Recently I am less worried about a cyber-attack than a shit storm. The internet, formerly known as the liberation from conventions, is broken. Looking at my Facebook newsfeed, I see the same statements to be shared over and over again: “Vote for Van der Bellen”, “Help refugees!” or “Why Trump is an idiot”. This reflects the variety of food options you find in a donut shop.
What happened to originality?
I do think that Trump is an idiot but conversations seem to stop there – I feel trapped in this digital bubble of algorithm-based reading suggestions, which are not even good but just SIMILAR. Yes, “similar”, “the same” and “comparable” are the attributes of what I once thought to be served digital brain food. I want something to catch my eye, let me overcome my own ignorance or simply read something I find genuinely interesting and have not heard 100x before in different flavours – I guess ORIGINALITY is the word I am looking for. I simply refuse to click on any more links to just bath myself in an ocean of self-reassuring opinions.
Save the bar-room debate.
Maybe constant revelation is a bit much to ask of each post. A historically-proven concept to broaden your horizon is called discussion, a form of interactive communication between people. Should be actually be pretty simple in times of the golden digital age. But here is the thing: Everyone is obsessed with appearing neutral on the internet to avoid social sanctions and the loss of reputation. Facebook profiles often look like personal PR pages and shared posts are used for personal branding rather than exchanging news, thoughts and fun with each other. I think this is all okay, as positioning oneself is part of our character, but we should not do this only by picking the right Instagram filter and sharing gifs. We should appear as who we are by arguing, commenting and expressing thoughts.
However, unthoughtful phrasing of a comment, omitted use of the right emojis or provocative questions can quickly be turned against you. If you do not want to be misunderstood and constantly stereotyped, you should homogenise your opinion with the rest of your social network’s inner circle. It should be a given that there is room for expressing less thought-through comments, changing your mind is not a sign of weakness but opens a door to understanding and new ideas.
The now often used militant and aggressive tone in online communication can shut down open thinking processes or the bringing up of innocent questions. The average person protects themselves by not publicly expressing any opinion deviating from the norm. The heart of being in a social network is based on the fact that you are not anonymous anymore. Sometimes I wonder if social networks brought down the freedom of speech on the web? It seems that discussions and asking questions are only going on offside the mainstream platforms by a minority of people – this is a pity. This is why we need a new culture of confrontation!
Photo credit: Cover image by Pixabay