Speaking Out

In person[1], there can be a delicious thrill in telling somebody to “fuck off”, or “go fuck yourself, twat”, especially if they are close to you, especially if it is unexpected but (you feel) deserved[2]. There’s such potency and venom in the words. You can watch their impact, the shock and anger blossoming in your former friend’s face. This is a relationship-altering moment. You are crossing a thresh-hold; you are breaking taboos, entering unchartered waters. Who knows what might happen next? You are an explorer – a pioneer!  

Online, you can access this thrill more promiscuously, although it’s weaker. Interactions and relationships are cheaper and easier. Online, your interlocutors are little verbal pellets in a sea of pixels. You don’t have to come to terms with their motivation or experience, your shared humanity, because you are not confronted by their physical and spiritual immediacy, their Presence. You can’t see their physical reaction, their body language, or observe their dismay. 

You can avoid the troubling intensity of such intimacy, which feels like embarrassment and is as emotionally draining. But you can still get some of the frisson and power, and being physically untraceable and, hopefully, geographically distant, gives you security. You feel safe to be confrontational, inflexible and insulting. People who anger or question you can be dismissed as The Enemy, implacably and inexplicably committed to Evil, persecuting you.

You can scream, happily, from one argument to the next, dealing out verbal justice to racists, right and left. 


[1] Interesting phrase, in this context. It suggests that to be a person, you need to be physically, corporeally present. Is this meaning being eroded? Is it meaningless?

[2] I’m ashamed to admit that I know this, but I was an unpleasant teenager.

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