Humans Want to be Seen
Time to reshape the online discourse?
What has the internet done to our interpersonal skills?
On any given day, there’s always someone crying wolf because someone else is being mean to them but no one ever stops to ask why.
Nor what part we might have played in inviting such opprobrium.
Instead of using the internet as a digital mirror reflecting our shared humanness in pixels and data packets, we use it as a stock exchange. We turn ourselves into brands and products which we trade using attention as a currency. We commodify universal insecurities to better profit from them. We form cartels and lobbies; we weaponize support and encouragement; we trust no one.
We have no qualms about swatting away the hand that held ours when we were still finding our feet if we decide it no longer serves us. And we dehumanize ourselves a little more every day as we lose our ability to connect.
Because we’re too wrapped up in ourselves, because we’re too busy shouting at each other to have a conversation, because we don’t care, not really.
But pretending to care pays so we say we do.
And yet, the internet has upended the history of humanity.
Thanks to it, we can collaborate across borders and time zones as long as we enjoy tech privilege. The whole world isn’t online yet, alas. But for those of us who are, knowledge that would have taken days of research to source is available at the tickle of a touch screen within minutes.
Whatever we’re into, whatever we’re curious about, it’s somewhere on the internet. And if we can’t find it, we can ask the hive mind via social media; there’s almost always someone somewhere who knows and is willing to help.
In that sense, the internet is unquestionably a force for good.
But it has also exacerbated our worst traits and enabled bullying on a scale that would be unthinkable offline. Although we’re all on team human, many of us forget and we let herd mentality take over, bypassing reason and critical thinking altogether. Instead of joining forces to build a gentler, more open, more tolerant world, we build micro empires of spite and hatred.
A culture that thrives on competition, capitalism, and individualism doesn’t know how to make space for everyone. The concept is anathema to most of those who live in it and are socialized from birth to put themselves and not the common good first.
While survival instinct is common to all humans, it doesn’t mean there’s any need to use others as stepping stones to get to the top. Learning how to share and give one another a leg up is a lifelong skill that builds rather than burns bridges.
But those who practice it are often used before being othered.
Much like there’s enough sunshine for everyone, there’s enough bandwidth for everyone too. We all need someone to lean on and the internet can facilitate this if we use it for the advancement of everyone and not just the pushiest. Until we get there, it’s on each of us to remember we have a duty of care toward one another, be it online or offline.
Why not use differences and disagreements to learn about those who are not us rather than assume we already know all there is to know?
I’m a French-American writer and journalist living out of a suitcase in transit between North America and Europe. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.