I appreciate whomever of my readers who held back and didn't post massive disagreement with my post yesterday - you are a rare and noble breed, especially on the Intartubes.
There is a strange compulsion that many people have, to demand that everyone like or agree with the same things they like or agree with. It's not a new compulsion; as far back as I can remember, I have run into people who cannot picture any worldview but their own, and who will emphatically insist that you must see things their way, like their likes, and dislike their dislikes. A difference of taste, of opinion, of friends, and it is like the earth has opened up behind you, and you have arrayed yourself with all the forces of Evil-with-a-capital-E, and must therefore be destroyed, or at least harangued until you give in to their way of thinking.
If you doubt the intensity of my metaphor, go to one of the "mommy" discussion boards and start a breastfeeding thread. Take either side, it doesn't matter; in less than one minute, your computer will be a flaming mass of half-melted plastic and metal.
(Be prepared for death threats.)
I find this propensity fascinating - from "you like that person I hate, so you can't be my friend!", to "how can you hate Harry Potter? It's the best series of books ever!" and even "what do you mean, you don't like broccoli? How can anyone hate broccoli?!", the level of hostile disbelief that anyone, anywhere, could possibly not hold exactly the same views as them is astounding. It's not a product of the Internets, certainly, but it is unbelievably magnified by the ease and anonymity of on-line conversation.
(I think when it comes to communication on-line, we are all at an infant stage; we have to learn all over again how to treat each other, and most of us are not past the stage where we're in the playground, pushing down the little kid we don't like and shoving their face in the sand. A quick glance at any major blogger's comments section will bear out this theory.)
My journal has pretty much always been free of that kind of nonsense, and for that I am profoundly grateful (especially since I frequently write about stuff people feel strongly about). This is partly due to the fact that I have an intelligent and delightful readership, but mostly due to the fact that I have a very small readership in the grand scheme of things, and most of the world has no idea who I am. If I was ever to go out into the big wild Intarweb instead of sitting in my cosy LJ cottage, I would probably lose my tiny little mind. In the abstract, I find these vitriolic exchanges fascinating for their sociological implications; in reality, I would be profoundly upset and hurt if it was directed at me.
I've posited to friends various reasons for the completely hateful level of much of the commentary on anything on the Web, but I think there is no one pat answer. Some people demand absolute validation for their choice, because they have made such an emotional investment into their thing that any hint of disagreement sends them into a wild tailspin of hate and ignites an unstoppable desire to make the opposing party see the error of their ways (usually by calling them names and declaring their undying loyalty to their thing).
Some people see any other view on things as a direct threat to their way of life, and respond with massive anger and/or retaliatory actions that frequently seem to involve things like stalking the person, posting their personal information, and generally trying to make the hated person's life absolute hell.
...usually over something really trivial, hence the lolcat running joke The Intarwebs iz Srs Bznz.
There are people out there who are incensed that someone, somewhere, disagrees with them. Not only that, they have to seek them out, wherever they may be, and destroy them. Hitting the back button and ignoring them is simply not. an. option.
I honestly don't understand this reaction; I can be friends with people who dislike each other - I just don't invite them to the same parties. I can talk over ideas and ideologies with people who are diametrically opposed to me, and respect their views and feelings (even while disagreeing with them; if it gets too heavy, I either change the subject or excuse myself). And deep feelings over music, books, and lifestyle choices? Whatever works for you is fine by me, as long as it doesn't directly hurt peole. I want to know what makes my friends tick; their ideas, hopes, views and dreams are part of what makes them precious and unique to me. Friends should be like well-read and -loved books; you know what their stories are, but you love reading them over and over again, and always with pleasure.
That last paragraph makes it sound like I'm easygoing and mellow; I'm not in the least. I'm passionate about my ideas, I have very strong feelings about my perception of right and wrong, and I yell. A lot. Thing is, I try to do so in private. I'll go to bat for my friends, I hate hypocrisy, and if someone tries to come after me because they hate my choices, I'll push back. Hard.
When I was young and new to Usenet, I used to get into flame wars with people - my desire to fit in warred with my bad temper, and I found it far too easy to tell someone to FOAD when I couldn't see anything but their words. I quit when I realized that I was starting to hate what I had become on those lists. I hurt people - and I hate that I did so. I am deeply ashamed of that.
But a lot of people can't seem to help themselves. On any site where feedback from random people is allowed, you will find insults, angry shouting, and vitriolic disagreement, and that's not counting the trolls, who are a separate matter. We're talking normally sane polite people who turn into frothy-mouthed mad dogs when confronted with an opposing viewpoint . Everyone is so sure they're right, they can't even consider that someone else might be right, too. After all, most of the things people fight so hard about are completely subjective. To come back to our breastfeeding board (I picked that thing because it is so controversial and seems almost impossible to discuss rationally), there are many valid options that people can use to fit in with their personal needs, but you wouldn't know it to see how violently different people try to justify their method as the One True Way.
I wonder what it is in someone's emotional makeup that they see a different path as so directly critical and threatening to their own. What confidence is lacking that they attach so much significance to differing viewpoints and need to crush them so intensely?
Ideas that clash can live side by side; we are all unique, with our own tastes, and our own way of doing things. Each of us has to run our own experiments to find out what is exactly right for us, and we cannot follow anyone else's path exactly, no matter how well it worked for that person. I love Mark Rothko's paintings, I've never read a Harry Potter book, and I have no children, but that doesn't mean that loving Thomas Kinkade paintings, owning every Harry Potter thing ever made, and having three children isn't the perfect life for someone else. It only becomes a problem when one of us starts to denigrate the others' choices in an attempt to validate their own.
(For the record, I don't like Kinkade, but I have no problem with other people liking him. Just don't buy me anything Kinkade-y for Christmas because you "love his stuff so much, you have to love it, too!". But my friends don't do that to me - they buy me skull stuff.)
(I love my friends.)
Like I said yesterday, demanding that everyone hold your viewpoint is fascism; there is room for all sorts of views, and some of them may be wrong, but in the end, most of them are exactly right for the person who holds them. And we need to respect that. I don't think someone's an idiot for loving the Twilight series to distraction (I am totally cool with that, as I have similar levels of love for other things), but I am likely to give them the hairy eyeball if they come storming after me because I happen to mention that I think the books are poorly written and overhyped, the movie looks dull, and the movie's star vampire looks decidedly odd with white face makeup.
(The fact that I'm profoundly jealous that someone can become a "star" with that poorly-written a book has nothing to do with my dislike. Nope, not at all. *innocent*)
Similarly thinking that because you aren't allergic to mushrooms means that no-one can possibly be allergic to mushrooms, and then attempting to force-feed them to me (or worse, sneaking them into my food) will not end well for you. Appreciate the differences around you, and learn from them. Saying I do something different doesn't mean I think your way is invalid, it just means that I am comfortable with my method. I will probably not think anything more of your method than "cool, they do it differently. That's interesting".
Fascism may make the trains run on time, but it doesn't allow for the creative possibilities inherent in multiple approaches to life. If we tend to our own gardens, and stop looking over the fence to see what our neighbours are doing (excpet to honestly admire their roses), we'll all be much happier with our own choices in life.