I have to admit, being so active on social media has made me lose a little bit of faith in humanity. In my every day life, I naturally think the best of people and always try to remain positive in all that I do, but social media seems to chip away at this mindset daily. I’ve always had an active personal presence on Instagram and Twitter, but it was only when I began a career in social media marketing that put me at the controls of an organization’s audience of over 1 million followers that I began to see how truly barbaric our generation has become online. This unfortunate realization was only further crystalized when I began putting my own creative work out into the world, and suddenly I wasn’t a faceless social media manager speaking for an organization, but instead it was my name, my reputation, my work that was being lambasted.
Now, let me start off by saying that I realize this is somewhat of a chicken and egg scenario—stupid people and stupid opinions have always existed, it’s just that social media has made it so we now have no choice but to hear them. I’m sure there were many people back in the day who gossiped about the way their neighbor milked their cows or drove their Model T, and went home to rant about it in private because the ability to subtweet just wasn’t there. I’m not foolish enough to think that “haters,” as they’ve come to be called in our generation, are a direct result of the social media age. Hate is an age-old emotion, one that has been around since the beginning of time. But I believe hate is a cancer, a virus, that when spread, only becomes more of an epidemic. Its presence breeds and multiplies, until a dangerous thing happens: it becomes commonplace. I’m convinced that we are now living in a digital age where hate has become common. The outlets for people to spit their poison have become easy and accessible due to the advancement of technology. Online outlets have become an important and valuable tool for many to easily express news and views, but this ease has also made it a dangerous weapon in the hands of the embittered, malicious, envious, and cruel.
I once heard an analogy that describes perfectly how the safe anonymity of being behind a computer screen enables such atrocious behavior online. Imagine being in a car, driving down the freeway, and someone cuts you off. There are a significant amount of people who would honk their horn, say something like “look at this asshole” or maybe even speed past the person to give them the finger. Reactions in a road rage situation are usually without thought. But imagine if the very same thing happened to you while you were walking in a park. You are walking on the sidewalk and someone walks in front of you a little too closely and then keeps on walking. Would you instantly yell at them? (That’s the human equivalent of a honk, right?) Would you immediately say out loud, “Look at this asshole!”? Would you run up next to this person and put a middle finger right in their face? Odds are, none of us would do these things. Why? Because it feels entirely different when you are right next to a person rather than completely separated. Regardless of how cruel a person is, they still probably don’t go around saying brutally harsh things to people’s faces after only the slightest provocation. Well, in the online world everyone is in their own car and it seems far too many people have no problem dolling out rage to anyone and everyone who passes by.
I could show countless examples of how depraved our generation has become on social media. (After all, I am given new examples daily.) I could talk about the recent viral video posted on YouTube of the most adorable 3-year-old girl singing the Little Mermaid’s Part of Your World, and how as I’m writing this, 343 human beings have felt that this innocent little girl’s singing deserves a click of the “thumbs down” button—a blunt dislike. I could talk about a powerful (and emotional) interview I watched about a former porn star who recounts her traumatic rape as a young woman and how it led her down a long road of drug addiction and suicide attempts. This woman’s story was met with comments such as: “Funny how this woman decides to be anti-pornography when she is fat, old, ugly, and NOT benefiting from doing porn movies anymore.” I could talk about how a close personal friend of mine is currently making national headlines because he, his wife and their two-year-old son were kicked off an Allegiant airplane after telling the flight attendant that their toddler had a life-threatening peanut allergy which had recently landed him in the emergency room. Ever since their experience has taken off in the media, my friend Kyson has been receiving a flood of personal emails and social media messages, one of which said: “If I were on that plane I would have thrown peanuts at your son.” Another read: “Peanuts on airplanes are an American tradition and people like you are corroding our American culture.”
