People are mean aren't they?
Not everyone, obviously. Lots of people are lovely. You're probably lovely yourself. If not, I'm sure you know at least a couple of people who would rank highly on a lovelyometer. At least a "7" - maybe more. And yet, whenever I fire up the internets I don't see many lovely people: I just see mean people.
I'll admit to being a sensitive little flower at the best of times, so I may be overreacting, but right now I'm a bit over the online proliferation of mean.
I guess I should be clear I'm not talking about websites and forums written for targetted audiences - be they racist, sexist, mysogynist or whatever. The internet is a big place and such things are easily - and best avoided. I'm also uninterested in the trolls: those folks who deliberately provoke angst amongst commenters by posting the opposite of what everyone else says to get a reaction.
No, my knickers are being twisted more by the adoption of mean by mainstream news websites - whether through publication of polarising attention grabbing articles (why, hello Ms Burchill) or through giving too much of an unmoderated voice to Jo(e) Public in their comments sections in the hope of increased traffic.
I suspect Tim Berners-Lee didn't toil over a hot keyboard in the 1980s hoping that his and one of mankind's greatest technical achievements would be used so people could share pithy comments about whether something or someone was shit or not. I don't know for certain but I'm guessing he doesn't feel much pride knowing that the primary use of his brainchild by some people is to put a pin into other people's enthusiasm and creativity.
I have a friend who likes to accuse me of tilting at windmills. Being less learned than her I had to look up what this means. Yes, I used the internet. Of course I did. Apparently it comes Don Quixote. It basically means I'm prone to unrealistic attempts to right perceived wrongs based on misplaced idealistic notions. In this case, people - nay, the world - is a bit mean and I think I can do something about it.
Naturally my friend's advice is to just get over it. I should accept that those people who use the internet to tell people what they think or like is wrong own the internet too. Railing against them is, if you'll excuse me, like pissing in the wind.
And you know what, I do. I get that this is the way business is done. I get that given the option of contributing something positive, people generally do the opposite. Consequently I just don't read such articles anymore. I avoid trolling articles, rarely peruse reader comments and have just about given up on Twitter.
So what's my point? I guess my point is it's not enough. It's not sufficient for me to hide away and leave people to it. It's not windmill-tilty enough for me.
In its purest form, his internet is an enabler. It creates possibility. It offers infinite opportunities for us to communicate, to access information, to learn. For some it creates the chance to connect, to be part of something. For others it offers anonymity; a place to be without being. It is what you need it to be, it is an extension of what you are.
And who am I? I'm a person with a great deal of unashamed enthusiasm for stuff. I'm someone who likes to connect with people meaningfully. I'm a person who was scared witless by the death of a friend whose rich, complex, beautiful personality is slipping from memory to become a series of dot points. I'm a person who who is starting to forget the things that made him who he is and what makes him tick. I'm a person who likes to write, even if no one is reading, for the love of writing but also so I don't forget either.
So here I am again, back in front of a keyboard and a blank screen. Online activity has moved on so far since I started on here. I've spent so long interacting with my phone that blogging feels like a chore from long ago; like sweeping a carpet rather than running the vacuum across it. But it still feels like the best place to be me. A place to gush enthusiastically about the things that make me smile, that make my chest heave with emotion, without wondering how may likes of retweets my feelings might merit in the eyes of others.
Of course nothing I do here will hold the tide of cynisism elsewhere on the internet. It is what it is. But these pages can also be what they are and hopefully in some small way they can add to the balance.