Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Everybody needs a vacation

In the last week or so, I've seen about a half dozen friends and bloggers that I follow announce that they're stepping back from social media and the internet.

This is actually not long after I also announced that I was cutting back on a lot of my personal social media use. I unfriended and unfollowed a lot of people (especially celebrities and blogs that I don't personally know).

Why? Well, for one thing, the internet is exhausting. For somebody like me, it's especially so. If I follow a blog, I at least want to read the headlines for every post. If I follow somebody on Twitter, I want to see everything they say, not just the last ten posts whenever I open my timeline.

When I'm gone for a few days, I actually do my best to go through my entire tumblr dash. Sometimes it takes days just to do that, more time than I was away.

On top of that the culture and the attitude right now is also not very conducive to enlightening debates or enjoyable discourse. A lot of us came online in the first place to find people like us, people to talk to, hobbies to enjoy, things like that. Instead, the culture is shifting to where the bulk of the talk is either vile anon posting and insults or people being angrily offended about one thing or another. And I'll be clear, most of the time it's stuff that they have every right to be angry and offended about.

But it's still tiring. It's no longer energizing for a lot of people. A lot of the same people who came to the internet to find acceptance and love and a place where their voice would have value are getting shouted down and silenced and going away again. Today, it was Jen from Epbot, one of my favorite bloggers who I've gotten to meet in person at book signings twice. The one thing I can say about her without hesitation is that she is incredibly kind. Before the second book signing I went to, I wrote her an email in response to a post she made that I had found particularly inspiring and helpful. I don't normally do that kind of thing, but I spilled out the story of my life at the moment, not expecting anything in return, just wanting to say thanks.

And her reply was just as kind and heartfelt as the original post, and I was able to tell her thanks for that in person. Her husband is just as nice, and if anybody deserves to always see the best of the internet it's the two of them.

Another friend of mine has been talking today about trying to engage with people in the debate about convention harassment policies, spurred on by John Scalzi's new convention policy about harassment. I've been quite proud of him (my friend, but Scalzi deserves some praise too) for standing up against what has become a huge problem. But this debate has been bringing trolls and jerks out of the woodwork, and it's become again a very disheartening and exhausting situation to try to follow or be involved in.

I don't know what the answer is, or what should be done. I'm just sad that we've somehow managed to cultivate a culture that silences these nice and intelligent people because we're mirroring middle school too clearly or something. I still enjoy being online, I still like my social media sites and I still am reading quite a lot. But I wish that the spaces that people had carved out for themselves had stayed what they needed, instead of becoming the same old junk on a different day. I wish that people would follow the simplest rule of the world, just be nice and don't be a jerk.