How to disagree

At 8:12 PM on June 24, 2015,  Katy Kapeland’s flight touched down at the Heathrow international airport. She was looking forward to a two-week vacation with her family in London. As the flight announcement putting an end of people’s constipation, permitting the use of mobile phones came on, Katy pulled out her phone, and it took her about five minutes to understand her life would never be the same again.

And she wasn’t sure if she wanted to live on to experience that.

A number of strangers on the internet were telling her she shouldn’t.

Katy had become the latest causality in the phenomenon known as internet outrage. The people on the internet wanted justice. As these phenomena generally go, you’re given two toilet types: a group that wanted her to slowly drown in a bottomless blue sea and another group that wanted free-hand to abuse her and her family on the socials each time they (the abusers) felt miserable about their own hollow, pathetic lives.

These choices are an outcome of what happens when you give a billion people with neglected childhoods and bankrupt moralities access to the internet. In Katy’s tweet, these people found salvage. They took to one update she put up in her excitement filled frenzy just before her flight took off. Katy meant the update to be facetious. Funny even. The internet thought it was racist, stupid and disgusting.

A shit storm is coming your way Katy Kapeland. Happy Holidays!

In case you want to know what Katy said that made everyone so angry, it’s important to understand Katy isn’t one person. And as the Rock says, “it doesn’t matter what your name is.”

Katy is everyone that has felt the wrath of the internet. After crying themselves to sleep for many nights, the Katy’s of the world are living a quiet life, holding tightly onto a job and a family, and the greatest favor we can do them is to leave them alone. So forget what she or anyone else who has faced the internet’s version of stoning said.

Let’s talk about what we did.

Early last year, there was a lot of outrage over one particular movie and its storyline –the details don’t matter. Everyone that thought the outrage made no sense upped the ante and became outrageous about the outrage, vowing to watch the movie several times over. You know we have a problem when outrage becomes a contest. The whole thing was comical, sad and somewhat expected of a time when lividity is the antidote to loneliness.

The goal of outrage is not to change someone’s view on something through data and empathy. The goal is to disagree with someone with so much energy and vitriol that the issue is now subsumed under a force-field of emotional harakiri. While we can take heart in the idea that we haven’t become as barbaric when we are with one another, we can’t deny the fact that outrage is seeping into our everyday lives.

I experienced this first hand in a class I took in school a few years ago. One classmate got pissed with something the teacher said, and he got up and made known – in solipsistic, sophistic detail – that he was pissed. He didn’t say why exactly, but he looked like someone you wouldn’t want to mess with at that moment. Soon, like a germ-releasing sneeze, we were all pissed. And more classmates started voicing out their disagreement at what the teacher had said. And I felt compelled to add to the disagreement. It felt like I was missing out on something profound and hip if I didn’t find eloquent ways to disagree with something that was wrong — only because everyone else felt that way too.

There’s this idea about how things aren’t true just because everyone thinks it’s right. But the flip-side is equally true, but difficult to admit: Just because you think something is wrong does not make it wrong. Every scientist will testify to that.

An important idea that finally got its due after a century of neglect is feminism. While there’s still a long way to go, the movement repeatedly finds itself in the middle of outrage.

While revolutions outside the internet focussed on the larger cause and quietly moved things forward, outrage is about getting attention while staying stagnant. It’s a cesspool of learned helplessness. For any movement built on a discourse of outrage, it’s a matter of time before people start discrediting it and missing the whole point. In this case, feminazi.

And this outrage is happening not because feminism as a movement is weak or ineffective. It’s happening because the movement is so big and so strong that fear takes the form of outrage. The fear of going back to status-quo after centuries of struggle and oppression is no small fear. But if history is any indication, movements that stem from a place of fear only give rise to shitty, insecure individuals who use the movement to further their own personal agenda. And most times, this agenda involves killing off large swaths of people and then waiting another 100 years to reel from that shock and hatred by which time everyone’s tired of one other, their causes and have no idea what they were fighting for in the first place.

Feminism is tottering on the brink of indifference and the lasting legacy it could leave behind is the usage of pronouns and determiners. And outrage is not the result of it. It’s the cause.

