Someone on the internet is wrong! That's outrageous! We should definitely make sure to make fun of them, and I have this perfect joke, except they are the joke, we need to take this seriously and they're WRONG.

Things on the internet spiral out of control a lot. Waves of vicious insults and dissatisfaction, people losing their jobs and being condemned by strangers over nothing, sometimes it's truly nothing. How much of this dogpiling is too much? Is there such thing as not enough?

I was thinking about this and probably wouldn't have written anything if I hadn't noticed a funny thought in my head: dogpiles are important elements of shared moral discussion. The stories about how normal, innocent people's lives have been ruined are important too – it is the truest cultural critique of people quick to judgement! Civil disobedience asks us to volunteer for the unjust consequences of our behavior, at the very least to show how unjust those consequences are, if not stand up for principles. But these people didn't volunteer, didn't do anything wrong at all, and anyone with a smidgen of justice in their heart hates what has happened to them.

Which is to say, of course, that there's been a marginal slowdown in how quick we are to ruin people's lives online.

But if you have the appropriate scholarship to judge actions in a context you've decided is important (never quite the same as someone else's, I've found – the questions I want answered can't ever be captured perfectly by a proxy), then you certainly ought to say when something is wrong. For some reason it captured your attention. Maybe it's wrong and irrelevant, so you're not going to bring it up to anyone (I don't talk about maybe 90% of what I read) but have a note, some document on your computer, somewhere to keep track of it. Because, at the risk of sounding like an idiot, the difference between right and wrong is important but not always totally obvious.

Some things are important, wrong and others ought to hear about them. How loud is too loud a megaphone for those cases? I'm not sure a maximum volume ought to exist on the internet. There aren't too many people who can get my attention reliably. If everyone is outraged at the exact same thing I might hear about it three times. The internet doesn't play things over a loudspeaker, forcing you to listen against your will.

I would be sad if someone I respect vilified me online, but not nearly as sad as if a soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend did that, and, I don't want to exaggerate my romantic failures, but that's happened, and at least once they've been right. Surely, if I can handle those situations, I can handle a bunch of know-nothing strangers online. We all ought to be capable of that.