I have a piece to say today, and I’m gonna say it briefly. But first read these two posts:
1. Anne Helen Peterson muses on whether it’s acceptable to criticize fashion bloggers, and where do you draw the line between “private” and “public” personas?
2. gluten-free girl shares some rather horrifying stories about hateful comments, tweets, and so on; in reaction to her blog.
I just have a few reactions to these. First of all, what they both point out to me is that when people are anonymous, they feel free to expose the worst of themselves to the world. As much as I firmly believe in the importance of being able to post anonymously, it’s also true that nothing brings out trolls like anonymity. People will say things that they would NEVER say if they were a.) face to face with the target or b.) forced to use their real names. Notice in Anne’s article, she’s having a real crisis of conscience. She has a certain amount of irritation about a particular “fashion blogger,” and wonders if it’s OK to state it publicly. Pretty mild, really. But also notice that she uses her real name. It tends to make a difference.
For the record, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with criticizing a person who has chosen to make themselves a public figure via a blog or other means. It kind of goes with the territory. But there’s a world of difference between “criticizing” or even “mocking,” and pure, hateful vitriol like gluten-free girl has to endure.
And that brings me to that second post. My God. What is WRONG with people? Well, I’ll tell you exactly what is wrong with them:
Given the opportunity, some people will troll anonymously because it gets them off.
Do any of the hateful people mentioned by gluten-free girl REALLY wish her dead? I don’t think so. I think they get off on the ability to send emails, make posts, post comments, or send out tweets that upset the blogger in question, or anybody else for that matter. These people have base instincts, and they follow them because they can.
The ugly truth about most bullies is that they themselves have also been bullied. They make themselves feel better by turning around and bullying someone who can’t hurt them back, whether it’s a younger kid at school, a less-powerful co-worker, or a blogger who will read their anonymous comments or emails and get upset by them.
I say this with all humility, but seriously: I count myself SO LUCKY not to be one of those people. Because if you’re the type of person who gets off on causing others pain or fear or sadness, how can you live with yourself? Do you just pretend that someone else did it? That it wasn’t you at the keyboard? That your anonymous persona is really a different person all together? Maybe there’s some real pathology in there, I don’t know.
Here’s an example of how I handle someone who irritates me. There’s a fashion/lifestyle/mommy type blogger who used to drive me INSANE. The pictures she posted of herself were always posed and flawless, and she had perfected that sort of duck-face pout that all the starlets are so good at. Her family seemingly had unlimited income and resources, or at least she made it SEEM like they did. Her children? Utterly perfect, adorable, well-behaved and always stylishly-attired. In short, she was a smug twat. In fact, she probably is STILL a smug twat, but I wouldn’t know, because here’s how I handled my irritation: I unsubscribed from her feed, un-followed her on Twitter, and pretty much forgot that she existed (until I dredged up the memory for this post). I didn’t post vitriolic anonymous comments on her irritating blog, I STOPPED READING IT.
If more people would stop reading the things that annoy them, there would be a hell of a lot less ugly comments and emails that have to be screened by bloggers. Unfortunately, it’s not likely to happen, because (obviously) people tend to lack self-control. And that is why the answer to the question (do people REALLY suck so much?) is a resounding: “YES. People suck. SO much.”