A vital concept we all need to understand is that disagreement does not equate to importance. If we had truly important things to say, we would find ways to say that without explicitly stating the other person’s face looks like a baboon’s arse. We may as well begin every discourse with the statement, “everything you are going to say is pointless and retarded.” Get it out of the way so everyone knows this is yet another conversation where both sides will only feel surer about their beliefs and doctrines at the end of it.

Now’s a good time as any to talk about children. Actual children.

Children have this game where they say NO to everything you ask. It’s not a game as much as their natural ability to be childish. Everyone tries to break the kid with their questions — hoping to get a yes, but the kid loves her no’s way too much. After having played this game with enough kids, I realize only one trick works here. It’s a tad cruel, but it works: ignore the kid for a while.

Because the NO is not a cogent disagreement as much as a need for attention. The kid has no basis for the disagreement because you could ask her if she wanted a big bar of chocolate or her favorite snack and she’ll still say no. By this time, of course, more people are involved in getting the kid to say yes to something magical: “you want to see a dinosaur? you want to meet princess Elsa? Netflix?” With all the attention, the no’s only increase.

Here’s the point I am trying to make: some people never got an opportunity to do this as a kid because no one gave a shit about them. Their parents screwed up, their immediate environment was not one for a kid to grow up around, or – ironically – they got everything they asked for. Some people mature beyond this, rise strong and tell urgent stories.

The others find redemption on the internet.

They do everything they couldn’t do as a kid. They go onto the socials disagree with everything just to get attention and feel important. They shout over you  — write a short novella on why you are a bigoted swine king in order to drown out everything you are saying. They abuse you and your lineage because they can’t confront their own parents or choices for irrevocably screwing up their lives.

And they are too afraid to pause and ask themselves, “what else could this mean?”

Because they haven’t asked that of their own lives. Instead, they took shelter in self-pity; in feeling victimized, limited, and angry. And they want everyone else to share that feeling.

If the people that saw Katy’s update had looked for one alternate explanation, she would have gone unnoticed, or experienced 15 minutes of negative virality from a bunch of assclowns, clarified what she meant and gone on with her life. Instead, it was years of agony, tears, and trauma.

The internet is not angry. It’s afraid. Anger is the manifestation of our fears and insecurities. Bullying, outrage, and hate all come from a deep place of insecurity. Confronting that fear is suffering. But it’s also the whole point of life. Making other people suffer for your own fears, foibles and overall assolery is weak.

If someone said something stupid, ignore them for their human frailty, don’t become one of them. When they realize stupidity doesn’t get attention, they’ll eventually learn to shut up.

If they are spreading malicious lies, listen and look for what they really want. Most times, they aren’t sure at all, and are spewing venom only because someone they know is doing it too; or they just feel like crap and need – and this will surprise you – a hug.

As for the Katy story, there was some redemption. The blogger who fed Katy’s little blue birdie to the hungry savages looking for the next viral story found himself in the middle of an internet outrage two years later. And he shot himself.

No, sadists. He flew down to apologize to Katy and her family and opened a myspace account to help the burn victims of internet outrage.

The outrage isn’t going to stop. We’ve all got to deal with the side effects of the shit that seemingly keeps us together. One of that involves manufacturing, manifesting jackasses who don’t deserve any attention.

Katy and the blogger lived every social-media freak’s dream: virality. The enormity and extremity with which the dream came true almost obliterated their lives. The went from a quiet desperation to a desperate quietness.

We abstract the internet and social media into evil entities forgetting the fact that we are actually referring to each other and our own pathological craziness.

Quitting social media is not a solution. Making it a safer place is.

And the first thing we all need to do for that is this: get a life. To be more specific, find a cause, a hobby or an interest. Preferably outside the virtual world. Find something to do for its own sake. Something without an end. This will build a rare kind of empathy in you. It’s why I write.

Next, get around people that tell you the truth.  Find one friend and make a pact with him/her call you out on your bullshit. Of course, if you end up choosing a shitty friend, you will understand how outrage feels. It’s a win-win. Here’s an entire essay on this idea.

Finally, most importantly: send me some money and I will tell you.

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