Drinking the Internet Kool-Aid

Ok, so here’s something that drives me crazy about the internet.  It’s probably true of all textual conversation (versus verbal), although it seems more explosive when the communicants are strangers to each other.  I read a story the other day about the Strack family in Utah, who appear to have all died in a murder/suicide when they drank some poisoned Kool-Aid.  Sound familiar?  Yeah, it sounded familiar to “LA Hoot Owl” too.  Here’s what s/he said:

It would seem, that the Stracks’ were trying to keep up with the Jones, (Circa Nov 18, 1978) or at the very least following their lead.

It’s cool how s/he gave the date, so anyone who couldn’t figure out what they were talking about could… I don’t know… Google it.  But some people simply don’t have time for that.  Here was the first response:

By that I suppose you mean keep a house for their children.  You are not a patriotic person but a demon who rears their ugly head only to kick the less fortunate.  Americans are raised in homes and want to keep them.  There are plenty of people like you who want to see them in the gutter.

Do what?!  Ok, so… there was no reference to their house being particularly ostentatious in the article.  No mention that they might have killed themselves because they were in danger of losing said house.  Some mention of sporadic work history and some criminal events, but nothing to indicate that the family was in any sort of financial distress.

So this second person, JenMead, reads that article, reads Owl’s remark, obviously doesn’t know about Jim Jones in the seventies, doesn’t pause to consider why a “Keeping up with the Joneses” remark would include a specific date, doesn’t take the time to look up the date, assumes Owl must be saying the Stracks got in over their heads and killed themselves, and then… and then goes on to make a personal attack.

In a verbal (phone or face-to-face) conversation, JenMead could have expressed her confusion and Owl could have clarified.  But JenMead thinks she knows what’s going on and/or can’t take the time to ask for clarification.  So she goes on to call Owl an unpatriotic (?!) demon who hates poor people and wants to see them living in the gutter.

Yeah, I wasn’t the only person who didn’t get her angle:

Jenmead, are you insane? LA is referring to the mass suicide of Jim Jones Rainbow Family cult in 1978. What does any of this have to do with keeping a home?

My problem is two-fold.  The first is that people are so willing to assume the worst of others.  If someone says something that makes you incredulous, you should probably take the time to consider that you might misunderstand what they are saying.  They may be employing sarcasm or satire.  They may be referencing something you aren’t familiar with.  Take the time to consider other interpretations.  Or ask for clarification.  Don’t explode.  There aren’t nearly as many evil, heartless people out there as you think there are.

Of course, that can backfire too.  I once saw a conversation online where someone stated they were a teacher.  Someone asked them (plain as day), “Hey, since you are a teacher can you explain xyz?”  They were obviously interested in getting the teacher’s specific perspective on the matter being discussed.  Someone else interpreted their request along the lines of “Hey since you think you are so smart…” and ripped the person to shreds for being a disrespectful, terrible person who burns babies and eats their hearts out while still living (exaggeration… for you literalists out there).

Anyway, the second is that people then immediately jump to personal attacks.  JenMead couldn’t just say, “I think it’s terrible that you are blaming this family with a notion of overindulgence for their death.”  No, she’s got to call the person unpatriotic.  A demon.  Someone who kicks people when they are down.

I mean, come on people!  Are we all still hanging out on the school playground?  I guess so.  The internet is a playground where a whole bunch of children who don’t know each other can assume the worst and start slinging mud.  I truly don’t get it.  I don’t understand how so many people can set aside their common sense and humanity when they sit down in front of a keyboard.

Ok, enough ranting… this blog is supposed to be about my *bright* spots.  Maybe tomorrow.  😉


6 thoughts on “Drinking the Internet Kool-Aid

  1. A lot gets lost in translation on the internet, including emails, and also texting. This is why sometimes we really need to pick up a telephone (although, of course that would have been impossible in this situation.)

    • Yes! Yes! Yes! That’s why I’m a bit concerned about my children’s generation. So much of their communication is limited to text – so much room to misunderstand!

      Although I do think there’s an additional layer of… something… when it comes to anonymous communication in comment threads or discussion forums. Without that real life personal connection to the other people, so many seem to lose their humanity.

  2. I agree! So many people immediately go on the attack, and very often it is clear they DIDN’T READ THE ORIGINAL PIECE TO WHICH OTHERS ARE RESPONDING, either.

    I’m the object of attack pretty frequently when I’m stupid enough to engage in online conversations with strangers. *must learn to resist commenting on everything I read*

    By the by, I love your blog no matter what you write about, so don’t apologize for the occasional rant. And your scorpion story from TBT still gives me the willies. But I love your blog anyway!

    • Ah, yes, the clueless commenter who’s going on based on the title or what they think the story is about instead of reading the entire article first… gotta love those folks. Not.

      It wasn’t so much an apology, btw, as it was a recognition that my rants are off-topic from the original purpose of the blog. Sometimes that strikes me stronger than other times. I’m glad you enjoy it regardless. 😉

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