There has been another example this week of a minor “flare up” on twitter. I don’t like the term “flare up” myself, as it’s quite emotive. I prefer the term “armageddon ebola spasm”. Basically someone wrote an article and someone else disagreed with part of it and it turned into a bit of a shitstorm before descending into a disappointing example of decorum and communication where everything was resolved. Fortunately others have done some work and kept the argument going elsewhere.
I could provide links but that would be too much like using actual research to back up my claims.
Anyway, the point of it all, clearly, it seems to me, is not whatever crap they were arguing about; I’ve already forgotten, something about patriarchy or something, I wasn’t entirely listening. It did however spark off some largely unrelated ruminating which I managed to relate back to my own concerns, and for that I think we are all grateful.
The thing about social media, you see, is that there’s what I call an emotion-hole between speaker and receptacle, which means that the normally flawless human radar for detecting and understanding the emotions of others does not function as powerfully via the medium of twitting, or Facepaging or whatever other young person things you are working on your home computer.
Tone, unfortunately, is lost. Sometimes this isn’t a big deal, especially if the tone is “gassy”. Sometimes it’s even beneficial; for instance, few of my friends realise that the majority of my Facebook comments are screamed in red-faced rage. The internet renders them innocuous, and thus I am able to preserve some false aura of calm and maintain friendships for months which would otherwise have died within days, as my therapist assures me is quite normal.
But at other times, for other people, the tonelessness of what Generation Now calls “typie-talking” can lead to a kind of emotional cavern born of the absence of clear signals, a metaphorical cavern which echoes within its emptiness our own pitiless internal converse.
Or something; metaphors have always confused me.
I guess what I’m saying is that we hear what we choose to hear, to some extent, and that what we choose to hear is at least seventy percent of the time the notion that people are angry and disappointed in us.
Like most things in life, it’s particularly difficult if you’re a straight white male on a decent income. Not only do we have to watch our empire crumbling around us while we play the theramin, we’re also supposed to pretend we’re all supportive and happy about it. As if this weren’t difficult enough, we now have this “Call out” culture, whereby every mofo with a half-arses critique of power structures and the dominant narrative is encouraged to shout it out, like a yahoo at a cockfight, and expose our inadequacies, hypocrisies and errata.
But look, I’m not here to say “poor me.” I’ll leave it for the reader to assess whether the straight white male is hard done by in this scenario, or is simply the victim.
But what I would like you to take away from my lesson is this; words have power. Some, like “sploosh”, don’t have much power, I’ll grant you, but others have a great deal of power. With our narratives we can rewrite debate and shape it in our own image, like a piece of soap melded into the soap-shape of a speech bubble with a hat that looks like our own privilege and a group of opinions that we have carved into its voice box soap with our history-remaking soap-bottle-squeezy thing… look, I don’t even really know what metaphors are. I just like soap.
As I was saying; I’m not saying I have all the answers. It’s nice of you to say so, but I probably don’t even have more than eighty-seven percent of them. Eighty-eight percent. But what I would like you to take away from my teachings is this; the way that we phrase things shapes the way we remember them; our histories are rewritten every day by our internal narrative; our life experiences are rewritten every minute by the voices around us; what we hear has already changed from when we first heard it; we can’t even hope for truth; we can’t even begin to hear or listen to somebody else without our own fears and insecurities clanging loudly in our own ears shouting you are nothing, you are not enough.
We can’t hope to avoid conflict. All we can do is meet it as best we can; with judgement and rancour, and by typing in all caps.
I’ve been speaking in general terms in this post. In terms of the specifics of this particular debate, I can only assert that it was probably Greg’s fault.