Craft For The Soul

Humans vs Monsters

Do you ever think the internet is mostly a giant forum to point out the mistakes/dumbness/fragility of other humans?

Sometimes it really seems that way, right?

We (might) use the behaviour of others as a kind of compass for ourselves. We (might) look on as people say a thing or do a thing. Watch as others rush in to deconstruct it, point out the error in their ways and share that error with their friends. Sometimes we even join the rush.

I guess that’s kind of okay… Everyone’s accountable for their own behaviour FOR SURE and critical thinking is vital for growth and wellbeing.

That said, we’ve kind of struck off examining intention. And we’ve definitely over ruled the concept of speaking ‘casually’. Candid is out. Considered is king. And if you get it wrong, you’re TOAST.

Let’s face it, everything you say online is pretty much set in stone. A casual statement or joke is no longer just that (as illustrated in Jon Ronson’s book So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed), rather it’s a smoking gun that has the potential to cause MUCH misery and spawn thousands of characters typed in its/your name. Ugh.

Yes – you might have had good intentions when you said or shared or did that thing. Yes – it might have been a bit of an exhausted joke when you typed that update on Facebook or shared that post, but once its published or said or shared, the dog is off the leash. Or something. Even if you just shared it with a small group, it’s potentially out there for one and all – screen-shotted or repeated and set to ripple out further and further into the universe (or so it seems.) Double ugh.

I guess that’s fine in lots of ways. It’s a new dawn. It’s a new day. It’s a new life. Etc etc. We’re more accountable than ever for what we say and do. Acutely accountable. With that comes greater self-awareness and more fluid critical thinking, for many of us. But there are other things that come along with this hyper-accountability.

For starters we’re inclined to censor and second guess ourselves a lot more for fear of being misunderstood. Is that really what I think/feel? What if someone misinterprets it? Is it worth saying today or should I think about it overnight? Maybe I should just shut up. Yes. I’ll just sit quietly and let the braver people do the talking. That will work.

Candid chatter, throwing stuff around and thinking out loud become risky business.

We also risk becoming disconnected from the people around us. Constantly, tirelessly examining their words and deeds can put a pretty big buffer between us and them. The act of examining people’s true intentions… or recognising a throw away line are over-ruled by the need to dissect, critique or expose… and a hunger for broadcasting outrage and demanding apologies.

That’s hardly laying the foundation for friendship or connection, now is it?

Amanda Palmer on connection in her book The Art of Asking:

“Collecting the dots. Then connecting them. And then sharing the connections with those around you. This is how a creative human works. Collecting, connecting, sharing.”

I’m ALL FOR THAT. Yes! Dots 4 lyf!!!  But this internet phenomenon of making people into monsters is the opposite of this constructive, curious approach and it’s the enemy of creativity and compassion in many ways.

Waiting, noticing, exposing, shaming, dismissing… Rather than connecting the dots, it’s avoiding true connection. This is a pretty easy way to a) keep other people at bay and b) stay cosily in our comfort zone, rejecting others from afar, rather than digging a bit deeper and working out what they might have actually meant when they said/did that thing… (and who the human is behind it all.)

(Because we’re scared of true connection? Maybe?)

I agree that it’s SUPER IMPORTANT to go through life with our eyes wide open, critically examining the ideas we come across from day-to-day and working out who ‘our people’ are and how we feel about stuff. But I DO feel a bit grossed out by the new default some have adopted – smack down, silence, dismiss or expose rather than ‘stop and consider the human behind the act/words/deed’.

And that’s the thing, right?

We’re all pretty clunky human beings. Some of us are not as nice as others. Some of us really do warrant a good challenge (and I’m SO into stepping up for that!) But a lot of us are just doing our best and making mistakes along the way.

I guess what I’m saying is that I think we need to find a new way of examining each other. Something different from this dismissive, disconnected default. Something that’s more about kindness, curiosity and compassion. An approach that’s less about racing to put someone else’s head triumphantly on a plate. Less about turning the other humans into STUPID MONSTERS THAT MAKE US OUTRAGED AND FORCE US TO HIT THE SHARE BUTTON or OTHER/EXPOSE/DISMISS THEM in public ways… and more about considering the particular circumstance and vulnerabilities of the (alleged) monster in question. And finding out where they are really coming from and what they truly meant.

