What is wrong with people?

August 10, 2011

Today I received the following statement in an email:

“you’re one of the worst looking people i’ve ever seen. ever, dude.”

This was presumably in connection with an Engadget Show video that I was in, which was published today as a standalone post. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a trained actor. I also didn’t have the luxury of seeing a makeup artist prior to filming. I write about gadgets. I strive to be a good husband. I play with my dog. That’s about it. I do not act. But I’m fairly certain the video published today isn’t the worst piece of rubbish ever produced, and even if the above statement is true, did it really need to be said?

I’ve been growing increasingly frustrated with the internet society, and the seemingly endless variety of ways to lambast fellow humans for no good reason. A week or so ago, Dana Wollman’s “Growing up Geek” piece went live – we had to outright ban over a dozen commentors after they made unfathomably hurtful remarks. A few months ago, a different human made actual death threats against another one of my colleagues, Myriam Joire. She’s one of the most kindhearted individuals I have ever met in my life.

And it’s not just Engadget. Any site with free and open comments knows exactly what I’m talking about. Removing the anonymity doesn’t help. People willfully and willingly connect their comment profiles to their Facebook accounts and continue to spit fire.

But here’s the thing. Whether you like it or not, we’re all on the same planet together. We all breathe the same air, and we all have get through life living side by side. There’s no reasonable means of escaping it. What’s most troubling here isn’t that someone said something less than glowing about the way my face is constructed, or that someone made a sexist remark against one of my colleagues. It’s that people would spend even a millisecond of their life – of which another moment is not promised – uttering things that serve no purpose but to insult and put someone down.

To better understand just how awful things have to be to get me to say anything about it, you should know that it takes a lot to offend me. A whole lot. I love political incorrectness, and by and large, I find a way to laugh when an unintentional stereotype slips into conversation. But since when has it been okay to take time out of one’s day to openly bash someone with no intention whatsoever of providing constructive criticism? How is this not tremendously embarrassing to the insulter? How is this not shameful to the masses?

I say all this to make a plea: be kind to other humans. It’s hard enough for many just to pull oneself together and push through another day. The last thing they need is senseless hate further marring their perception of humanity. And if you ever catch me violating my own plea, please call me out on it – nicely, if possible.