Don’t tell me what I can’t do!
If you like something, if you have a hobby, if you are trying something out in your life…there will always be someone waiting to tell you you’re doing it wrong.
Ever read a story about people learning the Klingon language? The forum following the story will be filled with people proclaiming how this is such a waste of time. “Why not go outside? Go do something constructive? You’re such a loser” will be scattered throughout the comments.
If you say you like a particular computer platform, people will come out of the woodwork to tell you how much it sucks, and how much better their system is. Don’t even start talking about operating systems, else you’ll get a lecture from all corners on how you’re totally wrong for using it.
Are you trying a new diet, and it’s working for you, and you feel really good about yourself? Don’t say this on the Internet. Just post that in a forum or Facebook and people (who are not doctors or dietitians, by the way) will tell you that you’re totally doing it wrong, and how unhealthy it is.
These attitudes are, I believe, slowly destroying the Internet. There is so much negativity and cynicism online, that a simple note of positivity gets beaten down by everyone. Why can’t we just let people like what they like? Do we really need to put down what others like to make us feel better about what we like? Plus, it begins a chilling effect for people who want to just chat about their interests.
And it doesn’t just happen on forums. Some tech-famous people will tell you what you’re doing (or not doing) is wrong. Cory Doctorow comes to mind with this I-don’t-do-this-and-neither-should-you attitude. Cory’s a great guy. A great writer. And he has a big following and is a wonderful advocate for the EFF and Open Source software. Look up “Internet Activist” and you’ll probably get a picture of Cory Doctorow. But don’t tell me what to do, Cory. And guess what, for everything Cory does in his life, there are many people telling him he’s doing it all wrong.
“Why do you even use a computer? You know how damaging that is to the environment?”
“You shouldn’t use the Internet at all, it will only disconnect you to the world.”
“Why are you using a Lenovo? Don’t you know those are made by the Chinese government? Do you know every chip in that laptop and know everything that it does? How do you know one of those chips aren’t a keylogger that phones home to China?”
The best I’ve read recently was on Reddit, unfortunately it was deleted. Paraphrased it said:
“If you’re such a lover of open-source software, why didn’t you, Cory Doctorow, catch the OpenSSL bug that had been there for two years? The source code was right there! You literally yell at us about trusting the code since it’s all open source, and yet we have this debacle.”
I’m sure Cory chuckled when he read comments like that, and I’m also sure he learned long ago that you can’t reason with these people. No matter what you say, they’ll move the goal-posts further away, as they keep proclaiming they’re right.
The sad thing is, these aren’t trolls in the traditional sense. These are people that honestly believe they know best and want to let you know that it’s you that’s wrong. Again, it’s stifling intelligent conversations, as people are afraid to say anything without someone jumping down their throats. Some can let that just slide off their backs, but others (myself included) just throw up their hands.
As usual, the great Randall Munroe’s XKCD perfectly encapsulates the people with this attitude: