We Hate It When Our Friends Become Succesful

I recently found myself directed to a website that essentially makes fun of other websites and then it’s many many many readers post comments trashing the writers and actions of these sites. It’s brutal. I was reading the posts, somewhat caught up in the tornado of vitriol and snark and hate. Until I saw one post that eviscerated a friend of mine. It was unfair and incorrect on many levels. But the comments from the readers were like an angry mob. They grew harsher, they grew more cruel, and they even felt dangerous at times.

I’m not linking to the site or the post because the last thing I’d like to do is support them. And anyway it’s a total downer and waste of time.

But before my self-righteous high-horse gallops out of this town, let’s take note of the fact that I stayed on the site long enough to find my friend there. I was reading the other posts with a little discomfort, but not really being offended. Not until it hit a personal note.

Why? Why is there such a market for hugely offensive half-truths and bringing down people who are (or who’d like to be) public figures? I guess we all tell ourselves that if someone puts themselves out there, in the big forum of the world, they have to be ready for it, they deserve it, they’re bringing it on themselves. But I’m not buying that. It goes too far. It goes beyond responsible journalism or constructive criticism, and it becomes a witch hunt. This wanting people to fail. This wanting to see their flaws big and large.

Why?

Failure or mistakes of perceived successful or popular figures doesn’t make our bank balance go up, our children behave better, our patience increase, or our marriage more fulfilling. It’s a distraction. But I can’t really find the upside of it. This level of negativity, regardless if a person “deserves” it or not – is just way beyond what I think humans are built for. I know for a fact I would shut down, stick my thumb in my mouth and hide under my bed in the fetal position if I had things written about me in the same spirit that I’ve seen put out there for others.

For instance, it seems a huge audience was thrilled to see that Dooce (a juggernaut blogger who has made fistfuls of cash writing about her life) and her husband were splitting up. They all saw it coming apparently, and wondered to each other about the welfare children. That’s almost fair, right? Because she’s written about these things, there’s the license to discuss it publicly. But it’s obvious that many of these folks don’t care for the children at all, it’s all just part of the freakshow. There were also links to websites whose entire purpose was to eviscerate The Pioneer Woman (another huge blogger. Come on. I don’t have to tell you that. Books, TV shows, etc.) Sites who are polished and well kept and slick and whose entire existence is to mock her, her husband and kids, and the empire that she’s built in a few short years. That’s a lot of energy spent on someone you don’t actually know.

So why so much hatred when people become successful? It’s not just bloggers. I’ve seen the same mentality around a good friend of mine who has become wildly successful in the music world. People who watched him come up and put his time in now are mad that he is on top. They write nasty things about him, and in truth it is just not deserved.

I don’t know. I did steal the name of this post from Morrissey, who I’m guessing from the song he wrote encountered exactly the same thing. I suppose there’s comfort in the truth that this has been happening forever, not just since the internet became our medium. But the web certainly makes it easier to anonymously and quickly hurt people we do and do not know. I just wonder why so many people make the choice to do just that.

18 thoughts on “We Hate It When Our Friends Become Succesful

  1. Confession time.

    I used to be like that. I used to troll websites with the sole purpose of mocking the writer.

    And, honestly, it was because I hated how much happier everyone else was. I was miserable. I hated my job, hated my boyfriend, hated my roommates, hated my parents, hated myself. Instead of lashing out at any of them, I would self-medicate through food and vitriol on the internet.

    I’d be willing to bet money every single one of those individuals loathes some aspect of their life, and takes it out on famous people/people on the internet. It’s easy. It takes a minor amount of effort and is met with like-minded miserable people who want the same sort of relief.

    Is it good? HELL NO. Is it cathartic? Sometimes. Doesn’t mean it’s right, but it’s somewhat unavoidable. It’s the reason reality TV is so huge in this country.

  2. I’ve cut a number of negative blogs – none quite so bad, but ones in which the moms (they all happened to be moms) were always jonesing for a fight, always rolling up sleeves and doing battle, always snarking about the people they were fighting. Never any self awareness or empathy. They were funny – funny as hell, way funnier than I could ever hope to be – but also they were getting attention from being cruel.

    I’d never cut you from my list! Or Pioneer Woman or dooce, for that matter, though I don’t read every post they post (srsly, PW posts like five times a day!) Because you are all funny, but also largely positive. Even as the lovely Heather flails her way through a miserable time, even when she describes her pain and her suicidal thoughts, she keeps a positive tone. (Positive suicidal thoughts, you say? For real. She is self reflective, and funny/snarky – but never cruel.)

    I like to keep my little corner of the internet a positive place. The whole point of reading all this stuff is to give me a happy break in my long, difficult day. I cut blogs (and facebook friends) that don’t do that for me.

  3. When people have the ability to say things without consequence or accountability… Some dark and evil shit can appear. I had to disable comments on my youtube video where I posted a rather personal story of my breast cancer art therapy project. In the wake of loosing my mother to the disease, I had a subconscious need to rebuilt and render the form in fiberglass and bullet proof materials. The youtube trolls only saw boobs. Mind you, that was just playful mean-ish-ness, not jealous or spiteful mean-ish-ness.
    So, I guess we just need to turn away from the darkness… and never feed the trolls.

