In November, a video posted online showed an American climber visiting Sweden blowtorching holds on some boulders to dry them after a recent rain. A handful of Internet message boards and comments sections blew up with criticism, calling the climber, Carlo Traversi, a “dick,” “idiot,” “moron,” “choad,” and “wanker,” among other names. One person went so far as to say,
Carlo will be locking his doors at night from now on, looks like there is a lynch mob forming online.
Traversi later apologized on his blog and admitted that blowtorching holds isn’t good for the rock and he had made a mistake, going along with his local hosts’ advice when they handed him a blowtorch. In the post, he posited that the amount of negative communication on climbing websites worldwide was increasing, and asked, “As a climbing culture, supposedly more connected than ever via the internet, how have we progressed to the point of being so quick to judge and ridicule others, whom we’ve never met, purely from information gathered from blogs and videos?”
That’s a valid question, and not just for climbers.
If we get bad service at a restaurant, if a baby cries too much during our flight from Chicago to L.A., if we don’t like someone’s performance on The Voice, we tell Facebook and Twitter. This is our contribution to the world. At least when it’s not election season. Remember that time your friend said, “Well, I was going to vote for Presidential Candidate X, but then I read a very snarky, viciously-worded post on Facebook by someone I haven’t seen in 12 years, and I magically decided to vote for Candidate Y”? Me neither. Do you ever wonder if we’re waking up in the morning, looking in the mirror as we brush our teeth, trying to get fired up to say negative shit on the Internet? “OK, Tuesday, here we go, I’m going to drop the kids off, get to the office, turn on my computer, and start an argument with someone!”
As Carlo Traversi points out, the Internet isn’t making us more connected, it’s making our interactions less personal. We say things online we’d never say to someone standing behind us at the post office, or at the next table at a coffee shop. We forget that no one wants to hang out with a venomous, mouthy asshole who has nothing but bad things to say about everyone. And sometimes, we become that person online.
We can find plenty of targets for our anger: Lance Armstrong, those guys who chopped the bolts on the Compressor Route, that person on MTBR who doesn’t think tubeless is the way to go, the guy on MountainProject who asks for advice, the guy on MountainProject who gives the other guy advice we don’t agree with. But are we really angry at that person we don’t know, or are we just frustrated with something else in our lives?
We sometimes joke that the Internet is one-third Facebook, one-third porn, and one-third cats. As far as cats go, I have a fairly low daily viewing requirement, but I think most of us would rather see a dozen photos of someone’s cat than their vitriol. Give me photos of cats, dogs, of your kids with birthday cake smeared on their face, of sunsets, dirty jokes, things your co-worker said, links to your new favorite band’s video, inspirational quotes, funny things, things that make me think, the good shit. Because there’s plenty of it out there, if you choose to focus on it. You can be the person who’s never happy with their latte, or the person who high-fives the barista every morning. Or the person who buys coffee for the next person in line, too. You can be angry that your favorite team lost, or happy you got the chance to watch the game with your son.
Over the past few weeks, a SoulPancake film called “A Pep Talk from Kid President” has gotten more than 10 million views on YouTube. Kid President — who in real life has osteogenesis imperfecta, a condition that causes extremely brittle bones that fracture easily — says, “We can cry about it, or we can dance about it,” and reminds us that it’s everyone’s duty to give the reason a world to dance.
Perhaps more importantly, Kid President asks, “What will you create that will make the world awesome?”
[cartoon by XKCD.com]
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