Perhaps it’s just me, but it sure does feel like people have become unusually mean-spirited these days. Yeah, I know. Life is rough so you gotta be tough, as Johnny Cash used to say.
I don’t expect everyone to join hands and sing kumbaya, at least not when we’re all reeling from inflation and the nightly “news” seems designed specifically to make us hate and fear our neighbor.
Most of the ugliness seems to happen online, where people feel freed by anonymity and don’t seem to feel at all cowardly about attacking others while hiding behind fake accounts.
I spend as little time as possible on Facebook -- and my mental health has improved greatly because of this.
Founder Mark Zuckerberg became a billionaire overlord of a cesspool where he shirks his responsibility for the content posted on the platform, including hate speech, incitement of violence, gossip and character assassination, fake news, disturbing incidents live-streamed and intellectual property infringed upon.
This past week, a friend of mine became distraught after discovering a pack of trolls in a social media group who dedicated a ridiculous amount of time and energy to taking her down several notches.
As consolation, I shared a quote from former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt that has gotten me through tough times: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
Easier said than done, most of the time, but very true. Even Mother Theresa had haters attacking her. You could invent the cure for cancer tomorrow and some jerk would still step up to a virtual podium to announce that your choice of shoes is just tacky.
Particularly troubling in this instance were the attacks of “incel” trolls. The term is a variation of the phrase involuntarily celibate, which might be funny if these dudes weren’t so angry and pitiful.
I don’t like to generalize about any group because there are always exceptions, but these young men are typically very hostile because they consider themselves unable to attract women in romantic scenarios.
Based on what little I’ve experienced their rage fits, these guys seem to find comfort in their mutual loneliness and place the blame for their state on females rather than acknowledging anything they might be doing wrong. This gives them license to act sexist.
Women, in contrast, are socialized from childhood to blame themselves if they feel undesirable, to believe that they will be unacceptable unless they spend time and money and mental effort being pretty and amenable and appealing to men.
It is a terrible thing to feel unwanted —invisible, inadequate, ineligible for the simple joys of companionship that their fathers did not seem to have as much difficulty acquiring.
Of course, those might have been the days when a wife couldn’t buy a car without the permission of her daddy or husband and endured loveless marriages to spare herself the scandal of a divorce.
Some of these men feel nostalgic for those times, mostly because they aren’t at all suited for an era when women are increasingly empowered by dating apps that let them pick and choose which men they want to engage in conversation with -- often based on their physical attractiveness and instant demonstrations that a guy is charming, funny and/or clever.
Pair that with a bunch of testosterone driving frustrated young men to believe it is their birthright to, instead, have the odds falling in their favor, and you have a recipe for ugliness.
No one can blame young women for raising their standards. We’d all likely be better off if we learned to be comfortable in solitude and focus on bettering ourselves before seeking happiness in another person who can simply walk away once someone more attractive catches their eye.
I wouldn’t want to be with someone who only stays because society forces her to financially exploit someone.
It’s unfair to blame men entirely for the nastiness when some of the most vicious online attacks on women are from fellow females.
Some people have no reason to attack us other than they just enjoy provoking reactions from other people. To borrow a phrase from Alfred Pennywise, “Some men just want to watch the world burn…”
Take it as a compliment that you aren’t too boring to gossip about.
Sometimes the people determined to hurt our feelings are the people who are supposed to offer unconditional love: our families.
Ebenezer Scrooge had to be terrified by ghosts to stop acting like a greedy jerk. It may require a near-death experience for some folks to ever act right. Or perhaps they’ll simply stop acting so immature and cease their quest for victimhood.
Be patient with them and don’t let their ugliness take root in your own heart.
The best advice I can offer is to grow a thicker skin, brush off idiotic nonsense and not give unpleasant people free occupancy in your head. To dwell on unkind words is to give someone power over us.
— Steven Stiefel is the publisher of the Times-Journal. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.