Sometimes the human is not doing very monster-y things at all. And very often the human is a LOT like us.

(Disclaimer: sometimes  examination proves that they are pretty monster-y after all… I’m not much into that.)

I’d love to know what you think about this culture of outrage, exposure and disconnection…

pip signature


Also on my blog:
22 great podcasts to listen to
10 things to do for the favourite people in your life
12 things to watch when you are feeling slumpy
how to beat information overload and still care about the world
craft saves the day!


  • Reply
    October 12, 2015 at 10:23 AM

    Interesting post. It’s always good to read your thoughts, Pip 🙂

    I’ve also noticed more people casting a more critical eye over what is said online, particularly since the Belle Gibson fake cancer saga.

    One recent example that springs to mind is former swimmer Stephanie Rice’s AMA on Facebook. She advised a reader to “get an ultrasound but avoid an MRI because they have lots of radiation which is bad for the body” and she was struck down very quickly with people informing her that she was incorrect and MRI’s do not involve radiation. The post was shared and picked up by the mainstream media and she was ridiculed and she subsequently deleted her post.

    Honestly? I’m glad that people corrected her (on her statement that MRI’s should be avoided “because of radiation”). but at the same time, her intentions were probably good and I bet she was feeling a bit embarrassed about being wrong and about her mistake being broadcast to a wider audience that she’d intended. The shaming and making it a mainstream news story – read by an audience of people like myself who would never have bought her book/followed her advice in the first place- probably wasn’t necessary and seems to have been part of the media’s need to promote outrage, or as you say, “point out the dumbness” of other humans.

  • Reply
    October 12, 2015 at 1:21 AM

    What you say about “intent” is so true.

    I am a true professional when it comes to putting my foot in my mouth (I even have a certificate on my wall!), and I have paid a HEFTY price a number of times because I have been misinterpreted or because I simply ballsed up . . . which I’m actually more than happy to admit to, if someone points it out.

    But that’s not what happens – instead there is OUTRAGE, and private messaging, or trolling and then the un-friending or vicious comments or all of the above comes into play.

    People just love to get their knickers in a wad about ‘issues’ that don’t exist/or are minuscule , almost like it’s a popularity contest and joining in the hullabaloo makes them/us part of the crew.

    The tragedy is that our attention is driven away from what really matters. The issues that if we maintained our attention on, or directed our energy towards, would make the most AMAZING difference to our lives and to the lives of others around the globe.

    It’s one of the main reasons that I refuse to have a TV, don’t read the tabloid referred to as a newspaper in my state and why I avoid the main ‘news’ sites online. The way we treat people and issues, just upsets me too much. The stupidity and general malaise that is reinforced with forums and opinions attached to every article or ‘news’ piece, just reinforces our intention to act before we consider. Click, before we think.

    So where do I go to get my news?
    To find factual information about events in the world, I go to 9gag.

    9Gag – I shit you not. The memes and especially the ‘Comments’ are far more informed that any media outlet as it’s young adults, university students and professionals who hang out there.

    I know that there can be a lot of crap on there too (seriously – what’s “The ‘D’?”), but all in all, it’s still a more neutral news source where angry opinions and sensationalist ‘information’ is shot-down REALLY quickly.

    As always, thanks for another thought provoking post.


    I just had to share this meme/message with you . . .

  • Reply
    October 3, 2015 at 8:21 PM

    My art teachers always said intention of the artist/writer/commedian doesn’t matter, what matters is the audience interpretation of it. So I don’t know… If your throwaway comment causes hurt or outrage for another person, does it really matter if you thought it wasn’t problematic? Although I defs reckon it can be taken WAY too far with the internet these days!

