Our Giant Robot Suits — Online Power is Still Real Power

Featured Image: Power Armour by Blitz-Wing

Patrick Rothfuss, the author of The Name Of The Wind, came up with a very cool analogy that I think is worth sharing.

In his imagination, all the people on the internet are in this strange place where everyone is talking, having discussions with one another, arguing, basically just living their normal life, except the fact that everyone is wearing a robot suit.

The robot suits have different sizes, shapes, strengths, colours and abilities. No two suits are exactly the same. And all this is cool, ’cause it just feels like a comic con on steroids, but here’s the catch:

You can’t see your own suit. If you looked at your hand, you wouldn’t see a robot glove, you’d just see your bare skin. You can only guess what your suit is like based on others reaction to it. You can’t see or perceive it in any way, but it’s very much real. And if you had a particularly heavy suit, you could be walking on the road, cracking the pavement as you move your feet. Or someone might be screaming at you in a desperate attempt to get your attention, but you might be wondering why this person wants to spit right in your face so much. Ok, that just feels like an extremely uncomfortable situation to be in.

Your suit might make you look extremely buff and super-powerful, and people might be tempted to throw rocks at you, thinking, “Oh, this ain’t gonna hurt her. It’s just going to chink her armour, eh?” When, in fact, you might feel like your head just got caved in. Ouch, right?

In retaliation, you might throw back what seems like a small rock to you, but in fact, is a large boulder, and you might end up seriously hurting the other person. Way more than you wanted to. Way more than you’ll ever fully realize. Your robot suit could hurt millions of other people, and could even hurt you.

But, come on, this is a robot suit we’re talking about! This is amazing! You get to live a life that you want to live, whatever it is, you get to broadcast your message to millions, make money off of it, change people’s lives, and most importantly, you get the chance to create history with power that you can’t even comprehend.

On the flipside, as mentioned before, you could do more harm to yourself and others than you will realize. And if you make mistakes that are public, people talk about you. Often in ways that you don’t like. They think that you’re strong enough to deflect any harsh criticism coming your way, and you can handle it, but in reality, you don’t see yourself as the cold, heartless monster that they do. You CAN’T see it. And the responsibility of constantly trying to do right by the people you’re visible can be a big weight for you to carry.

But the good stuff doesn’t come without the bad parts.

The power to do things that change the world comes from the same giant robot suit that also gives you the power to cause immense harm to others. This power, especially on the internet, is extremely volatile, and the people who attain it, equally so.

So, while genuinely asking everyone on the internet to peaceful, assertive and kind, we also need to acknowledge that powerful people have power, and they should know to use their power for the betterment of everyone online.

There is no single way to do this. But there is one thing that we need to remember to do, as said (rather eloquently) by Hank Green in his video on this:

Look in the mirror of other people’s eyes, and see your power for what it is. Let it give you the confidence to handle criticism without feeling victimized, even if that criticism is not kindly meant or kindly delivered.

And let it remind you to be more careful-not to stop moving, not to cease engagement-but to step lightly, take care, and be kind.

As my own online spotlight is growing (relatively, I mean. I’m still pretty small), I have started to think more about my own robot suit, and the power I have given myself through this blog. And I have started to see that in the future, my spotlight might get bigger and brighter. And with this increase in power, there’s going to be an almost disproportionate increase in the amount of effort I put into making sure that the image of myself that I put out into the world is the right image, not only for all of you but for me as well.

I thank all of you for letting me have some power over your life, even if that power just means that you read my blog every time a new post comes up. I promise that I will always use that power to build you up and make you stronger.

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