Somebody came up to me and said “I hear you used to attend the Ginormous Convention of Eukaryotic Organisms, do you think that would be a good event to take students to?”

Now, I flatter myself that I know our students, and every blessed one of them is a eukaryotic organism, so I said “Absolutely!  Hustle them right over there post-haste!”

I, however, will not be at the GCEO.  I have the perfect excuse involving a large plane, a passport, and probably big boats as well, but it’s prejudice that makes me glad I can’t attend.  Internet-derived prejudice.

It’s my own fault.  I wasn’t satisfied with being a eukaryotic organism in real life, I had to dabble around with it on the internet; and first thing I knew, I found out there was a tremendous divide between haploids and diploids.  I could probably have gone all my life without discovering what haploids really thought about diploids like myself, except there it was on the internet in all its hashtagged, vitriolic, invective-filled glory.  So now I’m a little nervous about the GCEO.  Anyone I spoke to there, I imagine, would immediately tweet:

Can’t believe what f***ing 2N idiots are saying NOW #diediploidscum

This is pretty much the definition of prejudice, I know.  Probably none of the people who post under #diediploidscum will be, or ever have been, at the GCEO.  But here I am letting them make me nervous about eukaryotes in general, even when I’m a eukaryote myself!

Well, part of it is that I don’t navigate conferences well, unless they’re dominated by conspecifics.  I feel just as insecure, for instance, as a teacher attending a big research conference.  But that’s not my point here.  My point is that the internet opens our eyes to what other people think, and then we find out that some of those other people despise us.  And then we have to shut the computer off and step out into the world which contains people who despise us, and interact with them as if none of us despised each other.

Well, Pat, welcome to the real world.   Some people have to deal with this all the time!

Some people are byGod saints, that’s what they are.  Some people put up with crap that would have me spending my day in a fetal position.

I’ve always felt nobody should have to put up with that kind of stuff.  The internet, though, is making me question this.  Because that kind of stuff is all over the internet, and now we all have to put up with it.  What were we asking each other during the session on students using Storify? About half ‘How will their work represent the college?’ and half ‘How will they cope with the comments people will make about it?’  (The folks leading the session, who had actual experience, made some remarks about teaching students to post considerate and productive comments).

Perhaps it’s all just going to fade into the background, the way every other critical medium has.  Folks will stop being shocked and surprised.  Killfiling and blocking will catch up with trolling, and we’ll all learn to stay away from certain websites.  Maybe I should not be surfing over to 2N is 2 Many: it’s not really meant for my eyes.

I don’t have a clue how internet civility will play out.  This January I’ve seen a lot of posts (here, here and here, for example) about cruelty within online communities and how it frightens people into self-censorship, but that’s not what I’m writing about. I’m writing about the more general, baseline anger and sniping that seems to run like a river of sludge under the whole enterprise.

It makes me sad.  And it makes me determined to not add one bit to the load of hostility the people around me are enduring.  Which is the answer in the end, I suppose.  Not ‘what could someone criticize on the internet?’ but ‘what real-life effect is my action having?’

So, does it matter in real life that I’m feeling a little prejudiced against GCEO this year? I think not, since I wouldn’t have been able to go anyway.  Students will attend it, and they’ll have a rocking’ good time.  I will go off on a big plane to another place, where we’ll interact with local citizens as if none of us despised each other.  Sometimes that’s the best you can hope for.

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