…make sure you’re perfect.”
I get lost in YouTube and Facebook comments all the time. I don’t know how it happens, but I find myself reading through trails of comments under political posts written by people I’ll likely never meet over issues I don’t even care about. But I read them anyway, sometimes for hours. I think I do it for the same reason I watch Toddlers and Tiaras on occasion: it’s to assure myself that I can be a better person than other people; there’s still hope for me. I refuse to become the spray tanned mother screaming at her daughter for only winning mini-supreme instead of grand supreme. Likewise, I can be a better person than the troll who states an unpopular opinion for the sake of starting fires, or the person who takes the bait and ends up looking just as bad as the troll.
I fell into one of these traps last week as I was mindlessly scrolling through Facebook. It was the picture of a normal woman in a swimsuit that caught my eye. Everyone gets something different out of those Facebook stories. I saw a story about the effects of domestic violence; I know she was talking more about body image, but secondary themes seem to stick out at me.
Naturally, I had to see what the comments were saying. Most of them were overwhelmingly positive, praising the woman for seeing the beauty in herself and others despite being over the average weight. The first negative comment I saw was from some kid calling the woman out for “justifying obesity,” and of course, underneath his comment was a string of keyboard warriors who had fallen victim to this troll. The first few corrections were harmless. And then everything went to hell in a handbasket.
These noble bystanders found out every single thing about this kid that they possibly could and threw it against him. They criticized his age (I believe they said he was 12). They called the girl he embraced in his profile picture a bunch of nasty words. They questioned his parents’ ability to raise him. They called him dozens of things far more vulgar than “obese.” Finally, one girl who had seemed to be the voice of reason said, “Before you judge, make sure you’re perfect.”
For some reason, that’s bothered me for days now. I wrote it down and told myself it would be the subject of my next blog post. I’ve had days to think about it, and it still hasn’t left my mind. Finally, I decided the best way to confront this problem was to make a list. (I read somewhere that lists are good for blogs, so here I go jumping onto the bandwagon.)
- Absolutely no one is perfect, so by this logic, no one has a right to judge. But we do anyway. Why? Judgment is necessary in many, many forms. We have judges and juries and courts for a reason: to judge others’ and deem them guilty or innocent. Are these people? Not by any means. Sometimes guilty people walk free or innocent people go to prison. We’re human beings that struggle with the same human tendencies.
- People who judge people for judging are also judging. I think there’s a way to judge correctly and incorrectly. Judging with the intention of correcting is a positive means of helping someone become a better human being. Judging to make oneself feel more superior or “better” doesn’t help humanity. It only boosts your ego. (There’s a cruel irony in this and my watching Toddlers and Tiaras…)
- If we showed each other enough respect in every aspect of our lives, then even if our opinions clash, maybe we could start fixing these “troll” problems. Trolls will probably exist as long as the internet exists, so this last point feels like wishful thinking, but in one of my classes today, we read an article about how violence is not a single, isolated event. There’s always a precursor that acts as a catalyst. This sort of intense negativity and verbal violence on either side has some sort of precursor in the life of the troll and more verbal violence will not fix it; it will only spread it.
Now, I don’t want to seem as if I’m defending a twelve year old boy who thinks that “not skinny” is automatically obese. I’m not. What he said and how he acted was extremely bratty, but the way the keyboard warriors handled the situation was equally as bratty if not worse. Never feed the trolls. It always makes them stronger. And while we should always strive for perfection, if we need to be perfect ourselves to see others’ faults–we’re doomed.
My advice readers? Recognize your own flaws first. Constantly work with them. Keep them at the forefront of your mind, especially if you’re judging the flaws of someone else, intending to help them grow.