Tuesday, July 05, 2016
It's a shame this is a family newspaper, because I've had a revelation and there's only one way to say it: The internet is rapidly turning us into a bunch of... anatomical body parts of the sun-lacking southern region.
Remember when we used to engage in something called "civil discourse"? That's when people could hold discussions that DIDN'T automatically devolve into name-calling and mockery. But there's something about the relative anonymity of the internet that causes otherwise mild-mannered civilians to transform into overly-opinionated jerkwads. I should know -- I fear I'm one of them.
Here's how it repeatedly plays out:
Since the world values your every opinion, you decide it's time to weigh in on some important issue of substance (which is usually a non-important issue of little to no
substance). Immediately your Facebook friends A, B, and C will "like" your post. Friends A & B will be amongst your closest real world companions, while friend C is invariably a stranger you don’t ever remember friending.
Even a post as innocuous as "I like cats" will deeply offend Friend D, who will angrily chime in and accuse you of blatant species-ism. Your initial friends A & B, as well as total stranger C, will leap to your defense in an uncomfortably aggressive manner. Someone will post they're "just there for the show." Another will decide their feelings are best expressed by posting a cute cat picture. Chaos will ensue. Your weird uncle will get involved. Someone will unfriend you.
It doesn't help that it's election season. If anything brings out the crazy online, it's politics. I have Facebook friends whose political opinions I value, and friends whose opinions I don't. I have Facebook friends whose political opinions make me weep for our country’s future. I try my best to avoid getting sucked into the vortex of online arguments. I usually fail.
Unless you're a highly skilled debater with open-minded friends, you're never going to change these people's minds. I often get into online feuds with my uncle from Alabama. He's a good guy, and I enjoy seeing him at family get-togethers, but he also believes our president is a Kenyan-born Muslim socialist intent on coming for his guns and turning America into an Islamic state. His Facebook posts are comedy gold.
Recently, he posted a meme that said, "There are only two types of people who think Obama is doing a good job: Idiots and Parasites!" I couldn't help but comment: "...and nephews! (smiley face.)" I'll never change his opinion, but it's fun imagining his face turning an indignant shade of red every time I show up in his Facebook feed.
I try not to succumb to the lure of the online flame war, but I just can't help myself. Last week, I found myself in an intense feud over a cause I am passionately,
ardently, and feverishly ambivalent about.
When I heard Coldplay was the featured entertainment of this year's Super Bowl halftime show, I was worried. I'm a huge fan of British indie rock, but Coldplay? They're a band who earn their keep indulging in self-important, socially conscious, mid-tempo balladry that doesn't exactly scream, "ARE YOU REAAADY FOR SOME FOOTBAWWWWWWL?!"
But they surprised me. The band set aside their slow songs and opted for a medley of uptempo sing-alongs delivered with a liberal amount of football-appropriate gusto. Then Beyonce came out and did her thing, Bruno Mars showed up, dance-offs ensued, and I was, for a brief few moments, entertained. It was... okay.
But then I hopped on Facebook posts of: "That was the WORST performance I've ever seen!" "What an embarassment!" "I'd rather watch paint dry!" Conservatives were
attacking Beyonce's "extremism." One guy thought Coldplay's use of rainbow lights was gay marriage propaganda. Come on, people.
The halftime show didn't exactly set the world on fire, but "the worst performance ever"? We're the generation that survived Richard Marx and Michael Bolton. The NFL could have booked (shudder) Nickelback. In the grand scheme of halftime shows, this was NOT awful. At worst, it was Coldplayesque -- not bad, not great, but adequate.
Suddenly I found myself in the odd position of defending a band I'm only a casual fan of. Then someone linked to an article that was my breaking point: a public
scolding of the NFL written by guitarist Carlos Santana, inferring that a line-up of classic rock veterans (presumably including Santana himself) would have been a better choice. I couldn't think; I just wrote:
"You know what would happen if Carlos Santana played the halftime show? First off, teenagers across the world would go, 'Who?' But it'd be too late; Carlos would already be onstage, leading the crowd in a riveting medley of 'Evil Ways' into 'Black Magic Woman.' Then the guy from Matchbox 20 would jump onstage and they'd do that one song from the 90s that sucked IN the 90s. Of course, the NFL can't be sexist, so *BAM* now Gloria Estefan's onstage with him, and who among us wouldn't want to hear that dull
cover of 'Turn the Beat Around' augmented by the cutting-edge guitar of Carlos Santana? Then everyone holds hands as we sing along to 'Oye Como Va' while doves fly, legions cheer, and peace reigns throughout the universe. Or maybe, just maybe, we can realize that today's generation doesn't want to see Roger Daltrey or Mick Jagger get wheeled out for another geriatric rendition of 'Satisfaction.' Get with the times and gimme a break."
I triumphantly hit SEND and immediately felt better -- for one minute. Then I realized that I'd just become the musical equivalent of my Alabama uncle. Worse, I hadn’t paid attention to who posted said article -- it was one of my Friend C's, some girl who was a total stranger. To her, I'm just a random crazy person who popped out of the Facebook ether to insult her, challenge her musical taste, and disappear back into the anatomical body part from whence I came.
I logged on to apologize, but I already had (rightfully) been UN-friended. As we speak, she's probably running around the Quad Cities (IF she's a Quad-Citian, I honestly
don't know), telling everyone the guy from the Dispatch/Argus is a Santana-hating loonybird.
So if you're reading this, random girl, I'm sorry for being a cyber-jerk. In the real world, I probably wouldn't even have the guts to make eye contact with you. We all need to remember Facebook connects you with "friends," not debate partners. Let's return social media to its original purpose: sharing photos of our dinners and cats.