Monday, November 17, 2014

The Internet is Making the World an Angry Place


On The Ticket, our shows broadcast live each day for anywhere from two to four-and-a-half hours. In the case of the morning show, that's over 1100 hours each year of live radio. Much of it, because of the nature of the medium, is done on the fly. Therefore, we make mistakes. All of us do. That's why we have a segment each week called "The Emergency Brake of the Week," which highlights our gaffes. Like a quarterback who makes bad throws, our hope is to limit our mistakes. In baseball, perfect games are rare. In radio, perfect broadcasts are also rare. But that's ok--unless you check your email or Twitter or Facebook, where mistakes are not acceptable. Example:

Me, during a college football segment: "Mississippi State has beaten four ranked teams this season..."

(30 seconds later on Twitter)

@PigBoy: "Mississippi State has beaten five ranked teams, not four, you fucking idiot"

@MomasBoy82: "Hey dick face, the Bulldogs have beaten six ranked teams. Do your homework, then go die"

@LittleBenjisChewToy: "Junior, you suck. The Bulldogs have beaten three ranked teams. Stop giving them so much credit, you SEC-loving asshole"

@TooMuchTude: "Hey Junior, you Big 12 homer, Miss St has beaten seven ranked teams this year. I hate you"

Last week on the show, I theorized that the internet is making the world angrier. Society has always had an angry edge to it, but the internet has given that anger a new platform to be heard and to be spread--nothing has ever helped fuel the fire of ill-will more quickly or efficiently. You will be hard-pressed to post something on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram without someone wanting to tear it down by slinging a snarky, negative, or even violent remark your way. Comment sections on websites are also a haven for hate. I moderate all comments on this blog because, well, it's my blog. If someone disagrees with something I've written, I allow them to tell me why, as long as they can do it in a civil tone. But if someone simply wants to post "You suck donkey balls" for no reason, I don't allow the comment. I see no reason to.

Mark Cuban coined the genius phrase "Twitter muscles," referring to the anonymous millions who say things online that they would never say in person. In many, anonymity creates bravado, and I think that nameless/faceless world shows just how angry a lot of people really are. Maybe it's because the pressures of modern society are increasing--we don't sleep much, we don't eat well, and keeping up with your neighbor is more important that ever. Economic times have been tough, which has led to unemployment or underemployment, which has led to frustration. How do you release that frustration? By going on Twitter and telling others how much they suck, so that, for a brief moment, they will feel your misery, and you won't be alone in that misery. Perhaps you feel empowered because someone heard your voice. After being bullied by life, you suddenly get to be the bully, if only for the few seconds it took to type "you're a moron" and hit send. But it doesn't end there, because once you hit send your problems don't follow that message out into space--they stay with you, which means you must flip the bully role again. And so the anger spreads.

Hate has always been a part of human history. The Egyptian people probably ripped Moses constantly, writing "Moses is a douchebag" on a scroll and passing it around town. But the scroll system was much slower than today's internet (unless you still have dial-up). These days, the hate can spread around the world in the blink of an angry eye. Everyone now has a platform, and your opinion can go viral in seconds. A recent study reviewed in the Washington Post showed that hateful or negative tweets are much more likely to be re-tweeted than joyful or encouraging tweets. Part of society feeds on anger, and I get the feeling it's a larger part of society than we would like to think.

Talk radio is partly to blame. Our job is to cast a critical eye on what we observe. Sadly, a terrible mistake by an athlete gets people talking much more than an athlete's positive performance, and talk radio can certainly stir up a hornet's nest. However, one difference from the internet storm is that radio hosts (or newspaper columnists or television commentators) are authoring their opinions in their own name. We, at the very least, can be held accountable for something negative we might say because we are not anonymous. Plus, we are governed by the FCC, which means our language can only get so filthy, which helps keep the volatility of a comment somewhat in check. I like to think that I've become more aware of the weight that my opinions might carry, and whom they might negatively impact, than I was in the earlier part of my career as a talk show host. I believe I've mellowed, but at the same time I've noticed the world around me getting angrier.

Not all of the feedback we receive is negative. Much of it is complimentary of the job we do, and for that feedback I'm grateful. Some of it is even forgiving and understanding, which restores my faith in humanity. But so much of it can be negative, and the negative has a way of sticking with you longer than the positive. And I'm a small fish--I can't imagine the incredible hatred that President Obama or President Bush or Alex Rodriguez or Lance Armstrong has had to put up with over the years. Many days I wonder how they do it.

