In the age of 'dragging' and 'doxxing' must we always fight? What if we are wrong?

Woker than thou?: Fumbatha May wonders why we engage in the ways we do online, and whether it's healthy or effective. (Reuters)

Woker than thou?: Fumbatha May wonders why we engage in the ways we do online, and whether it's healthy or effective. (Reuters)

We are a people at war with each other. Every day a new racist, misogynist, what have you, is unmasked. We gasp collectively before unleashing a volley of outrage and indignation.
We exchange barbs of enlightenment and higher purpose, cutting down those we deem less woke or even asleep still. But sometimes one has to wonder if perhaps some of us have been woke for so long that perhaps we need a little nap from time to time.

There’s a quote out there by someone whose name escapes me that speaks about how we lose the argument the moment we decide to respond to a counterpoint. It is at this point that we begin talking in circles. No side ever really convinces the other of anything. Words fall on ground hardened by dogma and intolerance.

There has to be a different way. We have been stuck in the same framework of engagement for so long, but have we taken stock of how effective it is, or isn’t? The rise of bigotry and fascism around the world, and especially here at home, suggests that we haven’t been very effective.

How many more Vickis, Pennys, Jenas, Andres, Leratos, Okmalumkoolkats and Montles do we have to run out of town before we are rid of the poxes that plague us? A hundred? A thousand? A year? In perpetuity?

I don’t deny it is delicious watching someone who deserves a comeuppance getting it. But it consumes too many resources. Calorifically, it is inefficient and wasteful. They are hollow victories amplified only by the sound of self-congratulation in the vast echo chamber that the internet is rapidly becoming. We consolidate our social networks to include only those who are most likely to agree with us.

This wastefulness is particularly pronounced on social media. What has been a boon for the spread of consciousness has simultaneously been a curse to our mental well-being. It is not surprising to find that there are links between depression and social media.

What is surprising, however, is that, for all the talk of self-love and self-care that is rampant on #Woke Twitter, we very willingly seem to gravitate to the trauma of “engaging” in antagonising ways (as we, too, are antagonised).

It’s a baffling reflex that I will admit I am also not entirely impervious to. I have the number of accounts I have blocked, or have been blocked by, as receipts of that. The mental scars of those encounters remind me to keep my hand away from the fire. Sometimes.

I understand people are tired of having to explain, day in and day out, the kyriarchy of intersecting oppressions we live under. And rightly so. But “dragging” (cutting someone down to size on social media) and “doxxing” (finding and revealing sensitive personal information about someone such as addresses and phone numbers) have become the order of the day in the digital avenues of social media. As Wole Soyinka so wisely observed recently, “internet abuse is getting to be a universal plague ... that goes beyond personal embarrassment and umbrage”.

Is the combative language we use to express this exasperation not a self-oppression also? This determination to beat down every problematic person who pops up on our timelines in an eternal game of philosophical whack a mole. It’s tiring. And also quite frightening considering how much we still get things wrong.

Recently, a man by the name of Chuck Klosterman was on the Daily Show with Trevor Noah pimping his new book, titled What If We’re Wrong? I have not yet read the book, but its premise struck a chord. What if, indeed, we are wrong? All these absolutes we have come to accept, that we have come to hold steadfastly to, what if we’re wrong about them in the same way we have been wrong about so much throughout the ages?

Just as some once believed with absolute certitude (and some still do) that the Earth is flat, what if some of the things we are most convinced of are not as they seem? What if they once were but now have changed for the better and we are simply flogging a dead horse? How will we know when these things have come to pass — these changes in society that we are fighting for?

I am not saying that they have, I am simply asking how will we know when our resting state is one where we are always ready for war?

Fumbatha May

Fumbatha May

Fumbatha May is a data scientist and socioeconomic development consultant working in the renewable energy sector. Read more from Fumbatha May

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