We can’t all be heroes, because somebody has to sit on the curb and applaud as they go by. — Will Rogers
I know Joseph Campbell famously said, “You are the hero of your own story.” But we need to stop. We need perspective. We’re in this thing together.
The Internet empowers each of us to tell our story to the larger world in a number of different ways, and through the power of something called the online disinhibition effect, many of us feel like we can be our most authentic selves online. As an added bonus, we can most likely can find a community of similar people online, for better or worse.
Taken altogether, it means that we’re breeding insular individualist communities that lose site of an incredibly important fact about human life — Other people matter!
Here’s a quote from a reformed Internet troll coming clean with their victim:
it finally hit me. There is a living, breathing human being who is reading this shit. I am attacking someone who never harmed me in any way. And for no reason whatsoever.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, here’s a quote from a social justice activist on Tumblr:
being on Tumblr all the time gives me such a deluded view of the world. I start believing that everyone is pro-choice, open-minded, have moral compass…care about sexism, racism, body shaming, etc, but then I walk out my front door and realize that everyone is still just as moronic as they were two years ago.
Two people who probably wouldn’t agree on much of anything are plainly admitting to having the same problem. They found a place on the Internet that let them live their own story, but only by excluding all of the other people in the world.
Remember, that there’s always someone on the other side of the conversation. Whether you’re posting an angry response on a news article, tweeting about cultural appropriation or correcting someone’s grammar, you’re dealing with a person. That person gets just as upset, confused and scared as you do. Have a little compassion.
Even if you feel like you’re on a mission, it doesn’t mean that you’re the hero of the story. You just might be the villain.
Next time you want to take a stand online, take a breath. Don’t try to be a hero. Be a human.