A stranger spat in his face as he came out of a conference on Monday, this after receiving death threats from another stranger. Like toughening up soldiers to kill, does the distancing of Internet prime us to crank up to rage faster than we would in person, leaving obscene, violent or simply snarky comments or posts on blogs, then sometimes taking to the street to attack?
Sometimes aggravating Michael Arrington of TechCrunch fame wrote about the spitting and other hostile incidents and their dampening affect on his outlook, let alone the costly need for full-time security. So unsettling that he’s taking a leave of absence from work. Is this willingness to insult or harm another person hastened by our remoteness from them when typing on a computer?
Is this trend akin to the increased use of remote technology such as drones to conduct what we now call war? So wonders Jonathan Fields after reading P.W. Singer’s new book Wired For War which found that distance or apparent remoteness from a target, dramatically increased a soldier’s willingness to kill.
That, wrote Fields is “compared to another soldier who has to make that same call standing just feet away from another human being. The parallel comes when you ask what happens when you then insert that remote-operator, who has become accustomed to remote kills, back into the live battlefield. Are they now significantly desensitized to the live kill?
Now transfer that to the world of online punditry. Can a pattern of remote comment aggression desensitize the commenter to a point where they then transfer that aggression into real-world violence toward the subject of their comments?”
In a Hot Situation Don't Let Somebody Else Determine Your Behavior
A little civility goes a long way, especially when you are not face-to-face and you usually have more time to cool down. Even and especially if you become so angry that you want to spit, instead get the best kind of revenge: set a higher standard of behavior than the critics who are attacking you. When attacks get personal, false and/or profane, and/or false, stick to stating the facts as you know them.
Choose to cut off conversation, online or in-person if you feel further contact won’t be productive.
Speak to Their Positive Intent Especially When it Appears They Have None
Sometimes this soothes the soul and stills the criticism. If not, the sharp contrast between your public behavior and the attacker’s is the sweetest reward in this sour situation. I don’t think this is an easy approach, by the way, yet from personal experience I’ve discovered the hard way it is better than any alternatives I’ve come across. Yet I’d sure love to get your insights and advice for responding to these increasing online attacks.