by Aimee Walleston
I am usually not driven to write things on my own. I like commissions, and I like being paid for my writing. But I have thought about how much the internet as a global consciousness has changed the face of social interaction (not to mention political interaction), and I feel like it’s time to start a new conversation.
I used to take a lot of pictures of myself when I was young, a few beats before the epoch of the selfie. I was possessed of extremely low self-esteem, and I thought, by constantly monitoring my appearance, I would somehow keep myself one step ahead of hating myself. It didn’t work, but I gave it my all.
Eventually, I began to care about what was going on beneath the surface, and I spent a lot of time reaching into myself through gestalt therapy and spirituality. My personality refined itself, and I stopped looking for outward approval—from myself and from others. I let myself be how I was, and I began to see myself as an internal process rather than an external performance. That made me very happy. I was no longer just another image to endlessly critique. I was a human. And I didn’t even have to be an “identity”—I could just be myself. An evolution.
Now, however, I have another identity to worry about, if I so choose. Not one I have selected or even encountered—nothing “real”—but one that has been projected upon me by “the internet.” In this identity, I am, among many other things, a writer, a loser, a teacher, an orphan, and a bridesmaid—one trumping the other, depending on the day.
I have had no choice ad no agency in this identity. Being a writer, in 2009 I decided to archive my work digitally on this blogspot account. That was and continues to be my foray into “social media.” If it could even be called that. After creating this archive, technologies changed—and changed and changed and changed. I soon saw people professionalizing their smallest accomplishments online. But I never felt like I wanted to promote or express myself in this manner. I’m a deep person. I take my intellect—and my personal and professional relationships—seriously. So I stuck with this arcane blog modality, because I thought if I just chose not to participate, I would be promoting what I choose to value: genuine human connection. But I am an outlier, more so by the day.
What we have constructed with our little baby internet is a place darker and more psychologically complex than the Jungian shadow or the Freudian id. It is a place driven and riven by black hearted impulses umbrella’d under the safety of inhuman connection. As a consciousness, the internet reads the energetic temperature of our world—which in this moment is frightening—and responds accordingly, with endless crusades against whomever one is hating on that particular day. It has no ethics, no morals, and no accountability. No reflection, no remorse, and no capacity for emotional evolution. And it is controlled and deftly wielded by people who mirror this spiritual stagnancy. They are criminals, yet they don’t have the guts to commit actual in-the-flesh crime. Instead, they empty their bullets onto their screens.
This is not the consciousness I choose to live in, and these are not the voices I choose to listen to. I don’t believe in hating someone I don’t know. I don’t believe in hating someone I do know. I don’t believe I know best how someone should live or behave. I don’t believe that “everyone should have a voice” if that voice spews derision, venom and hate. I don’t believe in online revenge. I don’t believe in unhealed souls unloading their unconscious projections onto others online, safe in the knowledge that they won’t have to deal with them “IRL”—cowardice by any other name. I don’t believe in remunerating or in any way rewarding those who promote hate.
I don’t believe that the world is unequivocally better with the internet. I don’t believe that this statement will ever be true until the world understands how to make the internet better. And then acts on this understanding.
I have one solution, and I would beg for others to follow suit. Stop engaging in hate dialogues, in all forms. Even if it’s hate against someone who outwardly appears to deserve it. Even if it’s low-key hate, wrapped in “criticism.” Stop reading hate, stop responding to hate, stop endlessly discussing hate. When hate starts talking to you in real life, walk away from it. Look inward and find your own truths—don’t respond to hate out of envy or fear or weakness or the need to belong. There are better, smarter and more productive ways to ignite change. One big one would be to consume and produce intelligent, thoughtful and factually accurate content that leans toward a humanistic agenda, rather than away from it.
And, FYI, any cursory reading of almost all Buddhist and most psychoanalytic texts will tell you exactly where the hate you’re rolling around in is really stemming from. (Hint: it’s self-hatred.)
I will continue to post my writing work on my little blogspot account, and I will continue to avoid almost all other aspects of the social internet (which now, unfortunately, means many news outlets) until they become a safe space for all. This is not wimp or wallflower mentality. This is a fight to uphold the civic ideals of truth, compassion and justice—the things that make a real life worth living.