Internet has turned us into rage junkies

Internet has turned us into rage junkies

It’s not enough to roll our eyes at a thing we don’t like. We have to find the thing and taunt it, tease it, torture it, like a bunch of bullies in a high school cafeteria

Loving your curvy wife doesn’t make you a hero. But it shouldn’t make you an outcast either.

Robbie Tripp, who calls himself “TEDx speaker husband to a curvy goddess,” posted an online ode to his gorgeous wife, Sarah, and quickly won our collective contempt.

“I love this woman and her curvy body,” he posted. “As a teenager, I was often teased by my friends for my attraction to girls on the thicker side, ones who were shorter and curvier, girls that the average (basic) bro might refer to as ‘chubby’ or even ‘fat.’ Then, as I became a man and started to educate myself on issues such as feminism and how the media marginalises women by portraying a very narrow and very specific standard of beauty (thin, tall, lean) I realised how many men have bought into that lie.”

He goes on, but you get the point.

The reaction was swift and not surprising. A few outlets loved it and called it required reading. Others hated it. Refinery 29 said it “reeks of the worst type of ‘male feminism.” Twitter hopped in to do what Twitter does best: turn a thing into A Thing.

“Good Morning America” ran a segment that boiled down to: Are we being too mean or the right amount of mean to this couple?

On the one hand, fine. The post was cringe-y. (“For me, there is nothing sexier than this woman right here: thick thighs, big booty, cute little side roll, etc.”)

On the other hand, really? We’re spending our days dragging a guy for his public display of affection?

I wish I could find our outrage metre and hit reset. We’re rage junkies. It’s not enough to roll our eyes at a thing we don’t like. We have to find the thing and taunt it, tease it, torture it, like a bunch of bullies in a high school cafeteria.

We’re like Oprah, but with scorn. “You get my scorn! You get my scorn! You get my scorn!”

No infraction is small enough or utterly-inconsequential-to-our-lives enough to escape the rage.

It’s not just self-congratulatory husbands we disparage. “Bachelorette” Rachel Lindsay watched a previously adoring Bachelor Nation turn on her on Monday night when she chose a guy it didn’t like. Singer Ciara was roundly slammed for posting a photo of herself sliding down the Mutianyu Great Wall of China toboggan slide with her infant daughter. (“Has your attention-seeking narcissism as a couple affected your parenting decisions too?” one person tweeted at her. “This is ridiculous.”)

I know, I know, don’t live so publicly if you don’t want the public weighing in. But are those really the only two options: Shut up, or shut up and take it?

I can’t believe we aren’t better at this. I can’t believe we aren’t capable of glimpsing other people’s lives - love lives, social lives, parenting lives - and celebrating the stuff we like and shrugging off the stuff we don’t. I can’t believe how quickly we access our scorn.

I can believe it, actually. I just don’t want to.

The Atlantic published a sobering article this week about the damaging effects of too much screen time. It’s headlined, “Have smartphones destroyed a generation?”

Yes, I want to answer. All of them.

We wring our hands over teens who’d rather stare at their phones than do just about anything. “Rates of teen depression and suicide have skyrocketed since 2011,” the Atlantic piece states. “It’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades. Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones.”

But what about the rest of us? Surely iGen doesn’t have a monopoly on deterioration.

Besides, phones are just a vehicle. Twitter is just a medium. The petty mean streak is all us.

It’s worth examining, I think, where we direct our outrage. It may be easier than ever to fling scorn far and wide, but that doesn’t mean we should.

Heidi Stevens is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.

 

 

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