Not With The Band: Why So Much Hatred On The Web?
Is the internet making us less empathic, more aggressive? Is the internet turning everyone into a dick? It looks like it, based on the reading of the comments after Youtube videos or in Facebook threads. I don’t know if you are like me, but I always read the comments, when I write an article about a new or an established band, when there’s a new song or a new album out, when someone is in trouble (yes especially in this case) when there is a new story, I always read the comments. And it’s not glorious…
I bet bands have to ignore them, otherwise they would not do anything again. Most of the time it comes from people who have probably never created anything valuable, but who dare to be an authority… more and more people entitled themselves to have an opinion about art or anything else as a matter of fact, they just become authorities because they have a keyboard and are hiding themselves behind a screen… is it an internet phenomenon? It seems like it, and it deeply affects the evolution of our species.
It’s barely a new idea, you can find hundreds of articles on the subject, but few people are truly aware of this, except artists and rock stars, they are painfully aware of it… This is what Lady Gaga declared in a recent interview with Billboard: ‘There is something in the way we are now, with our cell phones and people not looking at each other and not being in the moment with each other, that kids feel isolated. They read all of this extremely hateful language on the Internet. The Internet is a toilet. It is. It used to be a fantastic resource — but you have to sort through shit to find the good stuff.’
And I agree with her, I have received hateful comments and I am nobody, so Lady Gaga? She must get tons of it on a daily basis. Many celebrities have actually quit all social media because they could not stand to read what people were saying about them. And may be it is the reason why some websites have totally closed their comment section, look at Pitchfork!
‘We found the biggest drop in empathy after the year 2000,’ said Sara Konrath, a researcher at the U-M Institute for Social Research. ‘College kids today are about 40 percent lower in empathy than their counterparts of 20 or 30 years ago, as measured by standard tests of this personality trait.’
40 % lower is not anodyne, why is this the case? Our ability for empathy comes mostly from recognizing facial cues. We are wired to recognize facial emotions, joy, anger, pain, happiness, sadness, and empathy may be accounted for mimicking reactions. However, there is no such thing when we are behind a computer… you probably know about the famous Maya Angelou’s quote: ‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’ I guess it could apply here too, to feel someone you need to meet, see, and experience the presence of the person, there is this unique human connection that doesn’t exist on the internet and it’s more difficult to like a person just by reading a comment made by an anonymous face… Can you have empathy on the internet? I guess it’s possible but much more complicated, and I am not talking about these cat and dog pictures. And what happens when empathy is gone? Everything goes, you can launch the worst insults at someone’s face, something you would never do if you would meet the person. Would you say to Madonna she is an ‘old whore’ if she was in front of you? Would you say to Kanye West ‘He should be burned alive after being doused in gasoline and then shot?’ Would you say to Justin Bieber he is a ‘Fuckin’ white asshole. A Canadian white trash’? Sure no, and nevertheless these are real comments found on Facebook and it took me a minute to find them, so I am sure there is much worst than this… There are entire websites or Facebook pages dedicated to hatred, like this one for Madonna, or this one for Lady Gaga, this one for Justin Bieber,… even perfect Beyonce gets some real hatred here and Adele is certainly not spared here… Why dedicating so much effort toward someone you hate so much?
There are actually many factors coming from the internet that desensitize us, beside the lack of human and real communication, the ubiquity of shocking images and events being just another one.
‘Many people see the current group of college students? Sometimes called ‘Generation Me’? As one of the most self-centered, narcissistic, competitive, confident and individualistic in recent history,’ also said Konrath. These are certainly adjectives I would use to describe many people I encounter… so is the internet making us crueler and less empathic? Yes, this is what studies tell us, and the more we are engaged with technology, the worst it will be. Our brain is changing, our society and species is evolving, we may find solutions but nobody can predict the future of this new experiment.