Ask Uncle Dave
Dear Uncle Dave: I hate my Internet self. What do I do?
Dear Uncle Dave:
I am in a bit of depression when it comes to online activity. I sense the stare of The Void anytime I write anything, I read some 1 year old comments of mine and I hate myself… I also had my first dream about writing something on the internet… I am afraid.
What should I do?
Afraid of my own words
I sometimes find myself feeling the same way as you do, except a little bit differently. I totally get the one year eye-roll, where you look back on younger, impressionable you, and wonder what the hell you were thinking. For me though, anything produced more than two weeks ago is enough to make me feel like junior me was a naive basket case.
But I also have this other weird thing where if I look at anything I wrote years ago (but never published), it seems a lot funnier and more interesting and I worry that I've become stupid and un-engaging. But then if I ever use it, it seems like a horrible mistake. As a result, there's pretty much just a one hour period from last Tuesday that I can look back upon with fondness, and I'm no fun at parties.
So It does seem a bit strange that we can cling so tightly to something in the moment*, yet feel embarrassed by that opinion a short time later. It feels like it might be some kind of character defect, but I actually think this is the sign of a healthy outlook on life. It suggests that you're learning and adjusting your opinions over time and I don't think that is a bad thing.
Regardless, I do have some advice to prevent you from hating yourself a year from today. Before casting that opinion out there, consider the following points:
1 - Does it Matter?
You really don't have to look very far these days to find an important issue, worthy of discussion. Yet here we are, passionately hurling abuse at others that think about bicycles a little bit differently than we do. Before chiming in, stop to consider if it is a topic that is worthy of your time and energy, or if you should perhaps wait to fight the next, more important, battle. Sometimes, it can feel pretty great to walk away from an old fashioned shit-fling without stooping to participate.
2 - Consider each discussion as a chance to learn something.
Ya, ya, I know that sounds pretty hokey. And I'm not suggesting that every online interaction with a hate spewing white supremacist is a chance to obtain a new worldview, recipe or restaurant recommendation. But stop to think about the last time you changed the mind of some person on the other end of your flame war. Has it ever happened? Since there are no "winners" on the Internet, why even bother trying to win? Instead, consider these conversations as a chance to learn what the other side has to say, and use that information to either change or enhance your opinion. Flinging names back at people won't change their mind, but listening to what they have to say and adjusting your argument to fit might. Or it might help you out in your next similar conversation. Those disagreeable cretins really don't give a shit what you have to say, but maybe you stand a chance of learning something? Echo chambers seldom come up with a new perspective on things.
3 - Don't be afraid to admit that you are wrong.
This is a challenging one, and seems to be more so with each passing day. When did it become so difficult for people to admit that they screwed up? Or that their opinion changed? It seems crazy that we can't do this. But think of a past argument that you've had. Who do you have more respect for, the guy who calmly admitted that he may have been wrong, or the guy who threw a chair through the window once he started tripping over his own gaps in logic? Freely and openly admitting that you were wrong is a powerful way to convince people that you aren't an imbecile and that you know what you're talking about. I think. I don't know. Maybe?
4 - This could all be totally wrong
After I wrote this, I scrolled through Twitter, read a few rantings from crazy people, and I couldn't run away from this advice fast enough. Because the above, of course, assumes that you're interacting with a human that wishes to have a discussion, and not somebody just looking to toss around the latest epithet they learned on Breitbart. I think this Boingboing link offers some great advice on this. If the motivation is to draw attention, then the best thing you can do is not give it. If it's too late for that, then state your facts, maintain the higher ground, and let that idiot spoil their own argument. And if you do all that and are still constantly defending yourself with comments that you find to be embarrassing a year later...well, you know what they say.
So, to wrap this up, you're correct to be afraid of the Internet. Look at what happens when the world dredges up your dick pics and the racist memes you posted on Reddit. Consider that some journalist is definitely going to find that photo of you making fun of a homeless person if you're ever arrested for anything. Worry that your kids might one day learn that you were the kind of person that got really angry about tire specifications on bicycles. With a bit of effort you can avoid that embarrassment, and maybe even cause people to like you.
*A hat tip to Vernon for a bit of inspiration. I debated hopping on that bandwagon, but felt like this was a different enough take on the subject to move forward.
Uncle Dave's Music Club
Mac Demarco came out with a new album and I don't enjoy it. Which seems to be happening frequently as I age. Not the Mac Demarco, new album part. The not enjoying it part. So let's talk about the good Mac Demarco that used to make me happy.
Mac is a dude who bumped around western Canada before moving to Montreal where people would appreciate him (the classic Canadian musical success story). He seems to skip through life making fun of everything and not really taking anything all that seriously. This used to bother me a bit, but his new album seems to be an attempt to "fit in", so maybe the lack of ambition was what made me like him in the first place?
"Ode to Viceroy" is his love note to cigarettes. Makes me wonder what I'm missing.
"Cooking up Something Good" is about the family meth business.
The video for "My Kind of Woman" gives you a window into Mac. And 10 Million plus views? What the hell?
"Passing Out Pieces" might be the worst video ever created. But the song is good. And I'm sort of laughing. Okay. I'm laughing pretty hard.
Amway! You win a prize that we aren't even supposed to be talking about yet. Well - not until 0800 Pacific Time. A fresh set of flat peals from OneUp Components! They look pretty rad. Maybe rad enough to cheer you up and cure you of the e-sarc that plagues so many of us. Send us an emailto collect your prize. Congrats!