Dear People Who Are Hurt By The Internet Everywhere: The Internet Is Not Real, Only People Are

Do you know what the No. 1 advantage is in a job negotiation? Being willing to walk away. Same goes with the Internet.
Publish date:
August 2, 2013
internet, IRL

Be willing to walk away. That's the most powerful point of view you can have in a negotiation.

This brilliant philosophy was recently articulated to me by my friend Scott Einziger, who I've written about before and also set my friends up with because he is a gem of a human being.

When I was writing my "Hmmm" salary-negotiation article, I called Scott (who is an ace negotiator) to ask him for advice, and when he told me that -- after the article had been published -- I told him I was going to save this profound nugget for another article for a rainy day.

This is that article.

Be willing to walk away.

So often work strategies mirror strategies in relationships mirror strategies in life as a whole. I had a moment of clarity when Scott articulated his come-from-a-place-of-power DGAFilosophy.

I'd like to posit that this "be willing to walk away" principle is also the No. 1 secret to almost anything in life. Relationships, jobs, friends, grief, hatred, rage, family drama, pain, heartbreak, disappointment, gossip, ridicule, humiliation, shame, disgrace, self-ruination, relapse, divorce, breakup.

But wait, you ask, wouldn't suicide be the logical extension of what you are saying in terms of this principle as it relates to life? Absolutely not. That is not walking away. That's giving up.

Walking away is what we always have the choice to do at any single second of any single day.

I've written this adage before but it is one of my favorites in life: "Do you know what SHAME stands for? Should Have Already Mastered Everything."

It is such a beautiful and profound sentiment for so many reasons. It is an acknowledgement of the absolute point of life: to master and to learn and to try and to continually get better every day. Nowhere in there does it say to be perfect or to be without fault.

We all make mistakes. When my dad was working with veterans coming back from Iraq, he dealt frequently with murderers and junkies and violent and suicidal individuals. To my father -- a traumatized, wounded, head-injured, blind combat vet himself -- they were still human beings. He did not write them off because of the darkness or the evil inside them. Because my father has that same darkness and evil inside of him. And so do I.

And -- unless you are some fascinating new brand of alien that I would love to meet -- then so do you.

No, of course, we must not tolerate dangerous people in society. There needs to be punishment and safety measures in place for the dangers that exist -- to protect ourselves, our friends, our family, the world at large. But what we do not need, at least in my opinion, is shame.

Shame is helping no one. And the Internet, this amorphous intangible entity that is at once not physical but entirely physical, is the biggest shame petri dish ever invented.

It is the perfect shame-delivery vehicle.

Faceless, nameless, fear-based, around the world, spinning off into various incarnations with tentacles of virality and exponentially calculated infiltration of hivemind, let's take a moment to recognize this fact: The Internet is not real.

Sure, it is more real than say "God" or other things that we take on faith. But it is not an actual persecutor, it is not an actual human being, it is not a monster who can swallow you whole with its words and its accusations and its insults and its rumors and its pejoratives and its mud.

It is not real.

Only people are.

I am real. You are real. We are born. We live. And then we die.

We have the same power with one another. In theory, I could beat you to death with my bare hands. You do the same to me. The Internet cannot do this. The Internet is not real.

It is just pixels and words.

Whatever power we are assigning to it -- is coming from us assigning it that power.

There is absolutely no need to fear its permanence or its cruelty or its swarm-like effect. Yes, the Internet can lead to very real consequences, such as a name being leaked to 4Chan and a frightening, very real vigilantism taking root that can lead a perpetrator to ending up on a human being's doorstep. But the likelihood of this threat happening is so infinitesimally less than, say, getting beaten to death by someone's bare hands which let's be honest. I'm guessing you do not live in fear of.

Please know: This article is is in no way to justify an asshole's behavior or invalidate your feelings about something awful that occurred on the Internet. It is simply to provide a douse of cold water if you are finding yourself incapacitated by troll culture and online awfulness. Because I want you to know, you can walk away.

I did not always feel this way about the Internet.

Very often, anytime I saw something that could hurt me online, my entire body felt made of lead. I was toxic.

I knew this. Because I read it on the Internet.

But then I started applying the principle of walking away.

It was hard at first. I am an addict of the first degree, and if I do not choose to channel this brand of personality into positive addictions (health, exercise, spirituality, writing, work, friendship, love, service, education, exploration, self-betterment, love of animals, justice) then it can easily lead to hitting a button over and over again. Refresh. Refresh. Refresh.