I'm not asking for anyone to feel sorry for me because I get hateful tweets. I realize feedback is a part of a public job, and, as Troy Aikman once said about criticism, "I'm a big boy, I can handle it." It's just the increasingly violent tone of the criticism that has me wondering about our collective blood pressure.

Since the internet is truly a modern-day Wild West, it's not likely that the hatred will recede any time soon. It's illegal to beat someone up, or vandalize someone's property, so many will continue to take out their life frustrations (whatever the cause may be) by getting angry online. It's not against the law to call a politician an asshole in a comments section, but if you've got any kind of conscience, it should make you feel worse, not better, to be a part of the hate.

And, if you at all disagree with anything I've written here, you can shove it up your ass.

23 comments:

  1. That's some good shit right there! Keep it up Miller!

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  2. Moses had stone tablets, not scrolls you feeb!

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  3. So well written and thoughtful. Unfortunately, I believe what began within the cloak of the internet is spilling in to the the public and personal world and we are worse off for it as we lose our sense of decorum with one another.

    On a lighter note, you also killed me with your valediction. Once again, terrific work here.

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  4. Totally agree. I own a small restaurant(we listen to the Musers every morning) and it amazes me how some people treat my staff. I think the restaurant industry might mirror the Internet to some degree. It's some peoples only chance to be the boss in life. It's extremely competitive, pays low wages, has low margins and if we put onions on your meal when you ordered no onions all hell breaks loose and you take to every review site there is to put us on blast about how awful we all are. Where else can an 8 dollar expenditure cause such emotion? I recently had some issues with the purchase of an 1800 dollar television but somehow managed to keep my cool and treat people with decency. We handle hundreds of successful transactions per day at breakneck speed but heaven forbid if we forget your straw. Thanks for the entertainment Musers.

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  5. I find myself correcting hosts in their mistakes all the time. To me the only criticism is that I feel these hosts should know these things since they are sports experts. Now when it comes to the record of Mississippi state I wouldnt know that because I am not a SEC p1. But when it comes to recent team history of the teams you cover those things might not be as forgivable (DAN MCDOWELL) In all seriousness though, if I reach out to the station or a host when they make a mistake its to inform them of the correct answer, not to digitally rip their head off. Junes you have really hit the nail on the head here. The keyboard cowboys and internet trolls must be truly pathetic souls. Everyone should just take a deep breath before they hit send. Me I might mutter under my breath, but that's as far as it would go. Then again I don't have the maturity of a 12 year old either.

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  6. i second everything said above...especially the last paragraph

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  7. shut down your twitter account - who needs it? Problem solved. You're welcome

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  8. As another possible point, I think a lot of people get a kick out of "being smarter" and/or "knowing more" than the expert radio host (or at least trying to prove they are). Just sad the amount of vitriol that they have to use to try to attempt to show it.

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  9. Good stuff Junior. I agree with you on this thing 100%.

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  10. Junes
    This isn't a new phenomenon, and a term was coined by pyschologist Daniel Goleman called cyber-disinhibition to describe this behavior. It is directly related to the lack of face to face contact via various forms of electronic communication. It was even seen in the Stone Age of the Internet (aka Arpanet). Do the research online you ;@/&/$.

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  11. @Anon818. That's fine for the faceless intertubz but what of the restaurateur upthread? I'll postulate it is more about control. In the service industry we expect and/or demand certain desired results and in some cases if they are not met we are not averse to saying so loudly and rudely. This is not the case with everyone. Some of us are capable of meeting undesirable results with something resembling patience and decorum. Some are not willing to be so kind. They are quite capable of flexing those muscles face to face with the lowly salesperson, waitperson or other member of society that is trying to meet their wants, needs, or desires. I will grant you it is far easier online to dismiss any sort of polite behavior and go straight to being a jerk online.

