*Sorry about the late update, ladies, gentlemen, and those that prefer to remain undefined. It’s been a bit of a rough week, and this will probably only be a quick, dashed off post to boot. Sorry. I promise a better one will come soon, and furthermore, that this one will be edited a bit better eventually.*
This post comes from a search term someone used to trip across my blog: “(Actor’s Name) insane.” Just like that. I laughed my tits off for about ten minutes. Some of you know why, some of you don’t. The why doesn’t particularly matter, but today I’m going to ramble about something I have to remind MYSELF about on the internet: Being wrong.
Now, here’s the deal. In my perfect world, right before someone made their first public post, be it in a message board, a blog, a service like twitter, whatever, a warning would pop up and say thus:
“By posting this content you take full responsibility for the ideas therein. You accept that someone may believe you to be wrong, and may even prove you to be wrong. By clicking continue, you promise not to go batshit fucking crazy if this occurs. You are human and therefore not infallible. Continue?”
In short: Why do we go nuts if someone challenges our views on the internet? I mean, take my flame from a while back. If that had been slightly less rediculous sounding and actually had given good reasons as to why I’m wrong, I probably would have gotten angry instead of laughing at it. Why?
I think it has to do with the permanence of the thing. Nothing ever truly dies on the internet. You can delete posts, tweets, hell, even whole accounts, or you can make those accounts private, but someone somewhere can still find some remnant of what you said or did. It’s precisely why employers take to the internet to screen out applicants– a process I believe is unethical and none of their business, but it is effective (There’s a reason why everything on the web should be posted under a pseudonym.) Due to this permanence, if we are proven wrong on the internet, it’s always there.
That terrifies people.
That means there is permanent record that you are not perfect. Permanent record that- holy shit- you were wrong once. It could be on astrophysics or it could be on how many kids Britney Spears has, but you were wrong about SOMETHING. In this image obsessed society, that can seriously fuck you. If you present yourself as utterly infallible, if some kid living in hickville kicks your ass in an argument when you’re supposed to be an adult and far wiser than them, it takes all the wind out of those sails. You were brought down by someone supposedly lesser than you– therefore, you must be lesser than them. Suddenly, you’re a shadow of your former self and you want to rip that stupid kid’s head off.
Does this make sense? Yes and no. It does in a way because yes, you were brought down by someone supposedly “less” than you, that is, someone supposedly less enlightened/intelligent/informed, but what does that really say about you as a person? That’s an isolated event. An isolated event out of a LIFETIME of events. Events in which you succeeded, failed, improved yourself. What it really says is that this one point in time, you were proven wrong. It happens. And yet we live in fear of it, because in this age of the internet where everything is permanent and appearances matter more than ever, if someone can find just one little thing you were wrong about, they can hang you with it. “SEE! SEE! S/HE WAS WRONG ABOUT THAT, HOW CAN YOU SAY THEY’RE RIGHT NOW! THEY THOUGHT BRITNEY SPEARS HAD TWELVE KIDS, SO CLEARLY THEY KNOW NOTHING ABOUT HEALTH CARE REFORM!”
The example is intentionally ridiculous, of course. Why should it matter if someone talking about health care reform didn’t know how many kids Britney has? It doesn’t. It also doesn’t matter if a lawyer thought that babies come from storks, it doesn’t matter if a doctor thought that if you mix blue and green you get pink. They are unrelated. So long as that lawyer knows his law, that doctor knows doctoring, it shouldn’t matter if they suck at geography. So why is it so damn easy to suddenly knock someone down a few pegs if they happen to not be right all the time? The answer is a simple one: it depends on if their image depends on them being right 100% of the time.
To an extent, it’s the public’s fault. We want our leaders and role models to not have flaws. We want them to be perfect. So, to get us to like them, they pretend they ARE perfect, that they’re always right, that they NEVER inhaled and that they did not have sexual relations with that woman. The public expects a lie, so they lie. We know that no one is perfect– but we really REALLY want to believe that our leaders and role models are, because if they are and we follow them, nothing can go wrong. We’re safe. Nothing bad will ever happen again, and we can all sit and look smug because we can never be proven wrong by proxy. We know they are lying liars that lie and that their shit stinks just like everyone else’s, but if we can maintain that illusion, everything is great.
It leads to one of the great puzzles of humanity that I can never seem to unravel: If I know it’s a lie, and you know it’s a lie, and he knows it’s a lie, then why lie? If everyone knows it’s a lie, what’s the point? Is it that we think that the truth is worse? What if it’s better? Why is it so terrible to know the truth? Is it because truth is unchanging?
Perhaps that’s it. It’s the fact that if you are proven wrong, that the truth is uncovered, that the truth will never change so you either have to continue to be wrong or change your view to recognize the truth. If that truth is a contradiction to a deeply held belief, one that you base a lot of things around, it can shatter what you thought was true, it makes the rest of those things you based on that idea wrong by extension. It means you as a person have to change, and people hate change with a passion, especially when it comes to changing what they think about something they deem important. Wars have been fought over people not wanting to be wrong, people have been killed and lives destroyed because they were proven wrong.
And here we are. On the internet. Where your wrongness will display for eternity.
However, I would like to offer a way out before I have to dart back off to class for the day:
What if we all start making no pretense that we’re perfect? What if we all start to have an open door policy of “come in and try to prove me wrong, and if you do, you get a cookie.” What if we changed when we found out the truth* instead of stubbornly clinging to what we thought?
…My, what a strange day on the internet that would be, if everyone had lively debates and no one tried to cover their ass to make certain they weren’t wrong because it didn’t matter. No one’s reputation hinged on it.
Is it sad that the closest I can get to this type of attitude, the attitude that it doesn’t matter if you’re proven wrong because time is still going to pass and life will still go on, is on 4chan…?
*When I’m talking about truth, I’m talking about scientific/hard facts. Philosophy, religion, whatever is in a different category. Hell, if you really want to say so, psychology and sociology are gray and fuzzy too. However, I believe that certain things are universally true in those categories, such as the idea (ideal, really) that everyone deserves respect as a human being and that mental abnormalities exist.