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.
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.