A daily read of any website, including this one, reveals an ugly side of America. No matter what the topic, be it politics, celebrity gossip, healthy living or food, a quick review of the comments posted by readers is a sad commentary on who some of us have become, and how the Internet has made it so much easier to say mean, harsh and inappropriate things without consequence.
What is up with us?
It should give us pause that we are capable of such ugliness and even more pause that we will make ugly comments in an anonymous setting about people we do not know. It seems that with our location and true identity concealed behind an avatar or screen name, we take full license to unleash venom on the president, Congress, chefs, J.Lo, the Kardashians and not to mention the authors, reporters and bloggers themselves who are targeted by this vitriol for writing a story or stating their opinion.
Human nature is interesting. On one hand, we loudly condemn people like Sarah Palin for placing cross hairs on districts where the representative is "targeted" to be defeated in an election. (I am not defending her by any means -- Ms. Palin personally offends me politically, intellectually and as a woman.) We condemn and ridicule Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly and Ann Coulter for the hatred that spews from their biased views. On the other hand, a commenter feels completely justified in calling Jennifer Lopez a "momma ho" because she is getting divorced and made a silly comment about loving herself to a magazine. It's fine to snipe about how short Tom Cruise is and don't forget, a Scientologist, which somehow makes him stupid, crazy, untalented and unworthy of his fame and a bad father.
What does this say about the readers who post these awful comments about people they do not know? None of us can understand Jennifer Lopez's married life (unless we know her). None of us can know what goes on behind the closed doors in Washington that result in some of the decisions we must live with (God help us).
Are we so base a species that, given circumstances that will prevent us from "getting caught," we will post such awful sentiments, feeling free to let loose all of our prejudices, jealousies, frustrations and disappointments on those of us who happen to be famous in one way or another? Or lead what we perceive as a better life?
Are our lives so small that this is who we become in our darkened dens, computer screens glowing, as we read about people we perceive to be more glamorous, with more privilege or power, more opportunity, that we must make ourselves feel better about ourselves by posting insipid, mean and small-minded comments on a website?
In the extreme, this kind of baseness has resulted in cyber bullying and child and teen suicide. But the thinking begins with these mean-spirited postings. The public posting of vitriolic hatred and pettiness plants the seeds that make it okay to cyber bully.
Maybe I am naïve, but I think we live in a time when there is no place for this kind of behavior. We have big problems to contend with, and we need high-minded, intelligent ideas to solve them. We live in a time when we are all struggling -- to make ends meet, find gainful employment and keep our sanity in the climate of political insanity in which we live. Rather than waste time on whether or not Tom Cruise is crazy or our president a Christian, would we not be better served as humans if we took the higher road and used our creative energies to lift each other up rather than tear each other apart? The Internet is a useful and meaningful tool and would be better served for spreading information and postings on sites to highlight the best in humanity, not bringing each other down in anonymity.
I love that here at The Huffington Post, they are celebrating their 1 millionth comment. Wouldn't it be cool if the next million did not include any venom?
Okay, bring it on -- let the comments begin.