    • Reply
      Meet Me At Mikes
      October 3, 2015 at 8:28 PM

      I guess I think intention DOES matter – and interpretation DOES matter… BOTH matter! And I think that if we were all a bit more mindful of others’ feelings (even when they cock up!) the world would be a better place. Thanks for reading and thanks for your view! I appreciate you taking the time to comment! x

  • Reply
    October 2, 2015 at 2:56 PM

    *nods head* it’s all a bit much isn’t it? I have actively not published things on my blog because I don’t want to start a war. We (as a society) take things out of context and forget that different ideas and opinions are OK. And good. I think what concerns me the most is the whole ‘ganging up’ bit where people jump in and attack someone because other people are, without really thinking it through. That makes me a bit sad. You write good things, Pip. Maybe your next book can be about taking a positive approach to the internet.

  • Reply
    October 2, 2015 at 11:34 AM

    Yes! Well said.
    So much worry and overthinking and censorship of just being yourself. And yes, so much, quick, a thing I haven’t examined but I see others getting cranky about, let’s burn down their house.
    It is a new frontier – a toneless one as Reannon points out, and that means having to engage the grey matter when reading online. Asking things like:
    Does this match other things that I’ve seen from them?
    Do I know them to be a bit cheeky, a stirrer? (Good traits I say!)
    Have they actually offended me or is there just a bored mob looking for someone to attack?
    Responding to people’s written words is still a challenge, as is writing as a primary form of communicating (isn’t that odd?) – but for me, where I hang out on the web, there are way more humans than monsters. I celebrate that!

  • Reply
    Reannon @shewhorambles
    October 2, 2015 at 9:54 AM

    I am completely sick of the outrage. I’m over people getting all up in arms about things that don’t really warrant it.
    I think a lot of the problem is that when we are reading from a computer screen there’s no tone or gestures or expression bits just words & words are easy to misinterpret without al this other things. It’s why we have to use that stupid winky eye emoji, so people know we are just being cheeky/funny/having a laugh.
    I also think a lot of it stems from information overload. Because people are sharing stories around you feel like you have to be a part of because what if you don’t like/comment/share? Does that person think you don’t like them or haven’t noticed this very important thing they think you should know about ? And why aren’t you outraged like them? It’s all a bit much sometimes.
    The internet hurts my head some days.

    • Reply
      October 2, 2015 at 10:55 AM

      Reannon, I agree with you 100%. I couldn’t have said it better.

    • Reply
      October 11, 2015 at 11:47 PM

      Oh yes Reannon
      The utter outrage.

      I use to get hetted-up by it, now I laugh.
      People look so silly when they behave like this.

  • Reply
    October 2, 2015 at 9:34 AM

    YES! too many of us are in the rush to judge and find others wanting. Kindness, curiosity and compassion. I like that mantra

  • Reply
    Carly Findlay
    October 2, 2015 at 9:20 AM

    Gosh this is good . I love EVERYTHING you write

    You know, I think there ARE things to get outraged about. Real things that matter. But I think there is a disproportionate amount of outrage dished out for the wrong things.

    And the censoring yourself online in case of being misunderstood thing? That’s somethimg I’ve done more of this year than ever. sometimes people’s outrage about something yucky/intrusive/unkind that has happened to me feels more hurtful than the actual thing. You know, the questions about whether my feelings are valid and all that. It’s hard.

    I was listening to The Ted Radio Hour and came across episodes about screen time. One featured an episode about public shaming. You should listen to that x

  • Reply
    October 2, 2015 at 9:06 AM

    Ugh, Pip. Exactly THIS has consumed me this past week. In a good way though.

    I know you like Brene Brown because we briefly chatted about her, but have you read her new book? Rising Strong?

    Man, feeling so much as I am reading it. In particular one chapter, Sewer Rats and Scofflaws. It is staying with me and I am telling all of the people about it.

    Basically, after being confronted with some things, Brene is asking the question: Are people, in general, just doing the best that they can?

    She gets all sell righteous and thinks the answer is no: people need to do better {particularly sewer rats and scofflaws}. After research upon research and one particular conversation with her husband where he says that he isn’t sure if people are doing their best, but his life is better when he assumes they are, she changes her tune.

    She outlines that although people are maybe doing their best, whats important is that we set boundaries for others so they don’t upset us. Boundaries = compassion = connection.

    I hope I haven’t waffled too much but I just love this post xxx

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