The Phenomenon of Internet Hate, and How We Got This Way

People love to hate. Some of it is healthy - it keeps others in check. But it can get toxic. Foolish even. Such is the case today as modern publications take on any opportunity they can to appease the ever-hateful vocal minorities of the internet.

Case in point: Matty Granger breaks down a wilfully ignorant review of the critically-acclaimed new Star Wars movie from The Huffington Post. Despite the obvious tones of frustration, his piece is well-written; long, but succinct, and says just enough to illustrate the adeptness within the new online subculture that these kinds of clickbait posts aim to attract.

The whole piece is chock full of great pull quotes - I advise you to read it in its entirety (profanity warning, though), even just for the Star Wars geekery - but if I had to pick one, it’d be this:

 

“We are very close to reaching the end of social media’s usefulness.  Anyone with a keyboard can write anything they want with little to no training or skill.  More often than not, the articles don’t even need to be true or have any sort of back up research and sadly all it takes is a bold, contrarian statement to convince people who aren’t interested in doing research for themselves that something wildly incorrect is truth.  This extends from simple movie reviews to horrifying humanitarian crises.  Actual news has become a rare commodity and we are little more than targets for advertising and electoral votes.  We are being fed stupid disinformation and tricked into thinking we have knowledge that we don’t actually have.

We have willingly grown stupid.”

 

I picked this one for two reasons. Firstly, it’s an extreme statement, yes, but its sentiment rings true. It’s said often, but while we might have all the world’s information in our pockets, many fail to be the best stewards of that capability as they can be.

Secondly, it contains the only part of the piece I tend to disagree with, in that idiots are driving social media off a cliff. I’d wager that Twitter and Reddit are examples of platforms that a) are self-aware, b) exercise and forcefully impose self-control, and c) continuously improve their product while maintaining its inherent value and contributions to the internet as a whole - at least to a much greater extent than the likes of Facebook and YouTube comment sections.

I still see a lot of great conversations happening on these platforms, and the way they’re designed and structured (limitations and all) as products attempt to shape its users’ behaviours and topics of conversation. You take the negatives with the positives, and while it’s easy to focus on the negatives (we’ve come full circle, here), there are a lot of positives that we probably can no longer live without.

Perhaps what Granger is getting at is some sort of change for the crappier networks out there (I’m boring a death stare right through Facebook and YouTube right now) that exercise little to no control over its product and users, or at least until they're pressured to do so. Far from blameless are the supposedly reputable online publications like The Huffington Post, Business Insider, and Buzzfeed, who take advantage of not just the easily triggered basement dwellers who actively seek out aggressively one-sided discourse, but the average user who trusts these publications enough to have something meaningful to say that justifies the attention unintentionally paid to them when they’re relentlessly advertised on their Facebook feeds.

(Via Daring FireballMatty Granger on Facebook)

 

Further reading: Sorry for getting a bit ranty at the end there. Here’s an essay I wrote nearly three years ago about social media and why it sucks - just as reference for where I'm coming from. But Granger does it much better than I did. Seriously, just read that instead.