Humans, Pixelized

(Thoughts following Sarah Kendzior, Einav Genad Galili, Ortal Ben Dayan, gamers, famous people’s body parts, and the many others.)

(Originally drafted in June in my notebook, after seeing the same discussion going over and over again. Discussion with different participants, different topics, using the same method, bearing same results.)

The other day I read an online discussion on feminism. The already-known dynamics of this discussion (from the first or second tweet), on which some of my friends were attacked, despaired me. It goes as following: there will be the accusation/a rant; then there will be a defense; others joining the conversation, already divided into two groups based on the original accusation/argument, even if the argument was not valid or even an argument. Just to think of this form of Sisyphean discussion makes me tired.*

The reason these “discussions” despair me is because you will rarely see people talking with one another. It’s quite simple: we see a tweet with a rant/argument/statement, and off we go. No context, no actual conversation and fact checking is needed, just one spark of annoyance. They’re wrong and they’re in my timeline. They must see the light. They must be punished.

But it is never really simple, because pixels/tweets aren’t people, and people can’t be reduced to pixels/tweets, not without a cost.

When I talk about pixelization, I talk about the act of taking people out of context in a way that deprives them out of their humanity. I tend to think of this as some kind of an online gesellschaft. Others may see this as lack of compassion, lack of humanity, or trolling.

As a side note, I’ve been trying to advocate and practice the suspension of judgement in the last three or four years, especially online.

For me, more than an act of humanity and morality (though I justify it using the latter argument), it’s about preserving sanity. The sanity and gemeinschaft of the internet I know and love. In the online worlds I live in, I “know” and love and practice in an ongoing discussion with many people. But online, they’re not people in the full sense of the word. No one is. At best, we’re identities, entities. We are taken out of context into new, different, other contexts. We are creating new identities, new norms. We hurt some. We help others. We are pixels; our humanity depends on your context of how you are getting to know us, how you are reading us, participating in the ongoing discussion with ourselves.

Our gaze, our feeds are prone to be pixelizing and to be pixelized. It is a lot easier to divide the world into black and white, create your own bubble(s), and take human beings out of context online. It is also harder to practice the suspension of judgement online, and this is, in part, why I am against shaming, that most times tends to hurt more than it helps.

I love you, internet. Let’s be human to one another, and have proper discussions with human beings, not with pixels.

*My hat is off to those of you who are doing so in order to change, occasionally, the minds of those who are reading you out of context almost daily, for it is a battlefield.


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