Thought bubble
In the book “Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other,” Sherry Turkle said “With some exceptions, when we make ourselves vulnerable we expect to be nurtured.” (p. 235) She’s referring Erik Erikson and the expectations coming from basic trust. That’s something that’s completely counter to the way that the Internet often works. For the most part, any time you put yourself out there, you’re at risk of being attacked or ridiculed rather than built up and comforted.

One place for this risk comes from places that encourage intimacy. It’s not always easy to trust people to begin with. Letting your guard down out there in the social media dystopia isn’t always safe. If one makes comments that might be too hard to share in person, it can still end up hurting.

One reason for this is that anonymity allows people to be more negative and exhibit the dark tetrad personality traits when, in person, they wouldn’t act out. To them, the idea that people have feelings or that they are afraid of being humiliated is alien. Often, the enemy only feels good by getting some lolz.

Sometimes you can find a community of like-minded people where you can be safe. This reflects Sherry’s comment “Communities are places where one feels safe enough to take the good and the bad.” (p. 238) I’ve found some, like deviantART, are different than most social media. One reason is that to belong there, you have to put in some work. You can’t just repost an inane meme and belong. A member of dA is a creator. A pretender just looks around and is lurking.

Every time you get in front of a computer screen and post something on Twitter or Facebook, it’s possible to misstep and be misunderstood catastrophically.

Indiana Driving Plus & Minus

On my way home from Fort Wayne tonight I ran into an awkward driving situation.
A police car with its lights on
I was on I-69 and near my exit, a police car had pulled someone over. Just as I was passing them, they took off. I ended up being in the left lane with the pullee ahead of me on the right and the puller right behind me in my blind spot. I was exiting the interstate in about a mile, so I needed to switch lanes.

It was very uncomfortable because I didn’t know how trigger-happy the police officer was. So, gulp, I turned on my right turn signal and accelerated above the speed limit so that I wouldn’t cut off the police car while I was changing lanes. Of course, the pullee was accelerating conservatively, making the merge even more awkward. Anyway, nothing bad happened.

So, this is where Indiana driving gets a ‘plus’. About a dozen years ago on the toll road I-80/90 across the north edge of the state, there was an accident where someone got killed by a truck passing too close to a stopped vehicle. (I remember that it was the man who had been principal of my high school.) The legislature passed a law that says that if an emergency vehicle is on the side of the road, you need to either pull over to the other lane or slow down.

In practice, 95% of the time that means that drivers pull into the next lane. The behavior has generalized to other situations where someone is on the side of the road. I think this improves safety by reducing the situations that traffic passes too close to a stopped vehicle.

Indiana gets a ‘minus’ for a law that just started in 2015: If you are in the passing lane and someone comes up behind you, you have to get into the right lane. That sounded good (to someone), but it comes with a $500 fine and just to be perverse, the fact that the person coming behind you was speeding is not a defense.

The effect of this is to create a lot more tailgating on the highway. People get rude when they think the car in front of them isn’t getting out of the way fast enough. Lately, I’ve seen plenty of examples of 7 or 8 cars scrunched together in a space that probably should only have two. In addition, some people take the get out of the way edict too seriously and pull back out of the passing lane less than a car length ahead of the slower car. All in all, lots more tailgating to prevent a situation that is not very common.

I think this law is making things less safe, not more safe because of the increased possibility of chain-reaction accidents.

Original image: Police Car Lights. By Scott Davidson [Image license]