Online discourse

The pitchform-wielding mob attacking Paul Graham has crystallized my fear of posting writing on the internet. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way–other people have expressed the same concerns to me in face-to-face conversations.

This overwhelmingly negative atmosphere causes fewer and fewer new ideas to be expressed, and only very thick-skinned, battle-ready writers to stick it out online. We’re living in a downward spiral of simple, made-for-facebook posts, written so readers can quickly scan a piece, and share it approvingly or “hate share.” There is no spectrum of opinion: you’re either with me, or you’re a racist, you’re sexist, you’re scum who should lose your job and have your life ruined.

It’s not that people are stupid, but in this part of life they’re just lazy. The world is full of horror and injustice, while most of us are lucky just to make rent, much less change things for the better. Who has time to figure out what’s really going in a dispute? Just blame President [Bush|Obama] for everything, close facebook, and get back to work.

There are levelheaded people posting rational, thoughtful stuff, but the bombthrowers get more attention, more likes/shares/pageviews. And being targeted by a mob can have real-life consequences. So from now on I’m going to stick with writing about travel/expat stuff and tech stuff, and (unfortunately?) leave all heavily-policed topics to the pros.

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