I know what your thinking… that word. Why is she even bringing it up?
The worst word in the English language. It inspires anger and disgust. It illustrates hate. And it is used as a weapon, to denigrate and demoralize. It is forbidden. Not tolerated. It would never be a word we would use, because normally it would be the person who uttered its foulness who would be cast off by listeners, not their intended target. It is so offensive that it would negate any valid reason for using it. One just never went there. Yet, over time, it has become the go to for many on social media, and in fact, over the past months it has been showing up more and more. Along with myriad other unkind and demoralizing terms.
Some say it is because of the other horrible C-word… Covid-19. I would say we can only blame Covid for some of our depravity and tactlessness. Many of us are not using these terms, nor are we putting on public displays of anger and hate for anyone who does not agree with us. Many of us not even trying to have conversations with the angry and mean trolls who attack us for our own thoughts and opinions. I learned many years ago, it is fine for people to disagree with me, and I can go on with life and survive the trauma of being wrong in someone else’s eyes.
But being angry and mean on social media is a way of life for some. It’s like an uncontrollable urge. It is an illness. I scroll by, and say nothing, or I might opt to leave a group or block certain content to spare myself of the things I don’t want to see on my newsfeed. But others seem to lie in wait, jumping at every opportunity to tell others they are wrong, stupid, sheeple, snowflakes and all the other nasty words I choose not to use on my own social media. They don’t stop at name-calling and insults, they offer unfounded accusations and taunt you, harass you and post blatantly false or unqualified characterizations intended to undermine you, to an audience of other people who do not know you, often going to other platforms to make sure everyone knows what they think of you. They bring their friends to your post, so they can spread their anger and misapply it all over a complete stranger’s posts and comments, often presented in a non-sensical and maybe even irrational way. It is extreme behaviour over a really unimportant person or issue.
If anyone types Covid-19, you can be sure to feel the loathing of others, many times others you have never met, immediately. Everything you write or say will be taken out of context, applied to irrelevant issues and you will be beaten down without remorse.
This behaviour is so distorted and ridiculous. It gets far too personal. And crosses lines most of us would never cross. Who are we to force judgements on strangers who have their own lived experiences? It is intolerant to assess someone else’s beliefs and ideals as just being wrong. They are not wrong. They are different, and intolerance for different is much more than just about Covid.
I have been told I do not want to be informed when I decline YouTube videos and conspiracies. By friends and strangers alike. I don’t go on their pages or into their messages to tell them what to read or listen to, but I certainly have their views filling up my inbox. It is a struggle to know some of your supposed friends think you are stupid. It is hilarious that strangers think you should know they hate you. It is scary to see how far they say they would go to make sure you know.
In a large group I administer on Facebook, with 7 other people, we banned posts and conversations about Covid because of the arguments that erupted in the comments. I received messages from people angry their posts were declined. Accused me of being biased, of censoring them, of being an anti-vaxxer…. I and my whole family are vaccinated to the max, by the way. Many times these accusations were directed at me, while I had no idea what they were even going on about, since several other people were declining and deleting the Covid toxicity from our group. We were clear about why we were not permitting these posts, we reminded people of our group rules, yet I have been told I am a piece of shit, that I fear monger, that I am an idiot, and useless, that I am a c#$t… and many other unkind and unnecessary names. I read that it would be funny if I got Covid and died…. That is what makes me write now. Being called everything hateful over a social media page that simply does not allow or abide by the need to post inflammatory, unverified or irrelevant information. But, like all things social media these days, wild and misplaced anger and rage is thrown at anyone who may not think your anti-mandate truck convoy post belongs on every newsfeed, or that our group is not a place for vaccine debates. Or when a complete stranger after abusing me with hate and inaccurate assumptions about my personal beliefs in messages written over hours for an entire evening, sends me a friend request… No thank you.
Why is it that that seems to be the way now? You cannot type anything without someone raging or insulting you. You cannot decline or silently dismiss someone else’s inappropriateness without being accused of something. People have lost or discarded their skills in socially acceptable behaviour. Their ability to deal with rejection.
Why stoop to a level off being unlikeable. Unwelcome. Why strive to get kicked out of a group, just so you can accuse the group of kicking you out? Why jump on everything you do not like, and be as angry and terrible as you can be to anyone, specifically people you have never met in your life, who dare to have thoughts and ideas that don’t match your own? Why call them names, make up allegations about their beliefs, their politics, their loyalties, their personal character? It was this way before the pandemic, but it has grown increasingly intolerant and dreadfully abusive. It is bewildering and silencing. It is just mean and hateful.
Speaking from experience, I can tell you that another nasty C-word was way easier on my heart and mind. Cancer. Of all things, if you can imagine it… my cancer battle three years ago was easier than social media in these times of Covid-19. It is shocking to me, to realize this. But it is true. I was never called names for feeling, speaking or thinking strongly about the hiccups and hurdles I faced during my illness. When I wrote an open letter about what had happened to me, so many came forward with immense grief and care for me, and others who were in similar struggles shared their stories. Many voiced their own related concerns. I was bolstered by the shared experiences. I never threw up from chemo or radiation, but the stress of managing a social media page over the past two years, has indeed made me throw up. I was panic stricken in the first moments of the bad news about a tumor three years ago, but within hours I was able to align my condition with millions of others who survived. My situation was incredibly bad, and I was told I might not live through surgery, six days later, but in my head, I was able to say to myself, others have faced this, I can too. I don’t feel that way about Covid-19.
I cannot say this situation will get better. I am avoiding social media a lot right now. Limiting my exposure to minutes a day. Making my own posts about my kids and pets and fun things. It seems clear, we should be concerned with the mental health issues on full display all over social media. Mine has suffered at the hands of others… I think they will be pleased to know this. I have removed myself from groups, blocked crazy making content, and unfriended people who are unkind to anyone, including me. I quit certain platforms altogether, just so I was not tagged by trolls who wanted to call me names and run my reputation into the ground. I took a hiatus from moderating, so I could sleep at night. I do not lead the group right now. I am not sure when or if I will be ready to go back. But I am still being accused of bias in private messages. It really shocked me that much of the recent abuse came immediately on the heals of and directly resulting from our province’s leadership participating in the practice of bashing people and situations they do not know. While they never mentioned me or the group, the listeners heard it, assumed it was us, and responded in the most heinous and disastrous ways possible.
Cancer changed me. It made me see things differently, and gave me the ability to really trust strangers who simply cared, to see kindness, and charity in some, and community and compassion in others I never knew. Covid-19 has changed me again. It has made it hard to find kindness, nearly impossible to see compassion and has created an inability to trust strangers. It has given permission to the hateful and angry to be hateful and angry.
As far as social media is concerned… I will recover from the abuse and I may start to enjoy parts of connecting with others on social media again someday, but I won’t forget the way people treated me and others during this difficult period in all of our lives, where we all are impacted. I know that I will not be judged as being mean, hateful and intolerant by the people who actually know me nor those who believe in and advocate for the same ‘better’ that I do. I know I won’t be remembered as a person says nasty things, or calls people names. I also know that social media has made me stop using the one hate inducing C-word, Covid, that inspires the other hateful C-word that was never okay.
If you don’t agree with someone’s beliefs, just go advocate for your own. Don’t attack people for not thinking what you prefer they think. When you don’t like certain things, avoid engaging in them. While you don’t agree on one thing someone thinks… a speck of dust in the whole person… you may find you agree with that same person on many other issues. So don’t burn bridges and close off paths for any common ground, and illuminate yourself as a cruel and nasty person willing to use the worst word in the English language. Do think about how you would feel being on the receiving end.