Perhaps that’s why we see so much vitriol online, so many anonymous, bitter comments, so many imprudent tweets and messy posts. Because creating them is less cathartic, you feel the need to do it more often. When your emotions never quite cool, they keep coming out in other ways.
Actually, I think the real reason we see so much vitriol online is two-fold: 1) Anger is the easiest emotion to access, and 2) Its sudden appearance in a convo very often succeeds in sending all but the equally (or competitively) angry heading for the hills.
Uncontrolled anger is not only easy to come by, it is cheap, flimsy and rarely constructive. What a difference between a blast of hot air from a vexed reader, seemingly unwilling to dig deep into their own unexplored reserves of self-expression for bon mots more powerful than, “You are a pompous pea-brain,” or, “You are a bloated baboon,” (although at this moment both have their appeal and I can think of many persons to whom each applies…), and a reader who has the presence of mind, skill and patience to float out the elegant, simple and effective, “This angers me.”
In the world of the Thee-Ah-Tah, doncha know, actors are taught to mine their anger first, to get it out of the way, all the better to peel away the truly complex layers of the emotional onion, revealing ever richer sensibilities and feelings – skepticism, doubt, dismay, revulsion, sorrow, consternation, woe, regret, fear, depression, annoyance, shame, bewilderment, ambivalence, passivity, ennui, shock, fury, terror, torment, cynicism, dejection, misery, to name but a few possible emotions hidden by the all powerful and lofty ‘anger’ mode.
True enough, one might in the end venture back into the territory of outright rage having thoroughly explored all of the above, but it will be a colorful rage, a well-expressed rage, a nuanced rage, a well-thought out and examined rage, rather than a slipshod, hasty and fast food variety of anger better suited to the school yard than the round table.
But here we come to the real truth behind so much vitriol online and, dare I say, in real life – filtering through one’s anger to the meat of the matter turned out onto a plate of well-chosen words that continues, rather than stops, the conversation takes time and effort, something that anger slingers, well, don’t make time for or spend any effort at.
Bullies are boring.
Hit and run drivers are cowards.
Fast food gives an immediate sugar rush, then hunger sets in.
I remember a fellow joining one of my threads within the first few months of G+. He waxed on about how his hopes for G+ were that the medium would allow people to be truly “honest” with one another, you know, no holds barred, like the Thrilla in Manila fight between Ali and Frazier, the sort of verbal boxing match that leaves people bloodied, toothless and humiliated in front of millions of public posters, the sort of aggressive repartee in which someone wins and someone loses. I remember telling him to knock himself out (no pun intended) if he couldn’t figure out a better way to communicate. Never heard from him again.
Do I wish Truman had leveled Joseph McCarthy publicly? Yes. McCarthy was a blight on our country and he gleefully destroyed the lives of many, many people. But leveling anger at someone in a position of authority with the power to cause harm is decidedly different than being an angry blunderhead online.
Perhaps I feel this way because there are so few Mark Twains and Christopher Hitchens anymore, those extraordinarily well educated and articulate persons who were unparalleled in their ability to whip up a well-worded froth.
In their absence, I’ll settle for some online civility, which has all the signs of becoming a Lost Art itself.