Søren Kierkegaard nails it about internet trolls – in the 19th Century

There is nothing really new. And nothing old that doesn’t apply today, at least unless it involves floppy discs. The invariably interesting and absorbing writer Maria Popova’s latest entries in her Brain Pickings site includes a piece about trolling and bullying – in the 19th Century, not the 21st. The crux of her article is this quote from philosopher Søren Kierkegaard:

There is a form of envy of which I frequently have seen examples, in which an individual tries to obtain something by bullying. If, for instance, I enter a place where many are gathered, it often happens that one or another right away takes up arms against me by beginning to laugh; presumably he feels that he is being a tool of public opinion. But lo and behold, if I then make a casual remark to him, that same person becomes infinitely pliable and obliging. Essentially it shows that he regards me as something great, maybe even greater than I am: but if he can’t be admitted as a participant in my greatness, at least he will laugh at me. But as soon as he becomes a participant, as it were, he brags about my greatness.

That is what comes of living in a petty community.

Why Haters Hate: Kierkegaard Explains the Psychology of Bullying and Online Trolling in 1847 – Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – (13 October 2014)

Just as I did, just as I’m sure you did, Popova sees the Ben Franklin effect in that passage. I have Benfranklined people now I know of it, I can think of people I need to Kierkegaard too.

But just as I urge you to read this one piece on Brain Pickings I’ve already read it so I’m off to continue my regular poking around the whole Brain Pickings site. Join me when you’re done.

John Oliver gets trolls working for a good purpose

At stake: the fact that you or I can create a website and people find it as easily and quickly as anything by gigantic billionaire-funded multinational corporation. The internet has always been a level playing field and that has been how it grew, it’s been how it’s great. But it genuinely is at stake.

Watch John Oliver’s piece about it on Last Week Tonight for exactly how and why. And then when you’ve heard him encouraging internet trolls to put their evil power to good, bask in the news that it worked.

Smart stuff from Gwyneth Paltrow at tech conference

My bad: I knew Paltrow is an actor, I didn’t know she is one of the people behind the lifestyle website Goop.com. Maybe primarily because I hadn’t heard of Goop.com. It’s got more about clothing than I’m interested in – look at me, do I look like I pay attention to clothes? – but there’s travel, recipes and also a related app with travel guides. And Gwyneth Paltrow just spoke at California’s Code Conference about the site, the app and much more.

According to Re/code, she spoke about anonymous internet comments and how it feels to be “a person in the culture that people want to harm”. Read the full Re/code piece for more but I was especially taken with this series of comments about the internet in general and Facebook in particular:

Facebook actually started as a place to judge women on their pulchritude or lack of it. I think it’s kind of fascinating that a company that’s so huge and that would come to define much of the modern Internet was founded on this objectification of human beings.

Celebrities, we’ve always gotten stones thrown at us and, you know, for good reason: We’re annoying. Some of us look okay, we look like we have money, our lives seem great. That may or may not be the case … Nevertheless, we get it. Or, at the very least, we expect that it’s part and parcel to what we do. Anyone in any field who has their head rise above a poppy in the field, they get their heads chopped off. It’s our human nature to feel that way, and to do it. … Everybody takes shit, it’s just the way it is.

Perhaps the Internet has been brought to us as a test in our emotional evolution. What is growth? What is maturity? It’s being able to experience an external event and creating the space within to contain that experience, to see it through the filter of who you really are, to not be reactive. To see someone in a dress you don’t like, and instead of writing from a username like shitebomber207: ‘Who does this fat bitch think she is,’ or whatever, even though you might feel that way, just stopping and saying to yourself, ‘I wonder what this image represents to me that I feel such a surge of anger?’ To love the Internet for what it provides, but to know it’s not real, and it’s sometimes dangerous for our development.

I don’t ever expect my venture Goop.com to contribute and advance the collective code-base or redefine social selling, though don’t count us out. But I expect us to be ourselves no matter what the reaction, to know that it’s okay to be at once irreverent and practical. … And above all, to not give a fuck if the Facebook guys think we’re hot or not.