So, Josh and Kunal are checking some political news with no source but think they’ve got the hang of it. They relate to the message.
Everybody does on the internet. Who doesn’t?
Ask people to debate in school or college, and they’ll end up hiding in some corner with tails between their legs. Not on the internet, they don’t. The internet is a haven for dickheads, assholes, and douchebags alike. Everybody becomes knowledgeable and holds far more opinions than the words they read all through their life.
The thing is-“you can get away with here.”
Back to Josh and Kunal.
Both are clueless about the locations, but some political view concerning the world has concerned them. They are at each other slinging mud.
Josh: “Hey, you know what. Dot meddle with these affairs.”
Kunal: “Sure, as you’re there for it.”
Josh: “Dude, shove your face down some pit and never and come back arguing.”
Kunal: “Right back at you, mate.”
You see, where is this going?
Nowhere. It never does. Banters like these are regular on the internet, and people express themselves strongly. Not that they care for the issue at hand, but being opinionated makes them worthy. Everybody has an opinion on Israel-Iran, Trump-Biden, COVID vaccination, and Modi-led India politics. It is just the tip of the iceberg. I mean, people meme about clothing choices, cellulite on your thighs, stretch marks, freckles, and black-white. Trolls are there to take you down on just about everything. When something goes south, the troll army hits the goldmine.
The internet has a way of bringing out the worst behaviors from the users.
Click “reply” and “send”
There you are. Easy. Ain’t it?
We are all ready to take someone down and quickly. There is something addictive about this whole reply/send and the high it gives to your ego. You are always on the prowl finding that unusual image or comment as if you expect something to turn up on your computer screen. And Voila!
You are good to go like a raging bull out of the cage to give a mouthful and shut them. Once you get that perfect material, there is almost a passionate explosion to unleash the wrath. You furiously type to quiet and numb some Josh or a Kunal.
It is a perfect getaway from your miserable life. Since nobody else seeks your opinion or gets in line, the enraged comment is to rain agony on the reader. It just overpowers you. The whole power game and control bring sadistic satisfaction.
You wink with your heart pumping.
You read the message to bask in the glory of your perfect shut down and superior knowledge. Unfortunately, the receiver is no saint nor a pushover. Every thought you had is now replicated at the other side, and the cycle continues.
From one douchebag to another, the game of heightened and sunk egos takes center stage. All because it is easier to let off steam without even bothering. Moreover, you’ve got people backing you and joining the bandwagon.
Memes float, opinions tossed, and humans ripped apart.
Welcome to the douchebag party.
Why is everybody acting weird on the internet?
Dunbar’s number is a suggestive number proposed by British anthropologist Robert Dunbar in the 1990s. According to Dunbar, one can maintain a stable social relationship with 150 people at best.
That’s the best we can do. Setting aside this number as an assumption, we rarely maintain more than 20-30 relationships. Even these are prone to occasional scuffles and disputes.
Imagine being on the internet with millions only away at a click. While these are not actual relationships, but some connection builds. It is impossible to maintain good relationships with this sheer volume. In a sense, it is overwhelming. We rip apart our friends over petty political arguments, so a stranger is perfect fodder for us.
#1. Online confrontation=No negative social consequences
My disagreement in real life is a potential threat and bears consequences. It can even percolate to some personal insult and humiliation for me. Perhaps, a physical confrontation is a likelihood. I can create a scene with an obscene argument and get my ass kicked out of the party or some gathering. There is always a possibility of a full-scale embarrassment in front of people I admire, care for, and love. All this implicates future consequences.
On the internet, we don’t care. We can type away with shit, and it doesn’t get hurled back to us in the way real life does. Your anonymity stays intact. Even if you go by some name or handle, people don’t bother to follow up with you. Not others, nor are you interested in taking it any further. It is like throwing a pin into a garbage pile from the sky, only to lose it forever. So, who cares. Even if you find that pin, it may be different. So much gets done or happens on the internet in a second that keeping track is impossible. Moreso, who is bothered when there is a new mess to create and cuss to hurl.
#2. You get a controlled environment
Back in the good old days, altercations happened physically. People had to face each other to settle a score and get even. Moreover, spontaneous disputes were often won by the party with a good response. Something that made sense factually. Limited time availability made quarrels short and crisp, and then back to bar to drown in beer.
It is different online, and you can argue at your own pace and control the narrative. You may end up losing a physical debate and thereof due to lack of quick facts and presence of mind. If you say something utterly offensive on my face, chances are I might not have a witty reply or an apt comeback. Meet me on the internet, and I’ll draft a proper response through research and then edit it for maximum impact, or maybe get it checked to pin you down into submission. That’s control. I can pick and choose my battles and even their time. Perhaps, I can create a meme of your pic and bully you too. The power to choose and hone your conversational weapons escalates the argument amplifying the situation.
#3. You get an audience
We are expected to be careful before a large audience and exercise discretion. Perhaps, people iron out their differences in private, even if there is a gathering. The contrary is true on the internet. People revel knowing they have a large audience, and the idea of fame excites them.
In old times, people used the internet merely to join some discussion group or panel. They expressed their opinion, and that was about it.
There are just so many more people online now enhancing argumentativeness. With the majority striving for their 15 minutes of glory by asserting their viewpoints, we have gotten used to online declarations about something or other, even if it disagreed.
You and me arguing at a party holding our drinks may get frustrating at some point. Chances are, we’ll argue and then back to the bar to get another round. Now imagine the same conversation happening in front of 50 more people scrutinizing each word we say. We are bound to get defensive of our opinions and attack alternate opinions.
Private disagreements are no threat to our ego and social standings, and we tend to take it sportingly. But when we go online, there’s an audience with prying eyes. You can virtually watch being taken apart and others joining in the party. It messes us and our whole idea of superiority. Not to mention, your nemesis isn’t visible.
The internet is an awakened giant. It is an integral part of our lives just like our limbs and everything else for the body. It brings numerous possibilities along with challenges. With zero consequences and blurred understanding, people often get away with shit or even rewarded.
With every boon or bane, the decision to take it forward lies with us. An effective platform with infinite possibilities is what we have. Let’s make it better and mighty and keep our act together.
Mcquate, S.(2021, April 19). Arguing on the internet: UW researchers studying how to make online arguments productive. Retrieved from https://www.washington.edu/news/2021/04/19/uw-researchers-studying-how-to-make-online-arguments-productive/
Freyne, P.(2015, July 24). Why do we argue online? Retrieved from https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/tv-radio-web/why-do-we-argue-online-1.2295986