It is at the root of every impulse that has sent me forward to move throughout the world. A long while ago I wrote in my journal, “We all just want to feel like we matter to others and to the world.” But that was it, spliced into an entry that didn’t delve any deeper than simply stating that idea and moving on. It blew in with the breeze and then it was gone. I didn’t grasp it fully but knew that it meant something to me.
The concept is one that has repeatedly come onto my radar over the years. Lately I have been plagued with the feeling that there’s something I should be learning about how and why people bond with one another. Yesterday and this morning were two such instrumental examples, but placed so closely together it’s now hard for me to ignore that maybe I should stop and reflect on it.
Let me preface a bit before talking about yesterday’s encounter. There is a website out there in the blogosphere that I became aware of since starting to regularly read a few that of the more popular blogs of women who are similar in age/lifestyle to myself. The specific website, which I won’t mention by name (believe me, if you’re so inclined it’s searchable), is dedicated to encapsulating the identity and writings of many of these popular bloggers and turning them around into vilified caricatures that they scrutinize at any given opportunity. If at first, like myself, you have a moment of thinking, ‘Well, if you put your life out there publicly, then there’s going to be detractors,” absolutely. I thought that. But this website specifically isn’t about saying, ‘What she wrote isn’t the type of thing I agree with, so nah, no thanks. I’m going to move on’. These people hate read. Which, I found out, is to say that they follow the blogs of the women that frustrate or annoy them most, are sent the typical daily updates that bloggers send out, and then congregate on the forums on this website to tear the bloggers apart piece by piece. They comment on what the bloggers wear, their spouses, their reported income, family members, children, houses, education, parenting techniques, etc etc (and etc isn’t even covering it). They seem to have no qualms about talking about these bloggers as if they were their real-life ‘frenemies’, and they do so relentlessly.
That now said, yesterday I finally bit the bullet and wrote a private email to one of the bloggers I read most often and whom I look up. Not getting into the nitty gritty, I just asked how she continues to write in an open and honest manner when there are people out there living in the shadows who will take any chance they can get to rip her to shreds with their group of online comrades. It doesn’t seem fair because to react would incite more of a response out of people with that mentality than if you chose to stay silent, but then not reacting seems to be letting them win.
This morning the circumstances were similar. There was an article and partial interview with a man who runs a website that is glorified ‘revenge porn’ but with people’s full social media profiles and personal details displayed right along with explicit photos that have been sent in from someone in their life (who obviously has little moral grounding). So now if you had previously sent a significant – or non significant – other incriminating photos of yourself you don’t just have to worry that they might end up being seen by a friend of this person.. no, now the entire online world will be able to see them AND then be able to look you up on facebook or twitter since they have been shown a direct link to those things and welp, wherever you go from there, who cares. This is the mentality of the guy who runs the site. In his interview he said that if someone who has been harassed as a result of being put up on his site were to, say, injure themselves because of it, well that’s fine. He gets the hits and subsequent revenue to himself, but more so he gets the hoards of people who idolize him for his supposed superiority of owning this popular site. The comments section of each post he makes is mostly dedicated to either how disgusting/ugly the person in the particular photos is, or adoration towards the website runner himself for having the gall to put the person on blast.
My heart hurt after reading it, but something about his responses in the interview sounded familiar.
Finally, this morning, the thought that had eluded me for years came to fruition.
I do honestly believe that connection is what each person seeks more than anything else.
And in both circumstances that came to light the past few days, it became clear that often times connection is greatest fostered through mutual hate. Negativity begets connection.
I’ll let that sink in for a moment.
To form a bond with a stranger is not the easy peasy thing you remember from your days as a kid in school. There is an initial anxiety over whether or not that person holds something above you that will make you feel inferior. You want to get to know someone, you want to have an ease of being around someone else who you feel drawn to, but oh it can be crippling to put yourself out there.
That’s what both of these scenarios had in common. The opportunity – and, oh internet, you are ripe with opportunities – to connect with other people who you can see from a distance have put something that they feel out there. So it happens to be that what they’re putting out there is vile or detestable stuff. But hey, you have felt riled up about this certain subject before, too! And yeah, it was a fleeting feeling and you didn’t obsess over it day and night, but.. but it’s something, right? It’s a stepping stone to getting to know someone better.
So you gossip a bit. You call another person ugly for a feature that they can’t change about themselves. But they’ll never know! Ah, the beauty of anonymity. You continue to have these conversations almost daily. And it feels good to have a corner of your life where you can just bitch and laugh and be downright nasty for a while because you don’t do it very often in your ‘real life’.
Connecting based on a mutual distaste is easy. It’s so easy that it happens before you even realize what you’re saying, or how horrible it might sound to hear coming back at you. It is so far less threatening than putting yourself out there to possibly be ridiculed that you can almost tell yourself it’s okay to do every so often. Given the choice between saying hateful things about someone you barely know or having hateful things said about you to your face, well, it’s obvious which most people would prefer.
But in doing so, you lose out. You miss the chances to have someone see what is so good and unique about you. Your most closely guarded passions are the ones you should be sharing most often. There are few moments scarier than holding your arms open to someone and asking them to look right back at you, because there’s no guarantee that they’ll see you how you hope they would. But sometimes they do see you, and the reward for that is immeasurable.