So this is going to sound a bit nuts. And I also realise I only have Part 1 of my #TNWEurope story done, but bear with me.
A couple of months ago, probably more than a couple, everybody shared this story of a woman who decided to confront her worst Internet troll. It turns out he was a pretty nasty guy, but when confronted with the simple reality that he was indeed hurting someone else, he kinda mellowed down and they became friends. I think This American Life also covered it, and I realise this is the best possible version of what could have happened (I seem to recall seeing a UK TV program host chasing identified Internet trolls down the street and them being not so very nice, but I guess you would not be very nice either if a man with a camera crew was running after you accusing you of being a horrible human being). However, it also brought to mind my own story of receiving these very harsh comments from a young lady on my previous blog and me being able to identify her, understanding that she was actually very nice and asking her out for a cup of coffee to see what the deal was. I could do that back in my old town, it was small enough. We are, to this day, friends and she continues to sometime point it out to me when I write something particularly self-serving :).
Back in the day, there was a sense that one could fix the Internet. Today, the internet is (lack of capitalization intended) is this huge, amorphous, dangerous place filled with inconsiderate and mean people. Everyone is out to get you. Trolls, commentators, your friends who post too many self-congratulatory pics, newsletters, app updates, texts, banners. It’s a high intensity, high traffic, tiring space that we have zero control over and which makes us feel like “oh, another good thing ruined”.
And I get it. I hate it when I cannot make up my mind what to buy because the reviews are either posted by irate idiots who probably broke the thing while opening it or by paid reviewers whose only interest is to get paid. I hate it when, in the comments, you get random people misreading your thoughts and not understanding what you’re about but who take over the conversation and make you feel sorry you ever posted. I hate it when people pick on an article you wrote 7 (!!!!) years ago to point out how stupid you were (I was, by the way, had no idea what I was talking about but that was 7 !!!! years ago). I hate it when people put my name on random emailing lists and email me bullshit. I hate ads that repeat forever or ads by companies who’ve never heard of impression capping when they retarget. I hate long UX surveys and I hate bad UX.
The thing is I used to do something about this and now I don’t anymore. Or at least not enough. And I should do it more. And so should everyone.
I shared this view with my colleagues at work and they said “awww, how cute you are”. I told them I sometimes click on the small (i) in Google ads and choose “do not show me this ad because it’s too repetitive” so that I can improve my browsing experience. I do the same with Facebook ads. I reply to unsolicited newsletters without an unsubscribe button and make them aware they are breaking the law. I once print screened a set of very annoying text messages from Pappa John’s, to which I had repeatedly replied “stop” as they had suggested but they kept coming. I print screened them and got on Twitter and made the company aware. They never apologised but the texts stopped. I block people that are VERY rude and pointlessly so, and let them know before I do it. I also take the time to fill in surveys for websites I like but make them aware in comments about the length of the survey. I wrote to HM Revenue Services to say their website’s UX was abysmal. And I had arguments.
This does not take up too much of my time, if you’re wondering. It’s probably 1 minutes every now and then when I feel things have gotten too much. For the rest, I rely on our now-innate ability to summon banner blindness and Google Inbox’s quite firm Spam filters.
I engage in an “adult relationship” with the Internet because it occurred to me that anything else is a form of aggression too. I looked at all the stuff the Internet was raining on me as “the Internet is willingly trying to abuse me”. It’s not. And most importantly, maybe the answer is not to abuse back, hit that spam button all the time, bark back at people, make fun of their spelling mistakes, feel annoyed by all the surveys and banners. I choose to give simple and quick feedback and tell the faceless Internet when it’s bothering me. I also understand that that provides corporations with more information about myself, so I diligently clean my histories and back up my things on secure drives so I don’t have anything stored where it can be mined. But all in all, I just don’t want to hate the Internet as much as I have lately. I want to assume it’s a place where people have good intentions but not enough know-how. I am trying to single handedly fix the Internet :)