Let’s talk about emotions. Now I know what you’re thinking. Kron?! Wtf?? Yes, it’s me, and I want to talk about feelings. We’re all on social media and before you engage further, gather round, sit your ass down and listen up. I’ll wait while you have a shot of your favorite poison.
We good? Ok. Then let’s do it.
Feelings are important. They truly are. They’re the basis of empathy, which is extremely important, and often lacking, in our society. Without empathy, compassion wouldn’t exist. Hope… Love… Kindness… All of these things require empathy. Feelings. I’ve been told on more than one occasion that I’m dead inside. I’m heartless… A robot… Those closer to me know that’s not so. It’s true that I don’t really wear my feelings on my sleeve. I’m practical. I’m a realist. I believe in logic above emotional irrationality. But I do feel. Sometimes very deeply. And sometimes I make decisions when I do. If you make a decision based purely on emotion, there’s a very good chance you’re ignoring some important pieces of information that will eventually show that you made the wrong decision. In other words, you’re probably going to fuck up. You might even hurt people.
On the other hand, if you make a decision based purely on thought, ignoring the emotions involved, you’re also ignoring your own basic humanity. Sometimes you have to be callous. Often you don’t, but you go that route because it’s efficient. Maybe it saves some money. Maybe it saves some stress. The hassle of it all. That doesn’t make it the right choice. Humanity has evolved through both thought and emotion. Without both, we would never have achieved the things we have. Leonardo da Vinci once said “Study without desire spoils the memory, and it retains nothing that it takes in”. You need both emotion AND knowledge to bring forth wisdom. Wisdom, in my opinion, is the application of lessons learned. Anyone that tells me they have no regrets has never learned a valuable lesson. Regret is the birth of wisdom.
So what does this have to do with anything? Well… everything. On the internet we’re removed from the face to face interaction that triggers that thing inside us that usually says “Stop. That’s too much.”. Add anonymity in to the mix and all bets are off. Accountability goes out the window. There’s no repercussions. There’s no cost to you. I have taken advantage of that many times. I’m guilty. I’ve said many things online using this persona as a shield. Would I have said them otherwise? Actually, yes. I have always been careful not to cross certain lines. I don’t post swastikas or use overly derogatory terms. I’m simply direct. Some might say mean. Meh. Maybe sometimes. I tend to piss people off though, and some of those people are perfectly willing to take things offline, in to your personal life. Plus some of the people I… irritate… happen to be actual killers.
So the mask is necessary. I really wish it wasn’t, to be honest. I would have no problem attaching my real name to anything I’ve ever said or done online. I’m pretty sure that’s not the case for everyone though. In all the years I’ve been on the internet I’ve seen so many horrible things said and done. Truly hateful, nasty things. I’ve seen lives destroyed. I’ve seen self-destruction. I’ve see hatred of every kind. Maliciousness fueled by arrogance and ignorance. I can’t count how many hackers I’ve seen pop-up, wreak havoc and go down in flames. Sometimes I try to talk to them. I tell them where they’re headed. I tell them exactly what’s going to happen. They never listen. Not once. They’re mostly kids, you see. They’re invulnerable. Indestructible. They’re going to live forever and be able to do anything they want. Don’t you know that?! But they fall. Every time. Usually once one goes down, that one will drag the others with them. Reality hits them like an 18 wheeler and they start listing out every single person they know and every single thing those people did. Anything to save their own asses. I suppose I don’t blame them. When one is faced with that choice, it’s amazing how quickly ones integrity becomes malleable. Because let’s face it… in most cases the people they’d be protecting would spit-roast them in a heartbeat and they know it.
There’s very little real loyalty on the internet. In the military I knew that I could count on the people I served with. Without being specific, I’ll tell you a story. Once, while serving and doing my job, something happened. It appeared that I had screwed up. Not just a little bit, but a lot. When that happened, each person I worked with was called in to an office and asked what they thought about what had happened. You see, there was no way to actually prove I had screwed up. Each person, without exception, said that the thing that happened could not have been my fault. They didn’t even hesitate to back me up. I know this, because at the end of the process I was called in and told these things. The powers that be sat me down and explained that I was off the hook, and it was because everyone I worked with had told them there was no fucking way I screwed that thing up. They had no way of knowing whether that was true or not. Not a single one of them ever asked me. Even over a beer. That’s just how it worked with us. That’s how it should work. Now… did I fuck up? I’m not telling. It’s not the point. I took that experience and made it part of who I am. If you’re a friend of mine, I got your back. Period. That doesn’t mean I’m going to turn a blind eye if I find out you have a basement full of dead bodies, but it does mean I’ll go to you first, talk to you, and then walk with you in to the police station. I’ll be armed, of course. I’m not stupid…
I do have regrets. I’ve made mistakes. Anyone that says they haven’t is either lying or lacking self-awareness. I’ve made so many mistakes I can’t count or remember them all. Some were huge and I’ll never forget. Some will haunt me until I die. I always try to learn from them though. My biggest regrets are the times I’ve hurt people. People that didn’t deserve to be hurt. It’s not always unavoidable, but often it is. It just takes a little more effort. A little patience. Empathy. Don’t automatically react. Take a moment. On the internet that’s easy. You have time. It’s not rapid fire face to face interaction. Wait a second. Is what you’re about to type necessary? Are you just being an asshole? If so, does that serve a purpose? Sometimes, quite honestly, it does. Fighting fire with fire, so to speak. Often it’s not, and taking a moment can turn what will probably be a giant flame war in to a reasonable conversation. What are some other things you could say that will make the person you’re speaking to take a moment as well. Provoke their mind to kick in if you see their heart leading the way, or vice versa. You will absolutely find that many people are reasonable, and they respond to a reasonable approach. It comes down to this. You can either throw gasoline or water on a fire. In the end, the latter is almost always better.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Sometimes you can’t reason with people. That seems to be the case much more often online than offline. (S)Kids, like the asshats you see trying their damndest to burn the world down are generally walls. They won’t listen to you. They can’t be reasoned with. Ignore them if you can. If they make that difficult, well…. that’s a whole other topic 😉
There is always a thought process that things on the internet aren’t real. They’re not important. You can always unplug, after all.
- “Don’t get mad on the internet…”
“Don’t let them get to you…”
“It’s just words on a screen…”
To a large extent, those things are true, but feelings cloud logic. The biggest lie people tell themselves is that it’s not real. It really is. That’s a real person you’re talking to. They have a real life. That really needs to be drilled in to people’s heads on the internet. You’re looking at text on a screen, but it’s a person typing it. Just as you are. You need to always act the way you would if that person was standing right in front of you. You need to empathize.
Think about what they’re saying. I don’t care how ridiculous you may think it is. Think about it. THEN and ONLY then, should you respond. If you’ve decided, using your heart AND your mind, that the only response is to pick apart their point of view like a Jenga tower and then gleefully skip away while the rotting corpse of their argument is steaming on the ground, so be it. As long as you do it for what you believe is the right reason, and not just a reaction.
That is all.