Are You Making The World Awesomer, Or Angrier?

xkcd duty calls

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?”

YouTube Preview Image


-Brendan

 [cartoon by XKCD.com]

Semi-Rad is brought to you by Outdoor Research.

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15 Comments

  1. Aaron F
    February 14, 2013

    I would think hip-hop hates me
    Have you read the YouTube comments lately
    “Man that’s gay”
    Gets dropped on the daily
    We’ve become so numb to what we’re sayin’
    Our culture founded from oppression
    Yet we don’t have acceptance for ‘em
    Call each other faggots
    Behind the keys of a message board
    A word rooted in hate
    Yet our genre still ignores it

    ~Macklemore

    Fight the hate one blog at a time, one song at a time, or one public school teacher’s lesson at a time…..whatever it takes.

    Reply
  2. February 14, 2013

    Lovesomuch I want to marry this post. Thank you!

    Reply
  3. songsta
    February 14, 2013

    very timely for Valentine’s. spread the love.

    Reply
  4. josh
    February 15, 2013

    There’s a certain website that I used to frequent. That website has a discussion forum that’s gotten really bad. So now I only really visit the trip report tab of that website. Why do I do this? Because comments on the trip reports tend to be A.) useful B.) contain pertinent and relevant information and said trip C.) positive and complimentary. I love reading this blog and look forward to it every thursday. I know the posts will be humorous and life affirming. I was really inspired by your friend you wrote about who wrote really well, took pictures, and never turned down an adventure.

    Reply
  5. Eric O'Rafferty
    February 15, 2013

    Well said! Thanks!

    “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” — Anaïs Nin

    When I think about making a post somewhere, I try to ask myself, “Is this going to contribute something? Does it come across as positive?” I’m far from perfect, but those questions have prevented me from posting on occasion (and a lot of time and energy).

    The negative stuff? You can learn to get good at recognizing what to avoid and ignore. I look at those people who are creating those kinds of posts as helping me out. They minimize my precious time spent on the net! :-)

    Reply
  6. highdelll
    February 15, 2013

    I’m from MTBR, and I think tubless is ok.
    Just having room to take a shower is fine. – shoot, when does anyone chill out and take a bath anymore? – excepting his/hers tubs outdoors facing a sunset (the boner pill commercials may be on to something)

    So maybe don’t go tubless

    Reply
    • Pancho
      February 17, 2013

      i have no idea if highdelll makes any sense, but he sounds like he’s got the right idea

      great post. thanks brendan :)

      Reply
  7. Nick
    February 18, 2013

    i can haz awesome blog?

    Reply
  8. Andrew
    February 20, 2013

    Just a note of thanks for all your writing. I’m sure that ‘Kid President’ approves.

    Reply
  9. February 21, 2013

    Well played Semi-Rad. It is incredible how people use hateful language on the internet. I learned that way back in the dark ages when climbing message boards first appeared and I was slandered for merely suggesting (my opinion of course) a few of the worlds best rock climbs.

    It’s likely those who hate the most are also the most insecure. Criticism in comment sections is a dicey proposition at best.

    Reply
  10. Cody
    February 24, 2013

    The best youtube videos are the ones with comments disabled. They’re just so refreshing!

    Reply
  11. February 26, 2013

    Seems these days we need to find some snarky comment, some quicky comeback, some brilliant put-down to make us look smarter, more engaged, more in-the-know. Kid President is the good stuff. And there’s plenty of good stuff out there–on the internet, in our kitchens, on our playgrounds, in the mountains. But it’s easy to just focus on the bad. Deciding to find the good, the awesome, is always the harder move, but definitely worthwhile. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Cbailey
      March 5, 2013

      Great article. For those interested who want more on how technology has changed the way we think and interact “the shallows” and “alone together” are two great reads. Be rad, do awesome!

      Reply

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