  4. Those weak-sauce, scaredy cats should spend that energy doing the things they want to do. Get over 3rd grade and encourage people to do their best. When people around you are happy and successful (even if only in their own mind), you have a better view of seeing happiness is a choice! It’s so transparent to rip people down. Get a life, meanies!

  5. From the outside, yes, that would be a better choice. It’s hard to see it when you’re mired in your own self-loathing or self-pity.

  6. I’m afraid to say that I also have been there, been one of those people. Like falnfenix, I’ve ripped people apart that I haven’t known, mostly just because it felt good to get mad at somebody with no repercussions. No awkward talks afterwards or having to “patch it up”. For sure there’s a lot of projection happening, and it isn’t healthy. For the most part now I try to just stay with positive blogs, but honestly, I am still drawn to the dark ones to swim around in the negativity from time to time. Not sure what that’s about. But it’s the truth.

  7. And we wonder where children learn to be bullies. From their parents! Something is happening in our world, something rather scary. Instead of rising up to the higher standards of others, we seem determined to drag everyone down to the gutter with us. We no longer listen because we have the attitude that my way is the only way.

    A writer I’m familiar with supported SOPA, which is her right (we do still live in a free country?) but she was bomarded with hate mail and some frightening threats were made. When did it happen that if someone disagrees with us that we feel justified in this kind of behaviour?

    I don’t have any answers, but do my best to make my corner of the world as positive as I can. One thing I have noticed, however, is that I have lately become hesitate to express my own opinion on a controversial subject because you just never know who you might piss off!

  8. I think there’s a natural human instinct at work here. We have fearful gut reactions when other people enjoy attention or success, because on a primal level, it feels threatening. Maybe it’s the same knee-jerk panic reaction we developed centuries ago, in response to others scoring more food, a better shelter, the mate we’d had our caveperson eye on—things that could actually impact our very safety and survival. Now it seems we’re still stuck suffering from that instinctual response when we fear we’re not getting what person X did. But the truth of it is, success, attention, praise, and even cleverness aren’t finite resources, and neither are they crucial for our survival. There’s plenty of all of them to go around, and one person enjoying a taste doesn’t mean there’ll be any less left over for the rest of us. It’s not a zero-sum game. Unfortunately, that truth takes some self-awareness to realize, and indeed to remind oneself of often enough that the envy (or the schadenfreude, when we’re tempted to gloat over others’ missteps or failures) loses its power to hijack our senses and spur our hurtful reactions.

  9. Excellent words and I have to admit that I, too, have done this kind of snarky, tearing-down of people. It’s so easy and gives you instant gratification of bringing the other person down before you. It isn’t helpful, isn’t even good for personal popularity because -honestly- you’re just as much a target for all those trolls and haters as anyone else. As soon as your latest snark-fest is forgotten, you’ll be the target over something you care about.

    It isn’t that you can’t be critical of things you see. But there’s a difference between “critical” and “let’s destroy this person, dance on the ashes, and laugh while doing it”. That’s not criticism: that’s schadenfreude. We can be mature -even angry- adults who disagree with things we see, hear, and read. We can make our opinions known in the open air market of the Internet. But there’s something to be said about common decency and the ability to debate in a civil tone.

    Tearing people down accomplishes nothing in the long-term and in the piranha-filled waters of the Web it’s easy to forget you’re only one voice in a rising chorus that can make someone’s life miserable.

  10. Its only possible for haters to ‘hurt people they don’t know’ if the people in question read the hurtful comments. My advice to victims is never to read, respond, or acknowledge. Haters are going to hate because that’s what they do. Best to leave them festering in their own toxic puddles of spite, envy, inadequacy, negativity and failure.

  11. Jodi, thanks for this post. What a great reminder to be mindful of how our words impact others, for the worse or the better. The choice is mine. I have a friend who has a sole mission of making sure his interactions leave people feeling better than he found them. I think this sort of mindset goes a long way.

  12. Quote from stuckinmypedals: “I have a friend who has a sole mission of making sure his interactions leave people feeling better than he found them.”

    A new spin on, “Do unto others…”

    Brilliant, beautiful and bold.

    This will be my new life-mantra.

  13. This legend is one of my favourite ways to think about how and what I do. I try to teach my children to think like this too. Ultimately they will feel better about themselves when they are kind to others.

    *****************

    An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

    “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

    The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

    The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

  14. I must be much more naive than I ever realized. I didn’t know that websites like this even existed until now. Though now that I know, I’m not at all surprised. It’s very sad; all that energy spend tearing things down when it could be spent on something wonderful and productive.

  15. Oh, and @Bindi, I *love* that little legend about the Cherokee grandfather! I’m going to steal it and keep it to share with my children and anyone else I can think of;) Just perfect :)

  16. You are my inspiration, I own few blogs and sometimes run out from brand :) .

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