Trolls, tropes and antisocial media

Author’s advisory: The following post uses coarse language and makes references to drugs, sex and mature situations, and to potentially contentious topics some readers may find uncomfortable.

More and more recently, I’ve seen an increase in vitriol, drama, cyberbullying and, frankly, abhorrent behaviour on social media. People doomscrolling and, instead of taking the high ground and scrolling past, feeling compelled to respond to the “hot takes”, the Karens and myriad other “triggers”. The comments and piling on are enough to make anyone’s head spin.

I tend not to attend every argument to which I’m invited and, fortunately, the drama and shitstorms have not really found me, but I have certainly been witness to them. Have we become too sensitive? Too “woke”? Too easily offended? Or is the reverse true? Are we too oblivious? Not sensitive enough?

Herein, I think, lies the root of it all. Social media platforms provide, for good or ill, a platform from which we are free to opine about … anything. In a mere 280 characters, of course.

Some may post too many selfies. Others very few or none at all.

Some may post nothing but memes. Humour that’s perhaps crude, uncouth or otherwise not quite to our liking.

Someone may say something about their lineage, express dislike of something, or admit to liking this band but abhorring that one.

Someone else may reveal they are struggling with a mental or chronic illness.

Some may be very secretive. Others may overshare. And, of those who share a lot, do they share things I find questionable?

Yes. But let me qualify that. Questionable according to my standards.

And that’s really the point.

We all have innate biases. Shaped by our life experiences—positive or adverse—our backgrounds, our upbringing, our culture.

I’m bilingual and my lineage is largely French. From France.

Do I withhold that out of fear that someone may meet me with “French”?

No. I’m proud of, and open about, who I am.

“Do you know Macron’s stance on Muslims? I suppose you’re anti-Muslim too, then? Fuck off with your Islamophobia. Fuck all the way off.”

“Right! And what about the language laws in Québec? I suppose you’re okay with that, too? You’re in Alberta, bitch. Speak English.”

Do I share that many in my family are Roman Catholic and that my great-great-uncle was a priest with the Order of Mary Immaculate?

“Oh, so you’re another ‘settler’ trying to reconcile with your white guilt. How do you feel knowing your relative was a genocidaire and probably a pedophile?”

Actually, I’m an atheist.

“What?! You know you’re going to Hell right?”

Um, if I reject the premise of a God and of a Heaven, does it not follow that I also reject its antithesis; that is, Satan and Hell?

“I like your outfit, but your eyes look kinda weird.”

Um, thanks. I think? The comment on a birth defect beyond my control was unnecessary, though.

“Too many selfies. Someone insecure crying for validation, no doubt.”

Actually, the woman you’re fat shaming looks amazing. She’s committed to adopting healthier habits and has lost over 90 pounds since she started. She’s posting because she’s proud of how far she’s come and feels so much more confident in her skin.

Do I see crude memes? Sure.

Do some of the folks I follow openly share they’re into edibles and smoke weed? Sure.

Do some have little pineapples beside their names? Sure.

They smoke weed!”

Yes. And? As long as they don’t blow smoke in my face, I’m not going blow smoke up their ass. In fact, I’m not going to shame the 420-friendly. Oh, and … spoiler alert: I’m also in favour of safe consumption sites.

They‘re swingers! OMG!”

Again. So? Unless they’re coming over to my house, bringing the rubber sheets and re-enacting all the weird shit they observed and participated in at Aurora Social Club, what the fuck do I care? It’s their thing, and who am I—or anyone else—to kink shame what happens between two (or more) consenting adults?

She had an abortion. She must be into killing babies.”

Um, do you happen to know the medical risks she might have been facing? Do you know anything about how she grappled with that decision or the reasons she made it? Why are you a mindreader when I know of no others on this entire, overcrowded planet?

Here’s the thing.

None of us can really know where someone is. Can anyone know all another’s been through—may still be going through—and draw conclusions about their entire identity based on a mere 280 characters? Is that really enough to glean full insight and arrive at the conclusion that someone is morally bereft, mentally ill, insecure or … And you’re also a diagnostician, epidemiologist, nutritionist and expert in every discipline now as well?

None of us knows everything about everyone. Some know to hold certain cards close to their chest because they know it may risk offending, shocking or hurting others.

It’s time to consider that our responses—our rush to judgment, our conflations, our eagerness to yuck someone else’s yum—may also be offensive, shocking or hurtful.

“Thanks for the virtue signalling post, Karen!”

If that’s how you take this, fine. That’s entirely your prerogative. I don’t profess to be the arbiter of those things with which you should or should not agree. In fact, I fully expect I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. Nor is everyone mine. But I try to meet people where they are, cognizant of the fact that I’m no more perfect, no more “right” and no more valid than anyone else.

Why does drama, for the most part, pass me by? Because one need not attend every argument or pity party to which he or she is invited.

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