The Internet is not a healthy addiction -- for me or for anyone. And yet we are all addicted to this ultimate Shame Delivery Mechanism.

But see, we are not living in a sci-fi movie where the Internet is going to chase us down the street and murder us. We live in a world where you can shut down your computer, you can turn off your phone in the middle of reading this very sentence. Do it. It would be a victory. You do not need the rest of what I am going to say or anyone is going to say on the Internet ever.

You will do just fine. You are the one controlling the shots. You are the one with the power. You are the one who is real.

What is inside you is real. Love is real. Other human beings are real. The words that they write on the Internet are amorphous. Yes, amorphously permanent, but amorphous. They are only given the power that we assign to them.

No one really cares about you, anyway. And they definitely don't care about me.

In the best possible way.

Is there an illicit thrill in the false god status that we can assign the Internet? Sure. Because it is outside of ourselves. How freeing to not have to take responsibility or to look at the massive throbbing pain that lies inside you -- so hard to withstand and just be still with that heartache inside that hole -- and instead assign it to something like the Internet.

What is Twitter saying? What are the blogs saying? What is my email saying? What are people secretly saying where they aren't even saying my name but they are saying it?

Except it's not real. The only thing that is real is the story that we assign to it. Which is a story that we are writing ourselves.

If you choose to say, "Ah, the Internet," and then, "Next," then that is exactly the way that story will play out. You will break any possible addictive loop.

If you choose to let it mean something of consequence -- and see a variable OUTSIDE yourself as what determines how you feel about what's INSIDE you -- then that is what it will mean.

But at the very least, recognize that you are the one doing this.

Let's look at things that are real.

Like, starting a new relationship. That's real. Ending an old one. That's very real. Deal with these things in your life.

Not every potentially related tweet, article and email related to them.

Of course, in today's society, we are very integrated in using the Internet to deal with real things like relationships, but that dread and that power that can be assigned to the simple act of checking your email or performing a Google search is not necessary.

Because none of it matters.

It is just pixels.

You are writing the next chapter. Not the pixels.

You are determining the next step. Not the pixels.

You can be done with the pixels at any time you want. They do not control or say anything about you. Even when there are words saying the most painful imaginable thing about you online or in an email from a stranger or a lover.

It just doesn't matter. Ashes to ashes. What matters, what is very real, is what lies inside us and how we choose to use that.

Do we take our life, our knowledge, the wonderful riches of insight and experiences -- good and bad -- for granted? Are we perpetual victims? Are we afraid to take responsibility for our right actions and our wrong ones? Do we have a savior or a persecution or a Madonna/whore complex? Look at these questions, honestly.

I absolutely love Carolyn Myss's pinpointing of these pathologies in her book "Advanced Energy Anatomy."

She says that human beings so often see the world through one of these four primary archetypes: the child, the prostitute, the victim or the saboteur.

So when you're decrying, "That's not fair," consider that you might actually be experiencing the world right now through the lens of the victim archetype. "I just need to find someone to take care of me," that is most likely the child archetype. "I can't take a risk and try what I really want to do because I'd lose my security," that's the prostitute talking. "I don't have time to do what I really want," consider that the saboteur.

Ask yourself: Who the hell am I -- and what do I actually want?

This question, the question of what do we actually want, is the question that is the most important thing to answer, always.

Do you want happiness?

Good, you answered yes. Then look at what the outcome of your actions will be. Stop lying. Stop justifying. Look at what the real actual outcome will be -- and take some ownership.

Me, I know that I have a weakness for being attracted to more pain, more sadness more hate, more darkness when I am already in a dark place. I have to forcibly, weakly, limply lift my hand up and make myself shut off this thing that is not real until I remember it is not real anymore. But I can do that action. I can shut it down.

And I can use that same hand to pick up my phone and make a call. I can find someone else who is real to speak to them and feel some sort of a connection to humanity.

Are they cruel to me? Are they unkind? I can put down the phone and I can call another. And another. And another. Until I find the love.

I can choose to "go where it's warm." I can choose to "not go to the hardware store for milk." I can choose to not expect someone to be anyone except exactly who they are -- and to not take who they are or what they are saying personally.

I can go to where the love is.

Even if I have to drag myself there.


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