Sticks and Stones

My first thought after hearing that Raymond Felton was arrested for pointing a gun at his wife was, “Well, I guess he isn’t getting the cupcakes in the divorce.” I even Tweeted that, briefly, before hastily deleting the Tweet in a flurry of horror.

I read this morning that Sarah Jessica Parker doesn’t Google herself because “It’s the random cruelty I really don’t understand.” People have always said horrible things about her appearance. It’s difficult, as regular non famous people, to think about having those things said by people you don’t know, broadcasting it all over the internet. To imagine more people you don’t know laughing at these things, and finding them entertaining.

What kind of people have we become? EVERYONE loves celebrity bashing. We love to dissect appearances, weight gain, weight loss, personal life choices. Raymond Felton was a target during his time in Portland because he was slow, unathletic, and unable to get anything done on the basketball court. His love of cupcakes was laughed at and thrown in his face by internet commentators and casual fans. As an athlete paid quite a bit of money to be athletic, perhaps the derision was justified. But the guy’s life is clearly off the tracks when he’s pulling guns on people. It stops being about loving a sports team and becomes personal in a very disturbing way.

Why do we do it? As a kid I remember being told that if someone makes fun of you it’s because they’re trying to feel better about themselves. This is probably the truest explanation. In such a looks oriented culture, maybe it’s a survival instinct to insult the looks of people who aren’t really real to us. Given the microscope that we all live under, maybe insulting someone else’s mistakes makes it easier for us to live with our own.

Several years back, in the throes of my celebrity gossip obsession, I came across a website solely dedicated to discussing celebrity weight gain or loss. It was horrifying. The posts, the comments-especially the comments-but it was hard to look away from. The blog author justified it by writing that it wasn’t any different than the discussions people would have amongst friends while flipping through an US Weekly.

And it isn’t. But there’s something about broadcasting it over the internet that makes it feel worse. Instead of impressing a few of our friends with our nastiness, we’re trying to impress several hundred or thousand of our followers. There’s a natural self censoring that happens in the presence of actual people that may restrain your bile. That doesn’t exist on the internet. We’re exposed to so much more of the insults and hate because of the internet that it becomes normal to broadcast those thoughts, like I did with my Raymond Felton cupcake tweet, without even thinking about it.

I don’t want to be the kind of person who gets their jollies from laughing at people I don’t know (or, people I do know, for that matter). We all do it. I find it really horrifying that I hate it so much and yet I participate as much as anyone.

If there was one thing I could instantly change about myself, this would be it.


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