I read the comments.
Oh, God. I read the comments.
It doesn’t require any further context, does it? It doesn’t matter the subject, doesn’t matter the platform. It’s a truth universally acknowledged, that an opinion shared on the internet must be in want of an imbecilic response.
I’ve been avoiding internet comment sections for as long as I’ve been able to muster (which is not to say I don’t scroll down in a masochistic act of self-sabotage on the regular – I just try my best to stop myself when I can).
And then, one quiet evening, I thought fuck it.
No more pussyfooting around, peeking through my fingers, half-absorbing the rage-machine and quickly moving along. I decided, then and there, I would spend an evening reading them. Like, really reading them. I would pour myself a hefty glass of merlot and read as many comment sections as I could.
I present to you, the highlights.
We begin with a scroll through Facebook. The first article I come across informs me old-fashioned baby names are making a comeback in 2019. I click. It’s an innocuous lifestyle piece on the resurgence of Esthers and Theodores.
So far, so very inoffensive.
I open the comments.
David has made a suggestion: How about some old-fashioned values make a comeback in 2019?
This confuses me. I wonder if he’s referring a long-ago time when men controlled women’s bodies and livelihoods. If he is, he’ll be pleased to know that these old-fashioned values are indeed making rapid a comeback!
Perhaps I should also remind him that rape is currently not reason enough to secure an abortion in this country. He’ll probably work himself into a fizz.
I move along.
Another article informs me Israel Folau has been sacked by Rugby Australia. This procures a BUNCH of chatter. Mr Smith ventures, to resounding applause in the form of hearts and thumbs, that he can’t believe Folau’s been sacked over an Instagram post.
This too confuses me.
It was my understanding that Folau’s contract was terminated after Raelene Castle received hundreds of messages from parents detailing how harmful his posts were. And that, in an environment where queer youth are three times more likely to be bullied than their non-queer peers, and one in five queer youth have attempted suicide, Rugby Australia was taking a principled stance against the type of hateful rhetoric that destroys lives.
Instagram was just the platform, no?
I keep scrolling.
Another article details the story of the Scots College headmaster accused of making sexist remarks about female students.
Judy jumps in with some practical advice: If you don’t like the school, the principal or any of the school rules, don’t enrol there. Find another school that you do like, and where you will abide by the rules. It’s that easy.
I think about my high school years, moving from college to college the minute I faced a challenge. Obviously, I never tried to fix a problem by bringing it into the light. I just moved right along.
I approach my career the same way, of course – whenever I encounter a sexist boss, or colleague, or out-dated rule, I move along. I find a new job where I will be able to abide by the rules. It’s that simple ladies. When you encounter sexism – move away from the sexism!
I keep scrolling.
A rainbow coloured image catches my eye – it’s a public service announcement, in response to the Folau debacle. The image lists numbers and websites where members of the LGBTQI+ community can seek help. Included are the numbers for Depression.org.nz and Lifeline, among several other organisations who assist people of all stripes.
Beneath the image sits the laughing reaction.
I hesitate. This is the type of comment section I try to avoid.
I think back my teenage years. For real this time.
I remember the laughter.
Being laughed at for being different is soul-destroying as a teenager. It’s the kind of thing that contributes to our atrocious rates of youth suicide.
And today’s teenagers don’t even have to open the comments. The laughter is right there. In the form of an emoji. Sitting beneath the news.
I open the comments anyway.
What about all us white people affected by your anti-white stories lately. Who do we ring? Asks Ryan.
How about details for us non-rainbow members? Or are you discriminating against us? Asks Jack.
Snowflakes says Anonymous Internet Warrior One.
SNOWFLAKES says Anonymous Internet Warrior Two.
Now I laugh.
I’m lucky. I made it through my teenage years. I’ve come out the other side of depression, time and time again. But I worry for today’s high schoolers. They’re surrounded by nasty, ill-informed, and unsparing opinions. Many will read them obsessively, for hours, before they sleep.
Something is broken here. And something needs to change. Taking on the social media giants is a good first step.
Next, we’ve got to change how we treat each other.
I close my laptop.
I drain my merlot.Support Villainesse