Inspired by one of toothpetard's comments - and the general feelings of sadness, anger, and poop videos that have seemed to permeate the message boards at Gawker Media lately - I embarked on an experiment this morning. The web has long had a tradition of crudeness, irreverence, and outright cruelty - one that I think many people embrace proudly. The culture of the web is almost a contest to see whose skin is thickest. How many times have you read the old chestnut, "Is this your first day on the internet?" With this in mind, I made the conscious decision that I would interact with my fellow commenters in only the most positive, supportive, and courteous manner whenever possible: A completely unironic campaign of kindness. I was mostly curious to see what would happen. Would people perceive kindness as sarcasm, and get pissed off? Would I be attacked for my perceived weakness? I tend to be kind of a cynical dick. How long could I keep my own smarminess from fucking up the whole process? Was I really just trolling trolls with relentless, stupidly grinning, pollyanna-ism?
What I learned surprised myself. At first, I was chuckling a bit to myself as I bestowed affirmations on other people. It was funny to me, because random politeness seemed so absurd and out of place on the web. As the day wore on, something subtly changed. I was still smiling as I sending good wishes to other people, but it was no longer because I thought the act itself was funny. It was because saying nice things to other people was actually making me happy. The more I did it, the happier I became. Moreover, people were responding to kindness with kindness in return. Some even volunteered to join my campaign.
I've resolved that this little stupid experiment is going to inform my dealings online going forward. In some small, accidental, way, I managed to refresh my spirit of compassion for my fellow man. In a sense, today might as well have been my "First Day on The Internet," and I like it, and me, better this way.