I did something last night that I have never done before. I mean, I am a millennial. I have mildly strong opinions. I spend 90% of my time on the internet.
Yep. I responded to a random comment on the internet.
It’s strange because I’ve absolutely loved reading the bloodbath which is the comment section on anything from New York Times articles on Israel to BuzzFeed’s “25 DIY things to make out of lanyard for your cat BFF.” It’s a perverse thrill to watch people scream at each other, for seemingly no reason. No one actually *wins* a comment argument. you just stop responding and move on to the next article where you will respond passive aggressively to a stranger who’s claiming “Omg do NOT let you child play with princess dolls you IDIOT – DO YOU WANT A WEAK WILLED DAUGHTER? DO YOU YOU INSANE BONEHEAD WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!”
I remember in 2010, I was working at the NYC Law Dept. Well, “working” in their media department. My job included some useful things like editing press releases and writing up articles for the news letter. But for some reason, I was also supposed to read the news. Just read all the news. All day. And I had never read the comments before, I didn’t see any reason too.
Until I read an article about how some program was letting prisoners in NY jails bake and sell carrot cake to the public. Now, why you would want someone who used those hands to strangle someone make your cupcakes, is none of my business, where you get your cake from is your deal. But it was a nice story and I noticed on the bottom there were 400 HUNDRED comments. Why? What could 400 people say about one article? Were they all new and different ideas regarding the story?
No. Not at all. Because when I finished reading every single one it was clear that every comment fell into three categories, 1. HOW DARE YOU LET PRISONERS DO SOMETHING CONSTRUCTIVE! THEY SHOULD SIT IN THE CORNER AND THINK ABOUT WHAT THEY’VE DONE UNTIL THEY DIE! 2. I think it’s nice that this program is letting prisoners gain some sort of skill and learn about business. 3. What’s the recipe for this carrot cake?
So that’s the backstory of my love of Internet comments. Watch but don’t touch. Until last night. I was reading some innocuous article on Huffington Post about 10 really good movies that came out in the past few years. Great. I mentally saved the article so I could watch these suggestions later. Read the article and as always, scrolled down. Three comments. The first two were “I highly recommend this movie – it was so cute – can’t wait to see the others on the list!”
Then. One woman writes “Ugh I HATED XXXX movie! It was so NOT funny and spoiler alert, they DONT end up together.” I was blindsided by the haphazard spoiler alert. I literally felt my blood boil. WHY WHY WHAT would possess someone to do that?! It’s so rude. No one asked you to spoil the movie! So my fingers flew to the keyboard, “What the H lady? That spoiler was super unnecessary.” No response. This morning I get a notification that someone had commented on my comment, it was some dude. “Well she SAID spoiler alert and anyways who cares it’s a dumb romantic comedy.” Oh my god I was enraged – I HOPE YOU BOTH SPONTANEOUSLY CATCH ON FIRE WHILE GETTING A PARKING TICKET AND THEN GET ATTACKED BY SUBWAY RATS YOU INHUMANE GARBAGE PEOPLE! I yelled in my head.
I wanted to respond. I wanted to spoil ALL the movies for them. I wanted to find their addresses and order 50 pizzas. I wanted to explain reasonably or make them sympathetic. And then I stopped.
What am I doing? Why am I so worked up? I’ve become the people, the commenters who shout and insult for no reason. Yes it’s rude to ruin movies but do these people deserve all this rage I’m putting out into the world? I am poisoning my own thoughts. Deep breaths. Deep breaths. It’s going to be OK. It’s not the end of the world. Is this really worth expending useful energy on?
I decided: no. I closed the tab. I felt a little bit adult but also still like I was giving up. This is a dangerous slope, this comment button. Especially since the internet is forever, do I really want my kids seeing me write mean things to strangers about some movie, in all honesty I probably won’t even see in the end? Or do I want them do be able to unclench their typing hands. To realize that people on the internet are still people. Idiot people but still.
We’ve all seen things get out of hand on Facebook. Especially about incendiary topics that we fiercely believe in. And it’s OK to have opinions and it’s OK to want people to know the truth but we have to remember that there are people on the other side of the screen. Especially in these new few days, the nine days before Tisha B’av. Someone writing insulting things doesn’t give you a base for your baseless hatred. It doesn’t. Save that hatred for systems. Save your hatred for concepts like terrorism. Patriarchy. Bureaucracy. Hatred itself.
Just for a few days. Or more. No here’s a relaxing picture to calm everyone down today.