Somewhere circa 1995, we got our first computer. It was a Gateway … you know, those in the cow boxes. A high school teacher friend insisted that we get one and get on the internet, especially considering we were homeschooling five children. It wasn’t like I had never had a computer before. I had purchased the world’s first laptop in 1987 (Kaypro 2000), before moving to Egypt. I did it so that I could communicate to friends back home, but not via the internet, which didn’t exist for us mere mortals at the time, but by snail mail. We didn’t even have an old fashioned telephone in Egypt. The Kaypro was not user friendly, requiring programing skills using MS-DOS and dot commands.
I remember the day our cow boxes came. The kids were thrilled. We set it up, then I couldn’t get near it for hours as the kids fought over taking turns. When I did get on the computer and had the dial-up internet set up, I sent my first e-mail via America Online to none other than the high school teacher who wanted me to get it. I remember the message as clear as I do the very first phone call in history, Alexandria Graham Bell saying to his assistant Watson, “Mr. Watson … come here … I want to see you.” On my e-mail I told Rob, my friend, something along the lines of, “This is fantastic. What an invention. This can change the world for good. I just can’t imagine all the possibilities of bringing peace to the world and eliminating suffering.”
That was my hope. Flash forward twenty-seven years. Now, I have the feeling that the internet is a sum loss. This sum loss has now spilled over to the media twin, cable TV. While the biggest menace of its first decade was porn and luring people into dangerous relationships with strangers, now, I think the greatest harm is through the monetization of hate. This has taken center stage with the recent document dumps from Face Book and the scrutiny brought about by the whistle blower, Frances Haugen. The thing that is most revealing isn’t that Face Book has a political bias (and the Trump tribe would strongly disagree) but a bias in favor of that which increases traffic. The more traffic, the greater the advertising revenues. There is nothing that drives traffic to a engage online like hate. Cuteness (puppies, cats, views of nature) does a fair job, but no where close to hate.
Now, cutting Face Book and Mark Zuckerberg some slack, he is not the devil. He is not doing anything unusual for the business world. The big oil companies have been brain washing people that climate change caused by humans isn’t real, even though their internal documents show that they have know it was real since the seventies. Oxycontin makers convinced doctors that it wasn’t addictive, when their internal studies showed that it was. If oldest human occupation (per the saying) was prostitution, then the second oldest is conning people.
We have always had division in this country. Political divisions. Racial divisions and etc. But it appears that those divisions have been made much worse and much more aggressive for the masses due to the internet and cable. But hate is a lucrative business. To get people riled up about something, anything, causes them to become more engaged, almost like an addiction. The best way to get people riled up is to first figure out their opinions, then exploit those opinions by exaggerating the positions of the opposing side, even lying about it. Face Book’s sin was not creating the lies, but matching people with certain opinions to those sites (not owned by Face Book) that put out lies that magnify their opinions. Opinioned “news” programs do the same, but in their case, they create the “riling of hate” by magnification and lies. CNN, in my opinion, does more harm by magnification, Fox News by blatant lies.
Our vices are like tar, sticky and trapping. The thick part of our vices are very difficult to escape, like a saber toothed tiger in the Brea Tar Pits. If that vice is generational (like in the story I mentioned in the series Maid where alcoholism and abuse, as well as enabling, seemed to go back generations) it is like the tentacles of the tar penetrates even into our mitochondria. Escaping that almost takes a miracle. But there is a starting place that is much easier.
Repentance from Hate Starts Here
If the center of the tar pit of hate is very difficult to turn from, the edges, not so much. The edges are the behaviors that enhance our feeling of anger and hatred. In this case, it is watching “news shows” or have a tribe of FB friends that share inflammatory information about the people you hate.
When Trump ran for president in 2016, I was appalled. I had known of him for decades as a self-absorbed, money-loving con artist. I watched every speech he gave, hoping that they would prove my opinion wrong, however, for me, they only confirmed them. But then a perplexing thing happened. Basically my entire world of friends and family became Trump devotees. What shocked me most was my evangelical friends, all of them, who for ages had been preaching moral purity, buying their daughters “purity rings” assuring that they would remain virgins until the marriage bed, preaching not being lovers of money, and etc. But then they suddenly became totally devoted, more so than to Jesus, to a man who brags about having sex with thousands of women, often while married to other women and lusting for money like no one in history. But I must stop here.
So, in my bewilderment, I started to seek out friends who, like me, did not like Donald Trump, replacing those who adored the man. Soon, I was bombarded by nasty stuff about Trump, much of it true but often exaggerated, and some lies. For years I had gotten e-mails and FB posting from my evangelical friends of Hillary Clinton with turds coming out of her mouth, her being gang rapped, Nancy Pelosi with spears in her chest and etc. While I found such “comedy” disguising, I just deleted it. It did not stir my hate because I was never a big fan of Hillary (certainly not deserving the hateful cartoons o her I mentioned) and knew very little about Nancy.
But the anti-Trump material did magnify my anger and hatred for the man. It finally reached a peak when I was watching MSNBC and realized it was as shamefully anti-Trump as Fox News is pro-Trump.
As I had purged many of my old evangelical friends who were sending me pro-Trump and hateful anti-“Libtard” material, I had to then start purging my new online friends who sending me terrible things, images of Trump being tortured, raped, made to look like a complete fool. Some of the “information” was simply false. Most of it a magnification of the truth.
I had joined Face Book years ago, only to see photos of my grandsons. They have moved beyond Face Book now. After the election in 2020, where Trump clearly lost, I made the pledge to myself to never discuss him again. Then Jan 6th happened, that breaks the heart of all true patriots. The pro and anti Trump chatter continued on Face Book at least. For the sake of remorse, I tried to say out of the fray. But then each morning when I checked Face Book there were volumes of lies about COVID. Total bullshit, provided by my evangelical and republican friends. I don’t know why a world pandemic became either religious or political. It is not. But I felt passionate about that, not because I oppose evangelicals (but I do favor truth and it disappoints me when they choose to believe lies) or for political reasons. But it breaks my heart that over 700,000 Americans have died from COVID, many more will suffer for years, and it did not have to be that way. It is because of lies about COVID and the vaccine that people promote to make money or feel special.
I fought that battle for months, but I found it was like trying to stick my finger in the mythological hole in the dike. I found myself toying with hate again. Hatred toward the bad people who put out these murderous lies. Anger toward those who choose to believe them. So, my act of remorse and repentance was to leave Face Book. I will leave the misinformation fight about COVID up to others. The same with American politics. There are plenty of people who can fight these fights on a daily basis without their personal hatred increasing. This is not true for me. This act of repentance for me is not because I am strong, but because I am weak.
But in these shallow places of vices, along its edges, the tar of entrapment is thin, and the effort to free oneself is simple and practical, that is the best place to begin. For some, like me, they need to turn off the TV, get away from Face Book, certainly stay away from extremist’s websites, and unfriend those people who send hate-provoking messages … ESPECIALLY if you agree with those messages.