I find the online world sometimes troublesome. I know that seems strange considering I’m typing up a post to be delivered through Twitter and FB and other sites, all online, but lately I’ve been struggling with the tensions between what’s real and unreal, what can be perceived as all important (like everyone knows this particular topic cause it’s on twitter!) and what goes unnoticed because it’s happening in the “real” world with no one recording it, commenting on it etc.
There have been a few hashtag wars on twitter lately. First there was #Ineedmasculism which drew the ire of many online feminists and then angered the masculinist and MRA communities, and now there is #liberaltips2preventrape which is drawing the ire of pretty much everyone.
I’ve avoided getting involved because A) I don’t have enough time in the day to argue with people in just 140 characters, especially when I can’t see them or really ask good questions or even know them. And B) because this just seems to be part and parcel of how online dialogue seems to work-an incident, an immediate flashmob type outrage, media attention to the online outrage, articles and commentary on the media attention and the outrage (especially when things go wrong and folks are falsely accused of things-see the Kate Middleton/Mantel issue, though there are thousands of other examples) and no real clean up after the hurt feelings have all happened. And all that happens in like…48 hours? And then SHINY! On to the next thing leaving people trying to figure out how to make sense of what just happened.
This is just how our online world works in terms of pop culture, immediate media, and PR.
The other reason I don’t get involved is because I don’t want to find myself living in an echo chamber where I believe everything that is happening on Twitter is representative of a movement. I use Twitter, but I don’t live there.
So let’s take feminism and MRA for a moment. At any given time there are hundreds and thousands of people (male and female) in the US working on some kind of human rights issue-let’s say focused on men. They might be volunteering at prisons, writing letters, visiting congress people, donating books or money, working with schools on the PTA, talking to school boards, planning events for special teachers, working with shelters or educational departments at Universities to put more info in assault and consent content to include men, speaking out about war and violence and sexual assault of men, boy and child soldiers, childhood sexual abuse etc etc etc.
Countless real time examples,so very many of which I’ve been privy to and participated in but did not tweet about or Instagram or Foursquare etc, happen all the time. Unnoticed, go these people every day. Some of them may be on Twitter, many of them not even having a clue about hashtag wars.
But because the hashtag wars get so much immediate attention in that particular sphere, it can feel as if that is the whole of the world! When you are in the Twitterverse, it feels as if everyone is! And that no one is caring about these other things listed above.
When in reality there are loads of people doing loads of work only it’s not remarked upon, recorded and PRd to high heaven. And so I see such anger on Twitter and then in the subsequent articles and comments. As if that small niche community is the whole of activism or the whole of advocacy.
Its a bit of a trap because hey! If you use Social Media you can get your message out there quickly and easily, but I think it’s becoming a snake that eats its own tail while howling at itself. And I may be old and in a “get offa my lawn” kind of mood, but I’ve been in real dialogue process experiences with people face to face with all the intimacy, risk, fear, intensity, need for empathy and amazing heart opening communication that entails. It’s a totally different thing than Twitter arguing. Or nearly any kind of online discussion.
I’ve seen some discussions in comment threads that sidle up on that, but I’m a fan of the real time, real place, all in kind of experience.
And given that I’ve been polling real life friends and asking them about certain online groups, issues etc and they’ve never heard of them (yet still are doing the actual activism work that goes unremarked upon, both for men and for women), I find that people getting outraged on Twitter about “all those feminists online” or “those MRA folks” or “Right wingers and their rape hashtags” or “stupid liberals against guns” to be so much sound and fury signifying something…I’m just not sure what.
There are real feelings happening, but I don’t think they are happening in a place where resolution easily happens.
It bothers me because I’ve seen what can happen in this weird little world, incrementally, quietly, just people moving forward even those who don’t share ideology. And I see people online deciding that online feminism or online men’s rights is the whole of the world of it, discounting all those people who have so much to good do in their lives that they just can’t be arsed to tweet about it.
I may wind up being one of those people soon.