche? Why, when our world should be so much better, do we revert to incredible savagery?  I wish I knew.

And yes…..I get the irony of blogging about the effects of a blog.



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