Let’s talk about my friend whom I’ll call Pat. Pat is passionate about various social issues. Pat shares some of this passion on social media at times, because these causes mean a lot to them. Pat gets some Likes from like-minded friends, but also gets slammed by their social network (a combination of colleagues, family, close friends, acquaintances from different stages of their life, and fans of their work) on a regular basis. Pat is told they care too much, they care for the wrong thing, is dead wrong, is insane, is an effing moron, is both too much and not enough for a political party/ideology/religion, is speaking truth but could they tone it down, needs to mind their own business, should go fuck themselves, and are they okay, are they depressed that they talk so much about such downer topics? Pat decides that it’s better for them to concentrate on their work, not engage with toxic people, and not write about certain topics that, though they remain passionate about, will only lead to replies like the ones listed above. Pat then receives exactly the same litany of replies to this statement because how dare they not talk about these topics, do they think they’re above everyone else, they’re so sanctimonious, and are they okay, are they depressed? Pat screams in frustration and leaves social media, ’cause fuck that.

Pat is a combination of various people I know who find themselves in similar situations in online spaces. It used to be the case that I would only hear about these online witch hunts by seeing the reactions of people I follow, and I would thank the heavens that my own timelines remained drama-free, but that’s changed. The toxic behavior has spread like a virus, and I now get to see situations like Pat’s first-hand. It saddens and angers me. Whether there is just reason to call out someone or not isn’t as important as how vitriolic the call-out is. Moderation is seen as a weakness, and possibly treason. You’re not really conservative if you believe X, you’re not really liberal if you believe Y, how dare you believe both X AND Y, you need to be woke, you’re not woke enough. No one is safe; the person who calls out someone today may, and probably will, end up getting called out tomorrow, maybe justifiably, but probably in retaliation. It’s a vicious cycle, and no one’s the winner.

And yes, I know, #notallinternetusers. Don’t react with that weak statement. Instead think and examine, have I done this at some point as well? How can I be better than that? I confess, I know I have in the past, by blindly following the mob hunting someone for some holy crusade or other, without stopping to check the facts. Be better than the mob. Don’t even join the mob.

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
~WB Yeats

I mentioned in a recent post that “I find the current tabletop gaming environment to be slightly less than welcoming.” A friend asked me what I meant by that, and I had thought to list examples I’ve witnessed that support my view, but much like Pat above, I’m choosing not to talk about certain topics because the potential consequences aren’t worth my time or effort. See Pat’s example? That is going on every day on Facebook, on Twitter, on Google+, on other social media spaces, and not just about gaming stuff either. If you’re not seeing it, perhaps you’re lucky and like me at one point, your timeline is drama-free. Perhaps you’re choosing not to see it.

I want safe online spaces again. I can only control my actions, I can only be responsible for my behavior. At the moment, greatly limiting my social media interactions is the right thing to do. There’s too much darkness in the world as it is, I don’t need to go looking for it on my phone as well. My job as a nurse in a post-surgical trauma floor puts me face-to-face with enough violence on a daily basis, I don’t need it my social spaces, online or otherwise. That said, I’m not disappearing either; I keep in touch with enough important people in my life through social media to do that. My online presence will change, however. It is my way of keeping my mental well-being and sanity.