I took this picture in one of the railway stations in Tel Aviv. The guy in the back with the guitar, is one of the young musicians and singers who play in central railway stations, as part of an initiative of the Israeli railway company. As you can see, this is rush hour and most of the people turn their back to the guitar player as they hurry to the exit gates.
And this is what the same place looks like in a less busy time ( I really like this couple. The girl is a great singer, and they both play wonderfully ). Who makes more money? The guy that plays in the rush hour and gets the attention of a small fraction of a large crowd, or the couple who play in the less busy time, but when people actually stop and listen and almost everyone passes by, drops a coin into the guitar case? If you're a musician, playing in a railway station, you have only few seconds to get people's sympathy, and make them stop while they are in a hurry, search their wallets for small change and drop some in your guitar case. Railway station musicians monetise on sympathy. In the real world, cases were people make some money simply by making a passing audience feel good for few seconds are not very common. In cyberspace on the other hand, it is a prevailing method. All the likes and hearts and retweets are exactly that - so much that sympathy is in fact, the currency of cyberspace. When I asked why there is no cyber violence in Vingle, I got an answer that surprised me at first: "In Facebook or Twitter, many of the connections of each member are people he or she knows in real life, while in Vingle members mostly interact with strangers on the basis of a common interest". After thinking about it for a while, I realized that this observation makes perfect sense. When people are in their close circle, they already know what etiquette to use in order to remain sympathised and respected. On the other hand, in a place full of strangers, everybody tend to be more polite. The thing is that on the Internet everything is allot more tricky because Facebook, Twitter and similar social networks, give members the illusion that they are within their close circle while in fact they are in a great public place. It's like when a group of good friends come drunken out of a bar. They are all noisy and happy, and they don't mind that neighbors are annoyed. With sympathy being the currency of cyberspace, everybody wants to have as much of it as possible, and they don't care much how they got it. Hence cases like that of lizzie velasquez, and so many more, in which innocent people caused much damage to other people without really intending to. when we are like the people in the railway station at the rush hour, we are not going to be very generous with our sympathy coins, but on the other hand, our decision in who's guitar case to drop them, will be more instinctive than considerate. Now add the power and wealth hungry people to the equation and you will easily understand why things can go so much out of control online. In a world full of controversies, we must always remember that things we may find as likable ( if so to speak ), may be offensive and even harmful for other people, and that when everyone are in search for more likes and hearts in the Internet's economy of sympathy, things can get pretty nasty very quickly. This is something to be considered, not so much by those with intent, good or bad, but by the innocent who just press the like and heart buttons, or retweet, without giving it much thought.