The Cycle of Sensitivity

The Cycle of Sensitivity
Nick BrothersThe Free Weekly Managing Editor

Nick Brothers
The Free Weekly Managing Editor

Have you ever ventured a little too far into a popular Facebook thread? How long does it take before you just have to say, “Nope, not going to abandon faith in humanity this early in the day.”

Take for instance a “digital mile” of a Facebook newsfeed. You’ll find a multitude of things that range from funny and cute to terrible and unjust. About a quarter mile down, you might find a montage video that’s gone viral of police brutality. Next to it you’ll see an article shared by your ditzy friend from high school that headlines “Jack White said WHAT?!” A little further down you might find someone who’s shared an insightful NPR article discussing body image and patriarchal issues, only to see the top comment is someone who said “This is such hypocritical feminist bullshit.” Directly following it will be someone’s post with pictures of their new kitten.

That feed of information is nuts. Crazy. Yet, we just keep on browsing, maybe a little desensitized to it. Yet, a lot of people are quick to jump into arguments in the comments, and even quicker to make things personal for everyone to see. Take any controversial post, such as a Humans of New York post about a lesbian woman recalling what it was like to be forced from her home. Browse through the comments. Some of them will be supportive, and many others will be people justifying her parent’s decision. The rest are people who don’t care and are making fun of both sides.

Thanks to the pervasiveness of media and the Internet, we’re informed on a rapid-fire basis about things worth considering and a lot more things we’re baited into or being told we should consider. There are indeed things we should be getting upset about that are happening right now, like misogyny, bigotry or rape culture. What ends up being a waste of time is determining things like whether a tweet the new Daily Show host Trevor Noah made three years ago was anti-Semitic and disqualifies him for his job or not.

At the base of a lot of this stuff, there are good intentions. For instance, it’s good to point out that it’s misogynistic to have all the women in a fantasy video game sexed up in impractical ways for the male gaze. That’s a good conversation to be addressed, but sometimes topics are taken to extremes and are driven to the point of shame-porn — the idea that people are interested in seeing how someone did or said something questionable and then gets dragged through the mud.

Everyone on the Internet can get on their pedestal and say something. That’s great for giving a voice to the socially marginalized, such as minorities and transgender people. The problem here though, is Facebook (Reddit, YouTube, etc.) is a big-ass party that everyone is invited to. Anyone can jump on your public posts and say what they want. Often times, conversations lead to people making hurtful threats, and they don’t have to deal with any consequences.

I’m sure you’ve all seen the usual negative backlash comments, and there’s a theme to them — ignorance. Take for example the hot topic of feminism. There’s the prevalent idea that feminism is about man-hating, and there’s even a movement to abandon the term and use egalitarian instead. Topics that explore sexual assault bring victim blaming and justifying why it happened, which is just ridiculous.

When Caitlyn Jenner made the cover of Vanity Fair, which I’m sure was empowering to many people struggling with identity, what did the Internet do? They called her a mad scientist experiment, and found irrelevant stories to compare her with to support their claim that it wasn’t real news. Why does it have to be a competition?

Considering the crazy, rapid-fire newsfeeds, this polarization in society makes sense. Having access to Internet has accelerated the evolution of social norms at an unforeseen pace, maybe too much for some. So, they’re met with closed minds and backlash. I’d like to think we’ve all got that little something in us that feels bad when we learn of injustice and unfairness. I’m starting to think I’m the fool. It baffles me when I see such blatant disrespect for fellow humans on these comment threads.

That’s why we all need to fight the ignorance with patience and facts. A wise quote I once read went as follows, “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and then beat you with experience.”

The key here, friends, is don’t be the idiot.

Thanks for reading.

This online version has been updated since publishing in the 6/4/15 issue. 

Categories: Commentary