Online Commentary and the Apparent End of Human Decency

So as a young person, I spend 90% of my free time on my computer reading the news, blogging, Facebooking, and watching videos on Youtube and Hulu. I also read the comment sections to read the feedback that posted material is getting from users and I almost always end up losing a little bit of faith in humanity and our capacity to be reasonable and decent to one another.

Youtube is the most notorious for comment indecency. You can look at any music video for any popular artists and for every positive or rational comment, there are at least 100 defamatory, profanity-ridden, hate rants insulting the artist or people who just may like them. Popular feuds on Youtube are Christina vs. Gaga, Beyoncé vs. Ashanti, and on and on and on. Some users will even make a handle like “beyonceadumbslut666” just for the sole purpose of visiting all of her videos and insult her.

And it isn’t only just music videos. Videos with a constructive purpose like the It Gets Better video found here is followed by tons of anti-gay hate speech. Now I don’t expect everyone to agree or be tolerant, but why would you go on a video that is suppose to be comforting and uplifting and really is targeting anyone who has ever been bullied or is being bullied and then take away from the positive vibe with inappropriate comments?

It gets more disheartening when you see hundreds of these appropriate comments and any feeling of advancement or progression for mankind is squashed, at least for me it is.

But then I remember, that though 200 or 2,000 hateful users seems like an insurmountable number, in a larger context, it really is insignificant and doesn’t reflect the majority. There are about 310.5 million people in this country, not all of which go on Youtube or read the paper online. Then even out of all the users who do, the good majority don’t even comment and are otherwise indifferent.

It’s like what Jon Stewart said when he was on Oprah (watch the segment here) that most normal, moderate, rational, and decent Americans are too busy living in the real world to go sit on the computer and insult people they don’t know and will never meet anonymously. It’s also true that the people with the most extreme views will put more effort into having their view heard than those who are more in the middle. (I’ll discuss maybe in another post the problem presented by both the extreme right and left).

So for those of you, who like me, feel that there is no hope for humanity when you read the comments under your favorite Ke$ha video (I don’t really like her BTW, but I don’t comment on her videos either) remember that all of those haters probably don’t have anything better to do with themselves and don’t represent the rest of mankind.


The First Thought: “Don’t It Always Seems to Go…”

One of our pow-wow/meditation huddles before heading to competition

…that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?”  The lyrics of “Big Yellow Taxi” have never rang more true than they do now at this time in my life. Saturday as I was crying about the “boiling” of the ‘Cats at the hands of Purdue, a much more joyous thing occurred about 1,000 miles south of Evanston on Florida’s Space Coast: my Alma mater Coral Reef Barracuda Band was named grand champion at the Merritt Island Marching Competition.

As my news feed was filled with jubilant status updates from my little ‘Cudas, I was taken back to that moment in time 3 years ago when Coral Reef was declared the grand champion and what it felt like to be apart of a group of individuals pushing each other and working as one to achieve a goal; to do something that mattered, even if it was just a high school marching band competition.

Band had been an integral part of my life for 7 years. During school, after school, weekends, summers; man I planned my vacations around band. “I can’t, I have practice/rehearsal/performance/competition,” was the story of my life. Band concerts, band camp, band picnics, band competitions.  In addition to the general frustration of having not much of a life outside of band, I had to deal with the inconsistency year in and year out with a revolving door of band directors, the BS band drama, and aggravating incompetence and lack of creativity from some of my peers and leadership.   I was Jan Brady but instead of “Marsha, Marsha, Marsha,” it was “band, band, band.”

It goes without saying that by the time senior year rolled around, I was ready to be done with it. I wanted to get out and get away from the band world and define myself as anything other than just a band kid. So I went off to journalism school, rejected the invitations of joining Northwestern’s marching band, and made a crop of non-band-kid friends who did non-band-related things. And my wants were fulfilled…for a little while.

As time went on, I really missed being in band, which isn’t a surprise seeing how it was practically my life for so long. But I didn’t just miss being in A band, I missed being in the Coral Reef Barracuda Band. I missed hanging out in the band hallway with all of my band friends. I missed goofing off in Wind Ensemble. I missed eating lunch in the band room. I missed band drama, band shenanigans, hidden rooms in the ceiling, warm-up block, running drill, marching into pep rallies, football games, competitions, and bus rides. I missed seeing my favorite people everyday. I missed having that core group of people that I could count on for anything (well almost anything).

Now, I’m not completely miserable in college. I have a large and diverse pool of friends, even if we aren’t all pulled together by one major commonality. I have the opportunity to take advantage of a wide variety experiences that are offered at my world class school located in a world-class city (or near I should say, as Evanston is FAR from world-class anything-_-). But until I find some club or cause to really devote my spare time to and satisfy this longing to be apart of something greater than myself, I’ve “paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”