If you have a disagreement with someone in your family or community, someone you love or at least are closely connected to, you can have a personal conversation with that person about the subject. Since you know a lot about them already, a ground of trust exists.
If a more widespread misunderstanding has arisen within a family or community, again a foundation already is in place to build upon. Slights, insults, or slanders don’t happen every day at this level of direct acquaintance. When they do they are relatively exceptional and meetings to address them can take place within the real world.
Here is one of the huge and constantly overlooked troubles with the internet: far too many people are paying attention to what any of several … billion people are saying. Within a “community” that vast, and with such a substantial percentage of said community broadcasting their thoughts where any can encounter them, it is guaranteed that at each individual moment enormous numbers of things are being said which are stupid, thoughtless, mean-spirited, vile, disturbing. This is unavoidable, at least in this human age far, far, painfully far from maturity.
So when we find ourselves being diverted or upset by what any Joe Schmidt on the planet has to say, and choose to respond in some way, most of the time, despite our very best efforts, we are simply multiplying the amount of noise and confusion in the world. The internet is an unthinkably vast resonance chamber, and unfortunately a good proportion of what is echoing around and bouncing off all its walls is negative or at best frivolous, a waste of precious human energy. Can we really still be surprised at the amount of angry polarisation and hatred in the world?
Worse still, we virtually never know any of these people, as we do when we communicate with a member of our family or community. We know absolutely nothing of their history, nor they of ours. Instead we react to the merest shell of who they are at that moment in time — a single expression, in the form of a post, which in turn is only reacting to something else, a single thought or two, transmitted without the benefit of those countless nuances of feeling our voice is capable of manifesting, and even more our body as a whole.
The internet does seem not only to be affecting our capacity for sustained attention and reflection (George Saunders puts this well here), but also generating large amounts of needless aggression as well. We can each do a little something about that.