His face cast in the iridescent glow of several late-model high-definition monitors, he tromps away at the defenseless wireless keyboard, this one already feeling the strain that destroyed its predecessors. His strokes are hypermotivated by decades of unrequited love, of maternal avoidance and the disdain of his paterfamilias, of the scorn of schoolmates and the jilting of erstwhile lovers and would-be mentors. He is not a well-liked man, a conclusion which he must obviously accept, but which he never seeks to understand. From a young age, his incapability for empathy has rendered him anathema in every circle that he has tried to join. Except this one.
She sits alone and anonymous in a nondescript café in an unremarkable town. Her laptop is neither new nor old, is not cheap or fancy. Her clothing, though not strictly androgynous, is as anodyne as that in a human resources training video. She sips a lukewarm coffee made the wrong temperature by an overabundance of half and half. In the center of the room, she is yet invisible, a neutron offering no specific polarity. Her innate intellect was moderate, not helped much by her middling attempts at higher education. With a resting bored face and no penchants, either chaste or scandalous, she had never attracted suitors of the romantic or platonic variety. She had never found a group that would listen to her. Except this one.
Fae is curled up under a tree, smartphone in faers hand, fingers flashing across the touchscreen. Adrift in an unfeeling world, unmoored from conceptions of gender, untethered to human identity, alternately despondent and outraged, fae is an isolated creature. Extroverted by nature, but forced into introversion by an inability of others to understand faer or of fae to understand faerself, it is a lonely existence. Salvation began with discovering and refining a language to even begin to explain the bedrocks and nuances of faers identity. With that commencement, the words burst forth, lacking only an audience. Except this one.
On websites with the fortitude to allow public commentary, this cast of characters is joined by a seemingly infinite array of archetypes. Ironically, their common bond is an unflinching belief that their specific experience is the only valid one. Most speak with the illusory certainty of absolutism and those that do not are so lost in relativism that they say nothing at all. The vast majority are malignant and uninformed bullies whose atavistic rants are intended to harm others as a form of self-soothing. These descendants of vaudevillian hooligans, those that literally threw peanuts at the stage, are still perhaps less annoying than the inevitable shushers, those front-row paragons of propriety that are offended at the slightest provocation.
The comments section is a combination of the theater of the absurd and a matinee showing of a smut film in a decrepit cinema. It is hard to tell what is more disturbing: the farce, the revulsion, or the creeping suspicion that it is this digital discourse that is the true reflection of our society. Drawn by morbid fascination and a trailing bit of self-loathing, we wade into these murkiest of waters and try not to drown in the idiocy, the combativeness, the sheer superfluity of it all.
The hustlers and drunks and bums sitting in the cheap seats were a distraction from the artistry on stage, but at least they had the gumption to appear in person. The modern peanut gallery create avatars behind which they spew terabytes of bile. I would rather discuss policy with a rogue than a coward any day.