There are 3,700 hours in five months. What would you do with five whole months? What would you do that could change the world? Would you write a book or make a movie? Would you paint a picture or work for a charity or travel the world and learn about other cultures? How about spending it doing things you don’t enjoy and spending the time complaining about it? No? That doesn’t sound appealing does it? Then why do so many people do it?
There is a cartoon currently doing the rounds on the internet. It is of a man in the 1930’s and a caption saying “In eighty years you will have a device that will fit in the palm of your hand and it will contain every piece of knowledge known to man”. Beneath it adds “And you will use it to look at pictures of kittens and argue with strangers”. Truer words have never been spoken. There is a plague spreading across the internet and it’s getting worse. It is stifling creativity and generating a huge cloud of negativity. I am talking about forums and comments.
The internet has opened a whole world of information and any interest we have, there is a community for us to interact with. We should be networking with like-minded people and expanding our interests. We should be growing and learning. We should be teaching and collaborating. But many of us are not. In fact, quite the opposite is happening.
I consider myself well-read and with very diverse interests. To expand my interests and knowledge, I am online a lot. I read websites, I’m a member of countless forums and chat rooms and everywhere I go, I have noticed the same thing. People reading stories they know they won’t like and spending five, ten, fifteen minutes or more writing about how much they hated the article and arguing with anyone who disagrees. These people are typically called trolls, but I don’t think it’s a fitting description. I have a new word for this craze. I call it leeching. These people suck the joy, energy and creativity out of a room. A conversation can be civil and productive and as soon as a leech enters the room, they suck the energy out. People are at each other’s throats and the direction of the conversation gets derailed.
My favorite is the comment that starts “who cares?” Well, obviously you cared enough to read the article and then take the time to post about much you don’t care. The author then launches into a tirade against anyone who disagrees. Cheap shots are taken, people’s feelings are hurt and the negativity leaves the room into the non-cyber world. How many times have you logged off from a website irritated about something that happened online? How many angry drivers have just had an angry online encounter? The repercussion of these actions don’t end with the close of a window, they can have serious real world implications. I mention my numerous interests because I see this issue across the board. It isn’t located to a specific genre or topic. The spread of negative energy has reached epic proportions.
So why did I start this article with 3,700 hours? If you spend thirty minutes a day online complaining and reading things you don’t enjoy, that’s 185 hours a year. Residential internet is about to turn twenty years old. Over twenty years that’s five months spent under a negative cloud. It adds up quickly doesn’t it? We are all gifted with a finite number of minutes in life. We should spend them with our friends, our families and our loved ones. We should make snow angels and watch the sun set. I don’t understand spending time doing something you know you won’t enjoy.
So what can you do to stop leeching? If you find yourself online, gravitate towards articles and sites you know will interest you. You will have a very different online experience if you seek out articles that put you in a good mood. If you find yourself wanting to write something negative or critical, wait for an hour to see if you still feel the same way. Most online rants and complaints are purely reactionary to the emotions felt at the time. Take a deep breath and step away. Chances are, in an hour you won’t feel the same way and the need to post will have dissipated. If you do decide to post something negative online, keep in mind that posted comments are getting harder and harder to delete with backups and archives being implemented. Many websites and forums are now requiring a valid Facebook login to hold you accountable for your comments. It is more important than ever to make each word count. Be certain that every word you post online represents who you are as a person and what you stand for. The world is watching.