A few days ago, the website Scary Mommy published something I’d written. And since this was the first time anyone anywhere had paid me for my words on a page, it was pretty exciting. And by “pretty exciting,” I mean I would have rented an airplane which could fly around with a banner proclaiming the news; unfortunately Geico already has all those airplanes pretty well tied up.
Anyway, it was a fairly innocuous post, or so I thought, originally titled Justifying Myself to the Grocery Store Cashier Who Was Most Likely Not Judging Me in the First Place (Scary Mommy changed the title to one that I did not love, so I’m not writing it here). This particular post wasn’t my favorite thing I’d ever written, but I thought it was okay. Maybe a tiny bit funny, certainly harmless. Still, I was prepared for a few negative comments, I mean, well – you know. We’ve all been around the internet a time or two, right?
What I was not prepared for:
- “We . . . don’t give a fuck about what food you are buying.”
- “Paranoid much?”
- “Pretty sure this is called social anxiety disorder.”
- “God I would hate to be so insecure.”
- “Don’t be so vain.”
- “WOW. Seriously, see a shrink.”
At first I felt mostly embarrassed, as well as a little bit shocked that anyone cared enough about what I wrote to respond to it. Eventually, though, as the comments continued to pile up, I thought – Eh. So what. My feelings aren’t that easily hurt, and it was maybe 100 or so comments, in the midst of 100 or so pretty positive ones. I know there are trolls, haters gonna hate and all that, and, well, who cares. In the grand scheme of things, my little experience was really nothing.
Still, though, I kept thinking about internet anger, and anger in general. Hostility and meanness. If people could be hostile to me over my imaginary thoughts at the grocery store – well, I don’t even know what then. ABANDON ALL HOPE, YE WHO ENTER HERE.
Also, for some reason, I kept thinking about Tan Mom. Remember Tan Mom? She was accused in 2012 of taking her then five-year-old daughter into a tanning bed (in related news, she was also accused of being too tan). She was all over the internet, she was ridiculed and laughed at, she was spoofed on SNL and made into a doll – the “Tanorexic.” It’s really old news, I know, but for whatever reason it stuck with me. Tan Mom may have been too tan. Actually she was definitely too tan. She may have taken a five-year-old into a tanning bed. She may or may not have been the biggest asshole ever to crack open a bottle of baby oil but my question is – what good, I mean, WHAT GOOD, does it do any of us to know about it?
Seriously. I’m asking because I don’t know the answer, but if I’m guessing, the answer is: NONE. It does none of us one goddamned bit of good to know that this too-tan mom may or may not have stuck a pre-schooler into a UV radiation chamber. And yet the story was A) widely reported by the media and B) even more widely shared via Facebook posts and Instagram photos and whatever else the kids were doing back in 2012. We ate this story up like freshly baked Christmas cookies. Someone in the world is a bigger fuckup than me! Yum!!
Maybe it’s just that we like to see the bad guys get what’s coming to them, which makes sense. I love a story that ends with the villain losing it all. Like that lady who duct-taped her dog to keep him quiet, or this pharmaceutical asshole who made life-saving drugs unaffordable to pretty much everyone except Jeff Bezos. I mean, I barely bother to follow the news and even I hate that guy (and I think it’s because aside from being an asshole, he totally looks like one. A lot. Don’t you think?)
But, I don’t know. It seems to me that all this hating can’t possibly be good for us. I mean, say I’d never heard of Martin Shkreli, the pharmaceutical asshole. Say he was caught and punished without my ever knowing about it. Sure, I wouldn’t have the satisfaction of seeing him led away in handcuffs, looking like the dick that he is. On the other hand, I’d also have been spared the anger that goes along with knowing about this guy. Anger doesn’t do good things for a person, even in small doses. And joy over a just punishment is always backed by bitterness and hate. It is not really joy at all. It’s bloodlust.
I am no expert. But I really kind of think we need less of this in the world, not more. It’s been shown that anger makes us sick, even decreases our life span. And our exposure to it, all the time, on every channel and web page and social network, has got to be bringing us down.
This is starting to feel very soapboxy. I’m going to wrap it up.
So in closing, a few things. First, I want to tell the media to quit inundating us with things to hate. I’m not sure how to stop them, but, whatever. I’m going to try anyway.
Second, I’d be happy for someone to tell me why I’m wrong about this, all the better if it’s a respectful and well-considered argument. If it’s just a bunch of nasty comments similar to those quoted above, well, just know this is my blog and I will moderate the shit out of you.
Third – a nice and uplifting story about the power of love and a miracle bird-hatching. See it here. You’re welcome.
And, finally: my own good news, which is that on Scary Mommy’s Facebook page, I got more likes than Kim Kardashian’s placenta. See below for proof.
So, that’s pretty awesome.