Someone vastly wiser than I (which is a VERY large crowd) once said: The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Or something along those lines. I don’t feel like Googling the exact quote right now because lazy. Based on that definition of insanity, I must be bat-shit crazy. (Don’t worry, I’m medicated.)
I do it every time. I don’t know why I do it. When I begin to do it I know I’m making a mistake, but I can’t stop myself. It’s like walking into a haunted house. You know it’s going to scare the shit out of you, but you go in there anyhow. I always think (or hope) it won’t be as bad as I’m afraid it will be, but I always end up wrong. Each time the bubble that is my faith in humanity deflates just a little.
When it’s over I’m left devastated and befuddled. Why? Why did I do it? Why did I do something I know would dishearten me so? Why did I knowingly walk into a trap I couldn’t spring? Why did I waterboard myself?
Why, oh why, did I read the fucking comments?
In theory, comment sections are for friendly discourse. We’ve read an article (congratulations!) and now we have a chance to share our thoughts with the author. We can explain why we agree or disagree with an opinion. We can share a similar experience. We can congratulate them on writing such a meaningful/hilarious/thought-provoking piece. We can read the comments of others who have shared a point of view or experience of their own. Meaningful conversation and thought-provoking dialogue sounds great, right?
If only that were the case.
Comment sections are like a landfill of human thoughts. They stink, they’re loaded with useless or broken shit, and they’re a place no decent person would ever be caught hanging out. (Just in case you’re wondering, I liken reading the comments not to being in the landfill, but merely driving by it and being disappointed that it still stinks.)
Comment sections are literally nothing but the worst in humanity. Whenever I scroll through the comments (Why do I do it? Why?) of a news article I’ve just read I see nothing but hatred. I see racism. I see sexism. I see xenophobia. I see homophobia. I see name-calling. I see threats. I see a fierce intolerance for any differing point of view. I see anonymous assholes being assholes simply because they’re anonymous and there are zero consequences for it. I see horrid statements not a one of those people would actually say to the face of another human being. Except maybe if they were on Springer…
I’m at a complete loss when I attempt to comprehend this phenomenon. I can’t fathom why people resort to name-calling, anger, threats, and/or other unpleasant mental diarrhea. When I read an article about racial issues I can count on finding racist comments (and confederate flag avatars) down below. When I read an article about gender equality I could confidently bet an entire paycheck that I’d find a comment made by a man either dismissing the plight of women or, even worse, telling a woman to get back into the kitchen and/or perform fellatio (not so eloquently worded, though) on him. I’m not even going to get into some of the comments I read in response to the HB2 bill in North Carolina, but suffice to say, there are some real degenerates out there and they have internet access.
I just don’t understand how people can be so hateful. More than that, though, I can’t comprehend why so MANY people are hateful. Why are these people so angry? What exactly are they afraid of? Why do they feel it’s okay to be so disrespectful to another human being? What is so wrong with acceptance and tolerance? Why do we dismiss the plights of others simply because it’s not happening to us? What happened to empathy? Understanding? Loving thy neighbor?
Comment sections are what feed my misanthropy. Comments show me that despite all the progress we’ve made towards building an equalitarian society, there people racing to tear it all down. Comments make me ashamed to be human. Comments most assuredly make me ashamed to be a white male. Comments are like the slime from Ghostbusters 2, a cesspool of hatred and bigotry.
I’ve often disagreed with people who claim alcohol makes people behave a certain way. I’ve always been of a mind that alcohol simply removes inhibitions and reveals your true self for all present to see. In a similar respect, anonymous internet comments allow people to be who they truly are. It allows them to do so with the benefit of a mask. It is what is behind all these masks that sickens me, makes me crawl further up into the shell in which I hide, and not want to interact with another human being for the rest of my days.
Way, way back in the day, Rodney King, a victim of police brutality caught on tape, asked, “Can’t we all just get along?” Somehow that turned into a national punchline. What’s so funny about it, though? Why wouldn’t we all want to get along? If we could live without conflict wouldn’t we choose to do so? Wouldn’t we like to be friendly with everybody? Wouldn’t we, if we’re being honest with ourselves, all like to get along?
I know I would.