Signal to noise


I’m trying to be less abrasive and forward about certain topics that can be touchy with people. I’ve noticed like many people, I am a victim of the internet age. So what does that mean? It means I’ve found myself falling into countless internet debates on comment threads about these abrasive kinds of topics. At best these debates are fruitless but an entertaining (and often frustrating) way of flexing your debating muscle. Usually no one changes their mind no matter how good the argument but it’s entertaining, like reading a novel or a watching a movie. Just something to do. At worst you end up feeling complete disdain for humanity based on the inane comments by many commentors.

I’ve often told myself that this form of activism is useful. Because if you can affect one person, you’ve done some good. Communicating is spreading ideas and the internet is just one of many ways. You don’t need to hold a picket sign outside in the cold for hours on end. You don’t need to have a face to face conversation with someone. You can use the internet to promote your ideas. Yet I’ve heard many people dismiss the internet and say it’s not real activism and that you aren’t really doing anything.  To which I have said hogwash.

But they aren’t entirely wrong. Different forms of communication hold different weight and get through to people in different ways. Countless arguments on comment threads is probably the least effective way from my experience. Yet we’re drawn to them like flies to honey. It’s easy, it’s there, it’s hard not to voice your opinion or “correct” someone who is obviously “wrong.”

Face to face we tend to be less abrasive. Usually. There is more at stake. Someone could slug us in kisser. These people could effect our real lives in ways that someone online couldn’t. Like debating a co-worker or a relative. Because often in real life we talk with people we know about heavy topics and not random people on the street.  Another thing is that someone could be wrong but faster and more aggressive at talking than we are, making it hard to have an even conservation. Maybe even dominating the conversaion and making us look foolish just because they are more outgoing and quick with the tongue than we are. That last one applies to me as I often edit a comment or post like this over and over  because I have collect my thoughts before responding and plot my articulation carefully to make sure I try and get my point across. Which makes me better at debating online than in person. So to that end I enjoy online debates much better than in person. Things are slower online. But the flipside is that without those real world checks in place, things can go off a cliff pretty quickly. You can end up spiraling down into a timesink on debates that are not just fruitless and but seemingly pointless in the scheme of things.

That’s why I’m stepping back a bit. I’m looking for more signal and less noise. Looking to waste less time.

Effectively this mean trying different ways of commnicating. It means spending way less time on comment threads.

Probably the most effective means of communication is through story. The human mind seems most adapted to be receptive to new ideas when placed in the framework of a story. As someone who likes writing and has made indie films, this should have been my first and foremost method of passing along my ideas and opinions about things. Which also provides an easy out as you can say “it’s just a story” or “I was just playing that character” and in real life remaina  “no comment” person on abrasive topics. But my personality is more direct. Rather than sugarcoat things in the context of a story/movie I often just come out and speak my mind directly on a given subject matter. But I’ve realized more and more lately, that’s not always a positive trait and often ineffective. So I should really try the story route instead.

One last side note about internet comments. The old saying “opinions are like assholes, everyone’s got one” rings true and the internet only exacerbates that fact. It’s easy for people to comment, often negatively. To bash on an entire piece of work in a sentence or two or try to make someone else look foolish. The internet is the first world citizens way of acting like third world thugs, publicly, anonymously. Sometimes it’s better to just avoid allowing comments on your work or to avoid reading them and getting involved in them. Because even if human beings think these things in real life, often they have the checks in the real world to avoid being nasty to your face. Including just basic decency.  But the internet just let’s everything through. It can be too much to handle, like being able to hear everyones thoughts about you as you walk down the street. It’s not natural and it can make you really self conscious, overly defensive and pessimistic about the world.

With that said, I’ve got to pull back and find new ways to both communicate and consume things. Less reading and debating online, more creating and consuming original works.



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