I was recently scrolling on Facebook before bed when I came across a video of a woman fixing her very long hair. And while her hair was much, much longer than the average length of most females in today’s society, she didn’t deserve what I read. I suppose I’ll never learn to stay out of the comments section of viral posts or videos, and this clip was no exception. Yet even I was astounded by the amount of negativity therein, and I had to really look hard until I found a complimentary comment. It wasn’t just the fact that I had to search to find something kind. It was the point of how horrible every single comment was.
And still it continued, complete with puking emojis and GIFs.
“OMG! What the hell is wrong with her?!”
“That’s just gross!”
I had a pretty good idea from watching that it was for religious reasons the woman in the video had her hair so long, but whether it was or whether it wasn’t, that’s not what bothered me so much. What bothered me was the disregard for human decency. I couldn’t figure out if people actually forgot that a real person with real feelings was behind the screen, or if they just really didn’t care. I mean, surely if they were face to face with this woman they wouldn’t tell her she was ugly and hideous. Would they?
As a longtime writer of articles that frequently went viral I had endured the awful comments from strangers. I wasn’t sure if they assumed the author would never see them, if they thought I was a fictional individual without emotion, or if perhaps they had no problem with me seeing their slurs.
“You’re a terrible mother!”
“I feel sorry for your husband!”
“This is the dumbest s@*t I’ve ever read!”
“I hope you kill yourself. Soon!”
I had learned long ago to take the disagreeing comments of strangers with a grain of salt, but would I be lying if I said it didn’t sometimes sting? Probably. As a sensitive soul it’s hard for me not to take negativity to heart, and as such I always look at others the same. So when I see someone in a video, viral post, or television broadcast being blasted on social media, I always wince. I place myself in their shoes. Their very real shoes.
I remember once seeing a video of a teen peeing themselves on life TV. A clip of it had been shared hundreds of thousands of times, for the amusement of others. Everyone laughed heartily. And I just thought, “that poor, young man.”
The thing is, most of the people laughing are pretty decent individuals, I’m sure. I think they just forget that behind the thing causing them entertainment is a real person. It’s not make-believe or a comedy skit. Nine times out of ten it’s just a person who had a bad day. And how would you feel had someone filmed you on your worst day? And then it spread virally to the world. And thousands of people laughed and mocked your misfortune? What if it was your child, or your spouse? Would it be as funny then?
Behind every Person of Walmart is an individual who gets to see their outfit choice plastered across the Internet for the enjoyment of others. I doubt they craved that fame.
It’s never okay to mock someone. Even if you disagree with them. Even if their outfit isn’t something you would wear. Even if the camera caught them at their worst moment in time. I just can’t for the life of me understand when and why we became a society where it’s socially acceptable to mock other’s pain, ridicule a stranger, or speak hatred and judgmental commentary towards them as if they don’t have a heart that hurts at your bitter words. When did being mean to someone you’ve never met and who hasn’t personally offended you become the normal thing to do to pass time while you’re waiting in the doctor’s office or in line at the bank?
When did we become so mean?
When did we start thinking it was okay to blast a stranger, mock pain, and disregard the feelings of others?
When did it become socially acceptable to find entertainment in misery?
When did we decide it was fine to verbally assault people we’ve never even met, or to act like their lifestyle is some personal offense to us that requires our negative commentary?
When did we get the idea that our opinions matter so much that we absolutely spew every awful thing that pops into our heads?
Where did filters go? What happened to thinking before you speak? Or what about the old adage, “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all?!”
It seems to me that we’ve become a very self-centered generation that absolutely must be heard, and if we disagree with someone, we’ll say it, with little to no regard for how our harsh words might negatively affect someone. Have we really become so unconcerned with the feelings of others that we don’t care? Have we lost all empathy and compassion?! A glance through the comments section on Facebook would certainly make you think that.
We argue with strangers, as if there’s a trophy given at the end for the wittiest insult. There’s several online communities I’m a part of where I refuse to speak due to the callousness of other commenters I’ve seen. I don’t wish to be the victim of their wrath.
And perhaps that’s where the problem lies. Perhaps the kind people don’t speak anymore. They’ve shrunk into the shadows, guarding their hearts, and shaking their heads as ugliness abounds. Perhaps if the kind people would just step out and stand up for the little guys, the victims of attack, maybe then the mean people would seem less.
What if more of us vowed to think before we type, to consider humanity before we laugh at the expense of real people who never asked to be made into a viral mockery for the amusement of the masses? Maybe we could remember compassion, empathy, and the fact that real bravery is not cutting down someone you don’t even know. Perhaps instead of speaking hate we could try a little love. I know it’s a lot to ask, but I’ve always been a hopeful type. And I hope it’s not too late for us to begin caring about people again.