American Parser

Standing In The Gap Of The Real And Perceived

Thin Skins, Thick Pickins… Observations On Internet Discourse


English: Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions

Here, I offer a hearty congratulations to Mr. Andrew Beato. On October 29th of 2012, Mr. Beato published a post on Intentious entitled, “I Regret Having Children – So Do You, You Just Won’t Admit It.” I would strongly encourage the reader to read that post first before continuing on this one.

Mr. Beato fashioned in this piece a rubber knife upon which so many have felt compelled to fall and twist themselves. Is he scratching his head or laughing himself into hyperventilation? I would never have imagined so many could be manipulated with so little — a single post on a medium-sized blog attached to nothing in particular in cyberspace, run by someone carrying no delegated authority, and who is half the world away from most of his reading audience.

But apparently, the audience is out there, like a swarm of moths to a flame, each inexorably drawn toward his or her own internal hell. The few with whom I have sought to reason are too emotionally invested in the subject matter to have a rational discussion, so I threw in the towel after a few earnest attempts at dialogue. I confess, at first, I had no idea I was stepping on toes, or that they would be so tender.

We in the Western world have way too much time on our hands. The response “I Regret Having Children…” has received, still growing steadily at over 200 comments so far in seven months, says much more about the fragility of the human psyche than the actual post says about the decision to have or not have children.

And from every corner. I can understand why some might disagree with Mr. Beato, and forcefully. As well, I can understand why others might be relieved to find a comrade-in-arms, giving public voice to a conviction they have felt marginalized to even suggest privately. I gasp, though, at the personal affront most commenters have taken the piece, or one another, to be. One would think Mr. Beato had named names. There could not have been a stronger reaction if the post had it been titled “My Butt Is Covered In Moss — And Yours Is, Too; You Just Won’t Admit It.”

This whole episode reminds me of my boyhood in the American South. Back then, it was popular to respond to an insult with “Your mother,” or to start a fight with an insult about a someone’s mother. When this was directed at me, I always thought, “What does this person know about my mother? Nothing.” So I chose to ignore the bait, even though most boys interpreted such an insult as an invitation to a schoolyard duel, as if that mother’s honor literally hung on that boy’s words. Man, I’m glad I grew up in the 20th century.

Likewise, I often heard a certain racial slur as a boy, usually one of particular notoriety in the South, that raised the ire of persons who reasonably took it to refer to them. Although I found the word distasteful and crude, and I appreciated the historical and cultural reasons behind the typical reactions to the epithet, even then, at some point, I wanted to ask those offended, for their sake, “Does that describe you?” assuming that they would answer in the negative, to which I would want to ask, “then why take offense?”

I’m sure I’ll take some heat for this. But I believe that, in the end — and I say this as one who has taken my share of ridicule, both as a child, and as an adult — any other reaction continues the cycle of destruction, and betrays a subconscious attitude that everything, indeed, must revolve around us, and thus it is our obligation to react to everything personally. This mentality gives the offenders encouragement to continue. Why allow others to have so much power over our emotions and our energies? Maybe we crave the attention as much as they do.

But whatever happened to sticks and stones? Mr. Beato might as well have hacked into a hundred minors’ Facebook accounts and suggested to each one of them in a personal conversation that their parents regret having them, or, with a six-inch chisel and half-pound claw hammer, singlehandedly tapped into a 200 foot tall geyser of previously unexpressed fears and resentments, pressurized by a collective 2000 years of abusive upbringings and/or poor adult choices.

In fact, although the body of the post itself is thoughtfully articulated, I suspect it was unnecessary. I bet Mr. Beato could have had exactly the same result with just that brilliant, smarmy title alone. He, the Architect — neither humored nor surprised — hands at ease, speaking nearly in monotone, and we, Neo, each of us representing the helpless rantings and cursings of his innermost insecurities and confusions at a fever pitch on 200 screens, as the Architect just watches and waits for the inevitable exhaustion of protests, having seen the scenario many times before. And the next time, will we have learned? Will we even remember? As it turns out, PT Barnum was right. Thanks for the reminder, Mr. Beato.

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2 comments on “Thin Skins, Thick Pickins… Observations On Internet Discourse

  1. Robbrewerar
    May 14, 2013

    I am constantly amazed at the folks willing to start a fight, but who slink back to insults and hurt feelings if you choose to counter with a reasonable argument.

    Like

  2. Pingback: My Butt Is Covered In Moss — So Is Yours; You Just Won’t Admit It | Intentious

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This entry was posted on May 14, 2013 by in American Style and tagged , , , , .

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