Social media has afforded the world’s bravest cowards a flea market for their artistry – Mark Leibovich
Was thinking recently about the most destructive thing about social media, aka Twitter and Facebook. No doubt, the candidates for the worst side of it create a very crowded field. Narcissism and negativity are rampant, as are trolling and digging up people’s past…and deciding years later that you were deeply offended by something….in 2005.
For every good thing the interwebs have spawned (#metoo; heightened awareness of racism, world understanding), there’s been a counterbalance of empowerment of ideas and people that used to reside in the little holes where they belonged (conspiracy nutbags, truthers, chem trail hysterics, flat-earthers, anti-vaxxers, etc.)
But the thing that bothers me most are people who take offense at something, and then try to get someone fired from their job. (I’m not talking about Harvey Weinstein/Charlie Rose levels of predators that deserve their comeuppance.) I’m referring to the individual (and mob) mentality that empowers without hesitation, a person’s right to take some offense (a racist tweet, a salacious photo, a contrary opinion) and then run to a person’s employer with pitchfork in hand demanding that they know “the kind of person who is working for you.”
Of course, it goes much deeper than that. What they’re really trying to do is deeply hurt someone, literally where they live — Interfering with someone’s income for nothing more than taking offense at something a person wrote. No one actually DOES anything to these people — no dicks are whipped out; nothing happened face-to-face — it’s all because someone read something they disagreed with, be it relatively benign (“you and your opinions suck”) or something deeply anti-Semitic, pro-police, Beyoncé-critical, or simply that you made a lot of really bad jokes.
This came into focus for me recently when a couple of valued, smart FB friends — who have weighed in with opinions on some of my more controversial postings — told me that their employers received messages along the lines of “You’d should know what kind of (racist, sexist, insensitive, opinionated, asshole) ____ ____is.” All because this person made a comment on my Facebook page the offended party didn’t like.
This sort of behavior has become all too common over the past several years and has taken internet trolling to a new low.
When did this become okay? When did disagreeing with a person’s opinion become a license to try to make them lose their job? It’s elementary to the point of absurdity that the punishment sought (by the outraged person) has no relation to the crime.
So what if someone you work with thinks Harvey Weinstein is getting a raw deal? Or Mario Batali wasn’t doing what thousands of other less-famous chefs have done? Or Bill Cosby is innocent? (HE’S NOT!) I’m sure a significant % of people I’ve worked with in my life held some deeply racist or sexist opinions about certain things. But as long it didn’t interfere with their job, why give a shit? Who even cares if they belong to a “Ship All Brown People Back To Where They Belong” organization (aka Republicans), or a “All Women Are Simply Repositories For My Sperm” chatroom (aka college fraternities)?
Everyone knows the interwebs created a forum for assholes of all stripes to vent their twisted opinions, but acting like a jerk in some Reddit forum pales in comparison with going out of your way to get someone fired from their job.
I’ve had my own experiences with this. Two TV producers and networks got bombarded with negative info about me because someone didn’t like something I said on the internet. (A dust-up with a troll who called me an anti-Japanese racist, and trying to put the Batali thing in perspective, if you’re interested.) As did the City of Las Vegas — because the person who runs Eater Vegas (press-release regurgitator Susan Stapleton) didn’t like some tweets I sent out about how much it sucks. (IT DOES!) Think about it: they didn’t like something I said, so they went out of their way to get me tossed off some TV shows and fired from my day job — none which had anything to do with whatever I said.
Ten, twenty, fifty years ago no one acted this way. No one even thought of acting this way. Someone offended you, you ignored them, someone (a public figure perhaps) said something you disagreed with, you wrote a letter to the editor and griped to your neighbors. It’s one thing to vote someone out of office (politicians are fair game, after all), but private citizens, even in a public forum, have a right to express themselves without fear of financial repercussions.
“It’s just too easy to do it, now,” The Food Gal® says. And she’s right. The ease which allows women to band together to stop workplace misogyny also allows one or a dozen committed ax-grinders to take a hatchet (or carpet bomb) to a person’s reputation and income. And short of illegal harassment or libel, there are no rules, no morality judgments, or punishments for this behavior.
Besides the grotesque imbalance of power this dynamic has caused (a stranger being able to directly communicate with your boss about things that have nothing to do with your work), what this does in the long run is drive opinions back into the closet — the exact opposite of what the internet was supposed to foment through the broadening our horizons.
One of the reasons I think Trump support runs so rabid is because conservatives had/have been driven underground by all the liberal p.c. correctness, and opinion-shaming. They can’t express themselves freely anywhere but Fox News and Trump rallies for fear of being shouted down (or worse), so they clam up on social media and let themselves go wild when they have plenty of back up. But the point is, everyone should feel comfortable to express themselves, no matter how marginalized they may be, without fear that something they think, or say, no matter how wacky, is going to cost them their employment. The freedom of speech this country was founded upon demands it, and civilized behavior should require it.
Everyone should be able to speak without fear in America.
Except frat boys. Those dudes are fucking idiots.