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  12. Mostly rational people (men) seem to embrace college football and politics as opportunities to act irrationally. It's no longer enough to enjoy the thrill and drama of rooting for your team. Now more energy is devoted to ridiculing rivals. (Irrational non-UT fans throw the Horns Down rather than their own school sign. -- And why isn't that considered taunting when opposing players throw it? -- Irrational UT fans boast of a being affiliated with a big, money-laden school they couldn't get into.) Their point of view becomes: if you're not for us, you're against us -- and you must be crushed. And I'll act like a child until I get my way. They do not want to go to the trouble of researching and contemplating rational gray areas (strength of schedule, head-to-head) but will exert all energy and venom on accusing rational thinkers of being biased just so they can ignore their valid points. (Ex. They nitpick internet power polls that aren't giving their team "respect." Despite the fact that these polls are merely click bait with NO power to move their team up or down the true playoff rankings.) The recent success of Baylor and TCU has given the irrational boosters among their fans an opportunity to make claims of best in Texas and abuse fans of past Big 12 powers because their programs weren't squat for so long. But Baylor and TCU fans are also experiencing the downside of being nationally relevant: now you're vulnerable to disappointment, no matter how loudly you scream or how abusive you are. No one's team truly needs them on that internet wall hurling insults and defending their honor. No one of substance or power can hear you or cares what you say. It'll happen on the field and in the minds of people selected for their college football knowledge and unbiased character to pick the final four football playoff teams. Meanwhile all your bad behavior is really accomplishing is making your team and rational fan base look bad.

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  13. I completely agree Junes. You just lost a listener for the rest of the day, maybe.

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  14. Opposite for me. I'm a P1 since day 1 and most of the stuff I hear on the Ticket, daily, makes me chuckle and sometimes laugh until I have tears rolling down face. On days where I'm having a hard time for whatever reason, I can listen to you, Junior, and your station and I feel better. I don't write though....b/c I figure you all would think I'm just sucking up... I truly can't thank you all at the Ticket enough for the last almost 21 years. Ya'll make me laugh and think of serious topics, too. Thanks

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  15. Kidd Kraddick used to say that people LOVE to correct you when you're wrong. To prove his point, he would randomly say "Did you know there are only 5 states that end with the letter A". Then he'd wait for the phone lines to blow up with listeners saying "What about Alabama? What about North Dakota? He's wrong, there are 8 (or 9 or 12)" For the record, there are 21.

    As his phone screener, I wanted to punch him on those days. But I can totally relate to the Twitter barrage of corrections. People weren't always polite over the phone either. I don't know if the Internet is making the world angrier or if it's just given the assholes a bigger platform to show themselves.

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  16. Perfectly stated. Love your show. The witticism, humor and chemistry among you guys makes me look forward to my commute every morning! It makes me less angry too, because it distracts me from my road rage urges! Seriously, you all make my day.

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  17. On a slightly different but related note, the internet has had a huge hand in "normalizing" certain bad/deviant behaviors. On the internet, you can find a group of people for pretty much any behavior you can think of, good or bad. People get exposed to more things today than they would have decades ago. The more you're exposed to something the more normal it becomes. Lots of desensitizing is happening at a faster and faster rate.

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  18. Junior, you've been a staunch supporter of Twitter. This specific blog is why I choose not to use it. With Facebook, I enter my real name. I'm friends with my real family and friends. I wouldn't dare spew hatred and venom so that my loved ones could see it. Say what you will about "likes" or whatever on Facebook but there is something to be said about transparency. Type what you mean and stand behind it. Let's do away with PigBoy, MamasBoy82, LittleBenjisChewToy, and my least favorite of all TooMuchTude.. Screw those people hiding behind fake names. I'm Doug Robinson and I approve this message.

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  19. here's a big hug coming your way Millerman.

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  20. Junior -- thanks for the talk today on Internet decorum (the Schilling item) and yesterday on Old West Settler talk -- both were highly engaging.

    There is an incredible museum I visited in Baker City, Oregon that showcases life on the Oregon trail.....below is a link to it.....you and the Muser team would be fascinated by it if you ever get the chance to visit (about 90 minutes from Boise, ID)...at a minimum, please share this link with them.....in any event, you can still see the ruts of the wheels in the outdoor portion and the showcase of the problems (hunger, mountains, broken down equipment, enemies, etc.) is incredible in the indoor area.

    Link to the site:
    http://www.blm.gov/or/oregontrail/center-sights-exhibits.php

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  21. Dear Sirs,
    The story of the racist song sung by the frat pledge is sad, pathetic and unfortunately not that surprising in a fraternity culture that is filled with alcohol, drugs, and few real consequences.
    If only the same level of disgust and passion would be expressed for the real issue of date rape that occurs in the same environment and is infrequently reported.

    A female P1....

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