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The Screaming White Noise: Politics on the Internet

Every year I get a little bit more apolitical, disenchanted with the way the media presents issues and the bipartisan bickering that everything seems to boil down to. Still, news stories flash up and I find myself working up into a tiny tizzy over issues that don’t affect me, issues that I could only contribute to by being yet another angry, opinionated person on the internet. I believe it was Amanda Palmer who introduced me to the phrase, “Don’t feed the trolls,” which is a good reminder for artists and internet-ers not to dignify stupid people by responding to them. It makes a lot of sense when controversial articles flash up on your newsfeed, too.

I read through these opinionated articles and I think to myself, but I KNOW what’s right, and in 140 characters or less I can prove it to the world. Could I be more naive? If I’m really feeling masochistic, I scroll through the hundreds of people who have already had that thought…and acted on it as well.

I only ever feel the burning desire to put my two cents forward when it hits too close to home, when the issue is too personal for me to pretend it isn’t a matter of emotional response….and that’s the surest sign that I ought to keep my trap closed. If I can’t articulate an argument purely on logic, I should wait until I’ve cooled down and am capable of that. Inevitably, I cool down and realize that it’s not worth a minute of my time to add to the screaming white noise of the internet.

Something I saw the other day was a quote by Natalie Grant, who landed in a spot of controversy for leaving the Grammys early. “I’ve judged no one. I hate no one. And I believe that every person has been created in the image of God. I will never stand on a street corner and wave a sign, I won’t use my platform to engage in political arguments that will only divide and not unite. I will continue to pray that my life will be my message.”

I’m not religious, personally, but I keep coming back to this quote and thinking about how much better a person I would be if I could just apply this to my life a bit more successfully. It’s hard not to judge, harder still sometimes not to hate, but that’s what it takes to find peace. We’re all trying to find our way, and keeping our heart-rates down in discussions is the first step to being civilized about any issue. It’s not just that we should be calm for the sake of treating others with respect and civility, we should be calm for our own peace of mind and tranquility. When was the last time fighting on the internet made you happy? It’s no one’s victory if everyone just walks away disgruntled, and the best way to avoid that is often to not engage at all. If I feel compelled to make a stand on an issue, I can go  make a stand and shape the world; I won’t get caught up in minutia on Facebook. It’s that easy, and I feel better already.

 

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