Bash, Bash and More Bash

Originally posted on

I’ve been watching the trend of mobmedia for some time now—it’s one of my top 10 trends for 2010—but it really hit home for me last week. I got a vicious, hateful (hate being the operative word) phone call, possibly from someone I know. I’ve done a number of TV appearances in the past month, and it seems the caller hadn’t agreed with something I’d said, maybe my political views, which I’d expressed on a Hartford morning show, or maybe something else—I’ve offered a lot of opinions and often subjected myself to everyone’s point of view.

It stung, and I know I’m not the only one to feel this way. My job requires me to do media appearances, so although I’m in the public eye more than most people, the social Web is putting us all out there. Whether it’s a Facebook update or a comment on a blog, every decision any of us makes is subject to the constant scrutiny of armchair critics. You never hear much from people who admire or respect your work or want to engage in reasonable discourse. It’s bash, bash and more bash.

I love almost everything Web 2.0 has enabled, but cyberdisinhibition can be a huge bummer. Euro RSCG Worldwide’s social media survey last fall found that 42.6 percent of Internet users in the U.S. feel less inhibited interacting online and more willing to lash out. When you’re on the receiving end, even 1 percent can feel way too high.

Those of us with something to say—which is all of us—are starting to live in fear of being attacked. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

That’s why I’ve been interested to read the commentary on Jaron Lanier’s provocative new book, You Are Not a Gadget. Lanier, an early evangelist for the Web and coiner of the term “virtual reality,” has become disillusioned with the digital realm. One of his key complaints is the culture of meanness and bullying on the Web. (The other is the “hive mind” that expects creative people to contribute their ideas to collective projects for free.) As New York Times contrarian critic John Tierney summed it up, “He blames the Web’s tradition of ‘drive-by anonymity’ for fostering vicious pack behavior on blogs, forums and social networks.”

I don’t agree with everything in Lanier’s manifesto, but I do agree that things have gotten out of control in this realm. Or, as Tierney’s colleague Nick Bilton wrote on the Bits blog, “People don’t realize there is a human being on the other side of online commentary.”

Well, there is, and this one wishes people would remember that.

Jan 22, 2010 | Posted by in American Life, Mass Media, Social Media, Trends | 1 comment

Comments (One Response)

  1. Brandt Henderson says:

    I believe Mr. Lanier’s assessment is accurate. Instead of a lively discussion in the marketplace of ideas we’re served up vitriol by those who hide behind their inflated screen names.

    At one time they had to stew at home, kick the dog or shoot their mouth off at the local bar or club. Today they can disseminate their lies, libels and misrepresentations to the whole world from the anonymity of their computer. In the bar they might have to defend themselves and the dog can always bite them back.

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