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Can we just jump to January please? - 2014-11-14
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11:51 a.m. - 2014-06-04
You, too, may go viral.

Like most people I click on memes and BuzzFeed lists- 26 Chuckleheads Too Stupid to Breathe Independently, People of Walmart, 32 Bad Parents You Can Totally Feel Superior To...well, you get the gist. The other day I read one compiled of tweets, texts, and FB posts by folks whose grammar and spelling and limited understanding of the world were so bad it was almost impossible to believe. Of course I clutched my hair and groaned and thought rude things as I was supposed to, but then I thought some more and it became clear that the punishment for these 'crimes' was outrageously too large. Think about it. It's not exactly a surprise there are ignorant people. Or poorly dressed ones. And some of these memes are of folks having mishaps. I'm not speaking of people who do dumb stuff and voluntarily post it on YouTube, but of the home movies and security cam clips and the goofs and accidents caught by other people on their cell phones where not only does some poor sap do a face plant but then has it broadcast to the ENTIRE WORLD.

Really? This is what the accident-prone, the bad spellers and the fashion challenged deserve? To be mocked by 7 billion people? Isn't that just a bit harsh? We're not talking about a family story that gets trotted out at every 4th of July barbeque and all the cousins twit Uncle Walter about the time his bathing suit came off during a high dive. It's not an office giggle about the regional manager who let out a huge burp during a conference call. Thanks to the internet and its snarky watchdogs on Reddit and Tumblr et al if you have the bad luck to get the broken lawn chair and it collapses under you odds are it's going to be seen and howled over by EVERYONE. Everyone everywhere on Earth...forever.

Me? I think it's cruel. Even if it's not a clumsy moment that goes viral the mockery and smirking superiority aimed at the ill-educated and the eccentric dressers is wildly excessive too. I mean, so what? No skin off my nose if some chick spells 'diabetes' as 'die of beaties', unless she's my endocrinologist of course. Is my life significantly improved because I took a potshot at a hairy, bearded, toothless guy wearing a tutu? To what end is all of this public humiliation serving?

In Pilgrim times if you offended the sensibilities of the social arbiters they put you in the stocks. And the whole village came by and spat on you and threw garbage at you and everyone said mean things. As Inigo says to Miracle Max, "Humiliations galore!" Public shaming was quite the done thing in those days. And now thanks to the internet it's back. Only now it's on a global scale and the punishment never ends.

This meanness is nothing more than a cheap ego stroke at someone else's expense.

I've long spoken about my distaste for 'America's Funniest Home Videos' and the like. Pratfalls and goofs are part of everyday life. Stupid, clumsy, poorly executed, dopey shit happens to everyone. And nothing is accomplished by pillorying the poor saps on TV or worse on the internet. Ditto the ignorant. No one's spelling and grammar is improved by being publicly chided. And even if it were is this truly the best way to educate? Dunce caps were done away with in classrooms eons ago and it'd be pretty great if we could do away with them on the internet too.

As for the virulent mocking and attempted shaming of the 'weirdos' I think this might be the worst of all. Without those who dare to be different, those who strike out in new directions, the ones willing to let their freak flags fly and shake things up nothing new would happen. By relentlessly hounding the odd all that is accomplished is to further stiffen the rigid dictates of the status quo and make innovation just that much more difficult. Without those who felt free to color outside the lines we'd have no Shakespeare, no Curie, no Chanel, no Colonel Sanders, no Abner Doubleday, no Frampton or Pete Seeger. If 40 years ago two oddballs in a garage didn't go with their wacky idea of making computers for the masses and figuring how to make those computers able to talk with each other we wouldn't be having this conversation.

So enough already. Enough with mean-spiritedness. Enough with the global pillory via the net and letting the entire world sling garbage and insults at the unfortunate looking, the misspoken, the clumsy and the odd. We can and should be better than that.

And you, the 350lb guy in the sweats with the bright pink fingernails and the sparkly stilettos with the 4" heels? You go, boyfriend. Get down with your bad self.


Much love, ~LA



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