We are broken. Nothing about the way today, May 13 2013, went, was alright.
It’s very hard to write anything meaningful about it, but I will do anyway, if only to attempt and tip the scales ever so slightly in favor of a reasonable point of view.
Some are trying to make it about a journalist who outed someone publicly against her will. But this is not what today is about. Today is about someone suffering, and the reaction of the internet in general. Today is about hate piled upon hate, and how little the general public understands depression, isolation, marginalization, self-harm, alienation.
This is not about judging anyone - I retained little of my christian upbringing, but whatever you’re into, I think this still applies:
Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?
Luke 6:41, The Bible, New International Version
Which basically amounts to: before judging others, take a good, thorough look at yourself, and see if you couldn’t have done something better.
What I want to cover in this post, however confusingly is the matter of self-harm, manipulation, and alienation.
It is no secret that depression is widely misunderstood. Perhaps one of the best ways to get up to speed online is to read part one and part two of Hyperbole and a half’s comic about it. It’s a strange beast.
There’s no easy diagnostic. There’s no easy solution. Drugs have up and downsides. Nobody works the same, you can’t just apply field knowledge. It’s one of the situation of life that you can only deal with using a good measure of empathy, and also self-defense.
Being in a relationship with someone who is going through depression, or depressive thoughts, or anything similar, is rough. It’s an emotional rollercoaster, if you do care about the person in front of you, you can’t just coldly evaluate the situation. It takes you and spins you around and if you’re not careful, you’ll be dragged down along with it, not only unable to help anyone, but also helpless yourself.
It’s also quite the taboo. It’s ugly and it’s painful and it’s gutwrenching and because of that, it’s easy to relegate the subject to the sidelines and pretend it just doesn’t exist, because it makes your life simpler. I’ve seen many tweets of people simply refusing to write about today, because it’s too hard, because it’s too dangerous, because… so many reasons. It’s just simpler to pretend nothing happened.
But that’s a lie, isn’t it?
On to lies. In the face of a world that rejects them because they are different, where they can’t find any peer to relate to, where everything feels wrong, themselves, the people around, how the world works, when there doesn’t seem to be any other option, some people think about ending their life. I wrote about suicide about a year ago, so it isn’t going to be the focus of this particular article.
Before, or in stead of putting an end to their story, some people choose a different course of action: manipulation. Again, this is a last resort option, a kind of “double or quits”. Maybe because the parental structure they’ve been exposed to seems to have been built entirely on making other people believe things that aren’t entirely truthful, but that serve you.
Or maybe because by observing the world out there, politics, business, it becomes painfully obvious that sincerity is not the number one trait required to become successful. So at some point, wherever it came from, the idea that lying is the only way to get attention, to get friends, to get by, permeates one’s brains.
And of course, it’s all downhill from here. I don’t blame people who chose that path, and I don’t blame people who have come to resent them, and anyone who choses to judge them better examine themselves very, very carefully.
It is all very sad, and very dark, and not at all clear-cut. Being in contact with someone who chose the way of manipulation is, again, dangerous. However noble your intentions are, you’re playing with a loser’s hand - the rules are pit against you.
Let me state that very clearly: there is no protocol for rescuing someone from their own web of lies. There’s no instruction manual. There’s no bootcamp for white knights (regardless of gender). You just go with the flow, try to stay afloat, and use as much creativity as you can to do something, anything that will help.
If you haven’t been involved in such a situation, then you lack the basic understanding required to even approach such a debate. Coming from nowhere, reading a few tweets and starting to fire your hate lasers randomly at the few people who were at the heart of the matter, is unacceptable. You do not heal wounds with more hate.
Trying to help someone in such a situation is very demanding. It drains you, mentally and physically. You don’t come out the same as you went in. It marks you, irreversibly. Emitting judgement about people who gave time, energy, and a little bit of heart and soul to go out of their way and help someone is irresponsible. It only discourages more people to get involved in taking care of those who need more support than others.
When someone threatens to commit suicide, they’re taking themslves hostage. Decisions are taken under pressure, you have to obey your instincts. No amount of debriefing can make the past right again.
It’s your basic right not to like someone or to disagree with what he/she did, but by throwing around “cisscum”, calling for people to be fired, and focusing the debate on someone’s mistakes instead of hurt and isolation and how the internet dealt with it, you’re not helping - in fact, you’re doing the exact opposite.
We are broken. The internet hate machine went in full swing today, towards one side, then the other, then all the sides got confused and it all ended up being one big ball of hatred rolling and annihilating any senseful thought in its passage.
I’m growing increasingly scared of the internet. It made communication faster and easier, and has enabled great collaborations, but how do we deal with all the misdirected hate? Obviously censoring or trying to shun anonymity isn’t the answer - I’m out of possible solutions.
Everything was wrong about today. And we’re all part of the problem.
Now stop smearing hate speech all over social networks and go hug your loved ones. Focus on the positive. Make tributes. Overflow the bad with the good. There is much work to do.