by Maisie Smith on March 12, 2015
“She’ll be sticking her head in the oven by age 55.”
“Maybe she’ll get hit by a FedEx truck.”
“Fuck her… she does drugs.”
“Go fuck a gardener or something, bitch.”
These were just some of the remarks I read when a famous blogger reached out to online friends regarding a comment on one of her recent posts. “How do you think I should respond to this douchebag?” + a screenshot of the comment was all it took to ignite a crowdsourced lynch mob. The endeavor built upon itself, gathering speed like a giant boulder thundering down a mountainside. Dozens and dozens of comments denigrated a person who merely had a different perspective on life than the blogger.
While scrolling through the melee, my eyes pricked with tears. I realized that human beings, with our amazingly compassionate hearts, also have a remarkable capacity for cruelty. It launched me back in time to junior high. On any given Monday I’d have scads of friends. On Tuesday, no one would sit by me at lunch because someone whispered a rumor that I listened to the Carpenters and wore fake Keds. Being 13 kind of sucked, right? I’d like to think that we’ve evolved past the childish antics of vicious teenage girls.
When did cultivating a community around name-calling become de rigeur? Was I absent from life the day they issued that memo? Good Lord, humanity has enough negativity surrounding it… enough to last until we blow each other to smithereens. Why do we feel the need to add to the massive pile of insults and contempt?
Is it that hard to be kind?
Have you noticed a far lean lately towards “edgy” writing? Topics are all about riling people up. Finished works are peppered with oh-so-thoughtful “fucks” and “goddammits.” Transparency and brutal honesty run rampant.
But does “edgy” give a person a license to be an asshole? To single someone out for merely disagreeing with an opinion? Do we write with the intent to simply have everyone nod their heads in enlightened agreement because of our magical words? Or are we writing to engage, to start conversations, to plant a few thought seeds?
In my world, “edgy” means that you’ve set your sights on changing the world and giving the middle finger to The Man.
Not a man. The Man.
What does being kind mean, anyways? Is it a chink in the armor? Are we not “standing in our power” when we show compassion? Is being thoughtful and gracious and open-minded now antiquated?
People disagree with each other all the time. Hell… I guarantee that someone is going to read this very post and think, “This is total bullshit.” I’ll get a scathing reply about how I am being judgmental and hypocritical and know nothing about how this harsh world we live in works.
Fact: People are going to be jerks. Online and in real life. How do we handle it? Do we throw all of our energy at tearing them down and stringing them up like a piñata so everyone can cyber beat on them with their word sticks? Or do we let the jerks go on their merry way and focus on building people up?
Is it possible to merge badassery and kindness? I’d like to think so. Maybe it’ll be the new writing fringe, where people can challenge the status quo and not feel compelled to crush people in the process.
Writing words that people want to read involves having an opinion and a strong point of view. Be prepared for an alternate point of view in return. That’s how it works. When you want to call bullshit on something, clobber the idea all you want and back it up with solid reasoning.
Don’t clobber the person.
And if someone has a chip on their shoulder? Man… that doesn’t make them edgy, or cool or a badass who “gives zero fucks” about everything. It just makes them bitter.
I like hanging out with edgy people. I love it when people have the courage to challenge authority and ask important questions. I love it even more when I am able to finally let go of an old mindset and embrace a new idea because of something that someone wrote.
What I don’t like are mean people who think it’s okay to make fun of others, especially those who are unable to defend themselves. I recently purged my email list and social media accounts of anyone who feels the need to bash another human being. This mass exodus from my inbox has made space for writing that is truly edgy.
I’m done with people’s attempts to stand out by being mean. I’m done with snark that cuts into people like a Ginsu knife.
And I’m done with the belief that kindness doesn’t matter anymore. It does.
Who’s with me?
To not being a dick,
Got a strong opinion on this? I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments.