Back in the early days of Live Journal, one of my friends stated that attention is the currency of the internet. It didn’t sound nice, but she was right. How many times have we thrown our virtual net with the hope of catching comments, likes, and retweets? I’ve done it. I still do it. That little hit of dopamine we get when we get approval is hard to resist, and some of us have managed to turn it into an actual brand. When I think of the attention the Kardashians receive daily, I figure they must be high all the time.
But sometimes, the hits don’t come and a certain personality type finds itself reduced to trawling for any attention at all – even if it’s negative. The idea is to post something questionable, controversial, or outright horrible in the hope of provoking a backlash. Then people are talking about them. They matter. They’re important. They get to revel in being ‘the person you love to hate’ – it becomes a brand, a stock in trade and, ultimately, a full-time job. For them, outrage is the currency.
They’re the ones who carry out feverish vanity searches, hoping to set their followers on anyone who’s been vocal about their abhorrent views. No names – they don’t deserve the attention, but you know who they are. Initials will do. KH, PJW, JHB, PM, and TR are among those who have managed to turn being absolutely awful into a money-making scheme.
But it isn’t just entrepreneurs and journalists, lots of politician types do it, too. DJT, ND, BJ, MG, and NF come to mind.
When we see an ugly tweet from one of these charlatans, the immediate reaction is often disgust and anger – we hit the ‘quote tweet’ button, pound out a few lines about our outrage, and then post. I’ve done it more times than I’d like to admit, but now realise it was not the best way forward. What I should have done is hit the ‘block’ button and reduced their audience by one.
I’ve done this with every person I’ve mentioned above, and I dream of a day when we’ve all decided to stonewall them until they’re reduced to an audience of bots and trolls.
When we retweet those who trade in the currency of outrage, we help them, their followers, and their cause. We make the irrelevant relevant. We help put money in their pockets and we help to spread their degrading, dehumanising messages. But when we ignore them, block them, refuse to be provoked by them, we cut them off from their ‘funding’. We render them impotent. And you can bet your sweet bippy we are infuriating them by making it clear they don’t matter enough to waste another moment reading their bile.