I want to talk about a really common thing we do, mostly to famous people, but to or about basically anyone. It goes like this:
“Look at this awful tweet this person posted! They’re saying terrible things. This person must be an awful human being! If I were in such a position I would never say that kind of thing.”
We usually do this when we see someone say something that angers us, or that we find offensive. What it feels like we’re doing is calling someone out for a blatantly negative course of action. What we’re more realistically doing is stringing them up in town square next to a pile of rocks and inviting passers by, go on. Grab one and throw.
Whether the culprit’s behaviour was misinterpreted, a lapse in judgment, or very common of their personality is a totally moot point. That person has now become a negative symbol for something, and people in general respond as a mob action, speaking out against that terrible thing. A negative reputation grows, and lies get spread.
The real truth is that all people are so complicated. There’s always so much going on with any given person – boiling them down to this simple form is never correct. It’s one thing to condemn a mistake or correct a behaviour, but when this practice is applied it’s damn well near vilifying these people every time.
This doesn’t ever make sense to me. I believe that real evil is very hard to come by. Evil is very rare, ignorance is epidemic.
I think everyone has been on the giving and the receiving end of this one time or another – it feels like very standard social behaviour to draw quick judgments on people, whether it’s the first impression of a new colleague or friend or whether it’s someone famous you only saw speak for 25 seconds or 140 characters. I just think that’s something to be very conscious of – trusting your gut is one thing but determining a person’s worth and value to you through a few brief written sentences just doesn’t make sense.
I’m not saying don’t speak up when someone says something that hurts you or others – by all means, speak up. But first, have a look and see if 50 other people haven’t already done the same thing. You’re clever enough to parse that and know whether you’re being fairly critical of someone’s conduct and letting them know they’re hurting someone, or whether you’re joining a mob to publicly bash someone.
When you encounter the behaviour, don’t condemn – everyone does it. Just discuss, and correct. People can only change those opinions when they’re approached in a positive way – if you do this in a confrontational way, it will never work and they won’t budge.
People ask me very frequently why I don’t want more followers or a more popular show/channel – this is why. Being in a public position and this heavily scrutinized is a terrifying thought to me. The idea that me being me would bring about people who would want horrible things to happen to me is just something that I never want to deal with.