Well, Dragon. My D&D game fought one today, and that and the fact that it’s about a million degrees hyperbole in my space have got me pretty much exhausted. I love running dragon fights, there’s something really special about them. Everybody gets a kick out of it, they don’t happen too often, and most of the group nearly dies. This dragon was a medium blue named Gerald. Because reasons. But I don’t want to talk about dragons all night (Though I could. This one time a party fought a Chaos dragon. They have this killer confusion breath that left everyone shooting arrows into the wizard except for the warrior, who soloed it like a bos–I’m done). I keep thinking about my job, a big part of which is being nice to people on the internet.
I’m not a social media marketing expert, nor am I a guru or a ninja. I’m not some kind of SEO badass or a public relations master. I’m more of a community manager. I try to be nice to people on the internet, get others to be nice to people, and maybe make some spaces where we can hang out. Sometimes I get a bit snarky, but more and more often I bite my tongue because I see less and less value in the fire-and-forget snarky comment. Point being I do not always succeed.
I’m halfway through a post for Concept Crucible right now on why it’s okay to do weird things on the internet. I put up a video where I juggled duckies while wearing a viking hat and sang Three Birds. Whether you’re twerking or putting up sexy selfies or whatever, it’s a good space to be weird. We’re approaching an age where everyone will have done something weird on the internet. This is awesome. And it lets us talk about our weirdness. I like to post morning raps about imaginary animals. My mum likes to share pictures of recipes, mostly involving bacon now that I’m all about the keto. I like to think that I’m mostly a pleasant person to get along with on the internet. Not always, lord knows, but mostly.
I like to think that this is because I think just a little bit before I post or comment. Especially if that comment is about a person. Especially if it’s about a subject that’s particularly sensitive.
Is what I’m going to say going to bother them deeply? Is it a thing I’m willing to go to the mat over? Is it something they should be bothered about? After all, it’s great to say we should be nice to each other, but I don’t think that means we shouldn’t confront racism, transphobia, or other problematic beliefs that people express. I don’t fight the fight all the time, and probably not as much as I should, because arguing with people on the internet makes me all tired and frustrated. Sometimes it’s because I feel like they’re not my battles to fight. As someone who’s essentially a giant white dude, I feel a little patriarchal arguing for reproductive rights or marriage equality. I think “Someone with more of a stake in this and hopefully more eloquent than me should be doing this.” And all that arguing is also in public. I’m a guy who argues about those things on the internet. Not because it’s nice, but because I thought about it and it’s the right thing to do. I don’t call people names, I try not to be mean, and I do my best to be charitable.
What I don’t understand is why there are people who don’t do this.
In ten years, probably everyone will have something weird or dumb posted on Youtube. 98 years of content goes up every damn day. In one of those videos you’re drunk, lost, high, dancing, driving, singing, or otherwise embarrassing yourself. And that is awesome because none of these things are things to be embarrassed of. You should sing, dance, drive, twerk, whatever. When I have to sit across a table from a stern man with a stern moustache and he asks me why I sang a Katy Perry cover, I’ll be comforted to know he understands when I say “It was just the song that was in my head that night.”
It’s never going to be okay to be a racist on the internet.
Nor a misogynist. Nor transphobic, homophobic, or any other brand of asshole. I hope that 15 year olds will be proudly owning their duck-faced selfies in ten years, saying “Yeah, I took those pictures. I was 15. I’ve learned a lot about lighting since then.” These are the nooks and crannies of our lives that make us smile. But the racist comments posted after Nina Davuluri took the title of Miss America? I’m no fan of beauty pageants, but nobody deserves that. I hope that stern man with the stern moustache asks them about those. What’ll they say? “Yeah, I was a bit racist back then. I’m better now.” Maybe. Maybe it’s even true, but it seems a lot harder to buy. “Oh, I didn’t mean those.” What other things have you said in this job interview that you didn’t mean, the stern man might ask.
I know, they’re just expressing themselves. Well, it’s not okay to express yourself when it involves being an asshole. When it involves attacking people or making threats. Even if they can’t wrap their heads around the nuances of an issue, I want them to think of the practical side. How will you explain it to the stern man with the stern moustache? What will you laugh about? I don’t know that I want an internet where everyone is nice to each other, but I’d like one where we don’t spit in each other’s eyes and throw hateful slurs. Where people can speak out without being bombarded by threats, and where successful women aren’t “Doing it like men” but doing it like motherfucking bosses.
This got longer than I intended. Maybe I have more to say.