a figurative drink representing a modality of thought. those who consume it are themselves consumed by the negativity which with they speak.
~ Urban Dictionary Word of the Day, July 26th 2005
It feels like Haterade is on sale all over Facebook and Twitter these days. People are endlessly extreme and full of hate. It’s as if the middle ground approach, one which gives and takes for the sake of mutuality, has been replaced by an either or mentality… either you are for me or against me. I love people who are for me and damned be the name of anyone who is opposed.
I Blame the Internet
Before Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and Huffington Post… you had to talk to people face-to-face at some point. Additionally, it was harder to find community for extremism. You talked things out a bit more with real people and there was social pressure to move from the extremities of a position more to the middle, something socially digestible, and socially acceptable. Because if you held onto your extreme position your world got really, really small.
If you didn’t then you were that crazy person on the block with the signs in your yard and 15 dogs.
The internet reverses this. In order to find community you need to refine your positions. You end up forming community with people just like you, who think just like you, and see things just like you… and that is the fountain from which Haterade flows. In time, you get more popular within an online community when you can clearly articulate and defend the group’s position to others outside of your group. Instead of social sparring knocking the edges off of extreme positions it goes the other way towards reaction.
As people move more and more of their relationships online we can expect more and more extremism and less and less love, tolerance, and middle ground.
When an extreme crime occurs in a community, say a school shooting, the news always reports the same things about the shooter. “They kept to themselves” or “They were really quiet neighbors” or “They seemed like loners.” It leaves me shouting at the TV… “Why are you talking to the neighbors? You should be talking to his friends online. That’s who knows the shooter!”
Very few people truly know their neighbors enough to be a character witness for them. Maybe we know about them? But do we truly know them?
That’s rhetorical. We don’t know our neighbors all that well.
Back to the Coffee Shops
My dad is a coffee shop guy. For as long as I can remember he’s gotten up at the butt crack of dawn and gone to a local coffee shop to socialize. And by coffee shop I’m not talking about Starbucks or 7-11. I’m talking about the local greasy spoon. A place with a griddle, a wrap-around counter, and an owner who doubles as cook, cashier, server, and moderator. Decades before Facebook and Twitter, coffee shops were the places where folks checked in with one another, gave status updates, and talked about the news of the day.
We Need Love for Our Neighbors
That’s something missing in our society. For millennia, neighbors gathered locally for daily chores like this. Women met at the watering hole. Men talked on their way to the hunting grounds or fields. Every society has a type of coffee shop. Romans met at the baths. Greeks met at the agora. On and on.
And now? We meet no where just to talk. Most people know little about their communities.
Even at our churches… there’s almost no talking. There are 1% of people who speak and 99% of people who listen. (This, too has changed dramatically in recent decades, leading to extremism. But that’s another topic for another day.) You are seen as a good congregant if you listen well, take notes, smile at the pastor and say nice things. But offer a rebuttal or ask a question? That’s disrespecting authority. Church is anti-coffee-shop… and it wasn’t always like that.
Left alone, we’ve all become the crazy dog man on our blocks who posts random, hate filled signs. We are encouraged to hold extreme positions created in isolation from one another. And our society is worse off for it.
Do you want to be Good News on your block? Open a “coffee shop.”