How the internet ruined Christmas

Attention Conservation Notice: the Internet makes it impossible for us to pretend to know that we don’t secretly hate each other.

In the department of theories entirely uninformed by empirical work, I has a theory.

The Internet has actually ruined the world, I’ve decided, not just Christmas, but here’s how this works: there were racists and leeeebeeeerals and conservatives and people who do things you hate all prior to the internet. But prior to the Internet, and Rush Limbaugh, you could hate the other in the privacy of your own home, never realizing that you, yourself, were the object of somebody else’s hate. You could jibber jabber about the other’s badness among those who thought like you and acted like you and had the same values as you, and there was no record of the conversation expect in the memory of speakers–no transcript or log of internet comments and tweets that could be debated and hashed and rehashed endlessly among the unsympathetic. We could then put on a pretty, hypocritical face at work or at schools in the name of living together in some semblance of peace and quiet. Not perfect peace and quiet. But some, in following the rule of “don’t discuss politics or religion.”

The internet, except for shopping and pictures of cute animals and kids, is like a giant conversation about politics and religion that never shuts up. And in that conversation, it is inevitable that, no matter who you are, you will discover that there is a group of people–a not inconsequentially large group of people, who hate you. The values you were raised with. The positions you hold now. Your atheism. Your religion. Your face. Your weight. Your anything. I guarantee there is somebody who hates it, and that person can’t shut up about it, and the internet gives them an archived platform. At the outset of the digital age, we worried that we would lose content. Now we know we can’t lose content, even when we’d be better off doing so.

And you hate back because that’s a pretty natural response, and if it isn’t, it is after you’ve read the 1000000th comment about how fat bitch feminists should be raped for daring to suggest that human trafficking in unacceptable.

It’s hard to be civil when you know somebody actually hates you.

Rush Limbaugh was the first time I really understood that, no, my Republican relatives (on Andy’s side) weren’t passionate about their views and that’s why they never left me alone during holidays. I was brought up with the don’t discuss politics idea, at least not until it was a safe topic. But no, these folks, like Rush Limbaugh, actually hated my guts. It was personal. I sat through this nonsense for several years until I was trapped with a limo driver listening to Rush Limbaugh, and I finally got a clue: Rush Limbaugh and the people who listen to him actually hate me, and the rest of my family, including my sweet dad, who was a Democratic politician (and community servant) for many years. So Andy’s tireless uncle wanted to discuss politics to bully, badger, and diminish me. He didn’t care if he ruined my Thanksgiving; in fact, he probably enjoyed it. After all, I and people “like me” had ruined his country. So. I stopped going. It’s easy to do in a world where we are flung far and wide and our material security depends on corporate salaries and not family cohesion. And, besides, that’s what he wanted, anyway, except that it probably takes away from his bloodsport.

Before the various universes of the user-created content on the inter web, we would have just celebrated Christmas, discussing our plans with people whose plans and values were likely to be similar. Person X could have his big religious hoo-ha, I could have my quiet secular meal with a few friends, and X could look down on me (in non-recorded comments with those who were like-minded) how people like me were going to hell. X would think that my refusal of his religion was a snub and an implicit judgment of X and his religion, which it is–after all, we all think our choices are better or else we would make the choices we do–and I would think X and people like X are sanctimonious and rather silly. But the evidence of those attitudes would be fleeting, instead of shoved in our respective faces via internet memes 100 times an hour and on our radios and televisions from people who generate opinions as content.

We’ve created in the internet an echo chamber for our differences with no way of reconciling them.