The previous example perfectly illustrates the disturbing truth about people today on social media: what means everything to you is just peanuts to someone else, and regardless of how their “anonymous” words typed on a screen will make you feel—or even affect your life—it’s not going to stop them from spewing hatred and negativity. Unfortunately, the examples I’ve just used are fairly harmless examples. I didn’t mention the purely evil #JadaPose Twitter debacle where a 16-year-old girl named Jada was raped after blacking out at a party, and afterwards a picture was posted of her unconscious body that sparked a sickening trend of mocking imitations of people lying in the same position. I didn’t mention the story of Lizzie Velasquez, a girl with an extremely rare syndrome that prevents her from gaining weight and has taken the sight from her right eye, whose high school classmates secretly posted a video of her on YouTube and titled it, “World’s Ugliest Woman.” If that weren’t bad enough—and as if to only further prove my point—the video quickly garnered millions of views.
More personally, I haven’t mentioned the online forum brazenly called Get Off My Internets, an entire forum for people with nothing better to do than spend hours trashing people they come across online. There are thousands of different categories and threads, each dedicated to gossiping and bashing bloggers, YouTubers, celebrities, online personalities, and just regular people online. Both myself and my wife—who runs her own successful fashion blog—have been featured on the site, with even our own dedicated thread for others to hate on our latest posts, style, accomplishments, and anything else they can assume about us or conjure up. We both continually receive traffic to our websites each week from the links posted amongst the vitriolic venom that festers on this forum.
Growing up in a world where this type of internet iniquity has only gotten stronger by the year, I continually ask myself why. I ask myself why things are only getting worse, why people are seemingly and unconscionably becoming more and more heartless. All this pondering has led me to one harrowing conclusion:
Hate is a stronger emotion than love.
Allow me to explain. When people hate something, they are far more inclined to speak out, stand up, rear up, and lash out than if they agree with something, or even love it. For most people, if they bought a book or saw a film that they hated, odds are they’re going to be more inclined to do or say something about it rather than if they had just enjoyed a perfectly pleasant evening. Most people who have bad experiences feel the need to rant about it or leave a negative review for it. People who have good experiences just continue on with their enjoyable life. Love may be a fire that provides passion and warmth, but hate is a fire of a whole different kind. Hate is a fiery oven that bakes and bakes and bakes until everything is singed to a crisp. The fire of hate needs an outlet. Much like a backdraft—the phenomenon that creates an explosion of gas and smoke as soon as a window is smashed or door is kicked open—social media smashes the safe guard of social barriers by allowing people to explosively say things they would never say face to face. Only when the creator of the fire feels they have satisfactorily hurt whoever they feel hurt them, wronged them, bothered them, or disagreed with them, does the fire die down to embers, until they are ignited once again by a post or person they find rubs them the wrong way.
What’s even more concerning than this destructive phenomenon is that we as a digital society have gotten so used to it. We casually dismiss rude and cruel people as “trolls.” We read these terrible comments on our timelines daily and we can’t reply because then we will get dragged into the mud as well. George Bernard Shaw’s popular phrase seems as though it was written specifically about today’s online haters: “Never wrestle with pigs. You both get dirty and the pig likes it.” Nothing satisfies an angry (or insecure, or bored, or jealous) person like knowing they’ve been heard, and that their intended hurt has been successfully delivered.
But just because hate is a stronger and more incendiary emotion than love, doesn’t mean it is more powerful. Praise, positivity, and support will always be more impactful than hate. While its an inexplainable truth that hate will always feel louder than anything positive, love will always last far longer. This is not a doom and gloom article with the intention of calling out a problem without offering a solution. But the solution is as age-old as the problem itself: love. Love and positivity will always dispel the darkness of despisement.
Instead of adding to the cesspool of hate and mockery that are constantly painted across our timelines, let’s add something positive to the world. Let’s create without fear, and allow others to do so as well. Let us be the millennial generation that is remembered for fighting for tolerance and equality, not the millennial generation that is know for being “savage” or having “no chill.” While hate is a stronger emotion than love, it will never be more powerful. Love will always win.
– Robbie Tripp