I want to thank Honey Crisis for inspiring this commentary.
Back in the early days of the mainstream Internet, the term social media didn’t really exist as part of our cultural consciousness. There were chat engines that allowed people to communicate in real time, but providing instant feedback on news events wasn’t really a thing then. However, in the realm of chat programs, people could develop a persona and become somewhat “famous” in their own little chat-dom. I, myself, even made a tiny bit of a name for myself in Excite’s Virtual Places.
For many people, that little taste of recognition became an addiction, and with the advent of actual social media platforms in the early years of Web 2.0, those fame-seekers did their best to turn themselves into celebrities within the new medium.
Shortly after, as more and more websites started incorporating social media add-ons to allow the public to comment instantly on news stories, everybody began to see themselves as one viral moment away from fame. However, there were others that were more interested in infamy, and they used anonymity and hatefulness as the materials to build that infamy. Trolling, or the act of behaving in an obnoxiously ostentatious manner purely for the purpose of evoking a reaction from others, has existed since the days of cave paintings. I’m sure that there is a yet-to-be-discovered cave out there where some prehistoric Pepe has painted, “Grog live in mom’s cave.”
For years, the trolls were easy to identify. No matter the platform, they were the ones posting intentionally inflammatory content purely to piss off the other users, and over time, trolling evolved (devolved?) to include shit-posting, which was an even lazier form of commentary the purpose of which was to upset readers. While a troll might follow a particular ethos to upset other users, a shit-poster has no desire other than to offend as many people as possible in as short a time as possible. The shit-poster doesn’t even care if they receive responses, and while a troll will respond to posters, the shit-poster rarely responds to other commenters.
While I don’t have any data to back up my claim, I believe that, anecdotally, we can agree that the preponderance of shit-posting has increased exponentially since the 2016 presidential campaign after candidate trump made it clear that shit-posting was his preferred method of campaigning, doing business, and now, apparently, governing.
Following the election, many websites were flooded with bots, trolls, paid commenters, and other various misanthropes to spam the social media platforms with taunting celebrations of white supremacy, nationalism, and general bigotry.
It soon became apparent that this new breed of commenter was entirely disinterested in truth, discussion, or even being called out on whatever -ism or -phobia they were exhibiting. They just simply didn’t care.
In response, after years of hearing them caterwaul about President Obama and having our genuine desire to understand their inexplicable rage go unanswered only to watch in utter disbelief as they turned up the bigotry and violent rhetoric, many of us seem to have just given up and resorted to shit-posting in response, and when I say “many of us,” I mean myself, as well.
I find myself on many occasions typing out something that I find to be completely irredeemable, utterly obscene, and not at all exemplary of the kind of person I actually am, and hitting “Post as….” anyway, thinking, “This oughta piss them off.”
So, the question I have is: can we tie this to trump, as well? Not in the sense that the right accused Obama of inventing racism, but in the sense that the “trump phenomenon” has opened the floodgates on an acceptance of Fuck-You-ism as the preferred method of discourse. Are things getting worse? Are we finding that finding common ground is not only becoming more and more difficult, but that people just don’t even care to find it any longer?
As far as myself is concerned, I find it harder and harder with each passing day to care enough to put any kind of meaningful thought into how I interact in this realm. I find that I more often than not reduce myself to a simple “go fuck yourself” type comment than in giving any kind of time in crafting a reply, and that is partly because I am finding myself less and less patient with the daily deluge of bullshit, and that any kind of thoughtful commentary is more often than not met with deliberate dumbfuckery from the right, so I’ve just sort of thrown in the towel (though not entirely…at least, not yet) and decided that “they” are not worthy of my consideration.
Where do you stand?