TV, The Internet and Comments Sections: Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Is the internet ruining the world? Is it? Maybe. Don’t get me wrong, I love the internet. It’s fantastic and wonderful and lets me do all the things I want to do instantaneously while in my sweats from the comfort of my bed. But, it’s also a place where uncontrolled bullying can run rampant.

We all know it’s true and this isn’t the first article to ever point it out: internet bullying is getting crazy, y’all. Through the anonymity that is allowed on some sites (such as tumblr) and the general impersonal aspect of the web, we have become meaner. Everyone’s a critic, everyone’s an editor, everyone’s an expert and we aren’t afraid to show it. But, what was once just constructive criticism or a sharing of opinions has seemingly morphed into a vitriolic epidemic. Tumblr is a hotbed of anonymous bullying. I have never seen so much crazy talk in one place (seriously, would you anybody say half of that to someone’s face?), and I love Tumblr!

The growth of the internet has brought us new tools, platforms and social media experiences to connect us all over the world. But it makes it so much easier to be so mean to people! I was lucky to get out of my teenage years relatively unharmed, but we only had AIM and the beginnings of livejournal and Facebook. Yeah, dating myself, so what? I could not imagine being a teenager right now where everything that’s important happens online. I don’t know how you guys do it, but I have serious respect.

I will be the first to admit that I have spotted more than one misspelled word, editorial mistake or grammatical error in someone else’s work. I have also found them in my own, after it was too late to do anything about it but sit back and let the notices about them come. Generally, though, it’s easy to brush aside because I realize that most of the writers who work for my favorite sites are under deadlines, working with quick turnaround/still developing story, or getting a recap up of a show that aired that very night within hours.

Cyberbullying even affects celebrities and actually seems to be the worst when aimed at them. Smart, dedicated and extremely busy showrunners are victims of this particular brand of bullying. Not to mention actors playing their parts and doing their jobs. I’m talking about Ryan Murphy, Shonda Rhimes, Julie Plec, and any of the actors on Glee (Chord Overstreet, Naya Rivera, Darren Criss….) among others. These people are kind enough and awesome enough to have twitter and facebook accounts, and give us access to their thoughts, motivations and maybe even answer questions about their shows. They don’t need to do this, they choose to. They want to have more access to their fanbase and reach out and open windows for more of us to see inside the world of television shows that we can only imagine. We are incredibly lucky to have this interaction! But, that extra visibility often comes at a price, when fans disagree with current storylines, plot points and cast activity. Being an impassioned fan is one thing, but is it really okay to spew hate and anger at people?  These people are creating something you love, telling a story that needs to unfold chapter by chapter, bringing art into the world.

Mr. Murphy in particular has been dealing with a mountain of a mess after The Break Up episode aired in October. This wonderfully written, acted and executed episode saw three main couples on the show part ways, including my favorite. But I remain hopeful and excited to see how and if these crazy kids can make it back to each other, hoping it will be just as beautiful and angsty (I listened to a lot of early Dashboard Confessional in my formative years, I like a little bit of angst). And, after Brittany’s super meta comment in this week’s episode, I fear it’s only going to get bumpier for Mr. Murphy. (Hang in there, Ryan! Some of us have faith!).

Yes, I realize that part of being in the public eye is being open to criticism and comment. But, at what point are we going too far? Isn’t the whole idea of watching television to see drama? Aren’t we tuning in every week to see how characters will react to situations, how they will develop and grow and work through problems? Don’t we watch to see human experiences unfold? Love, loss, heartbreak, death- art is a mirror for us to experience these common human events. Good television cannot exist without drama. Even comedies need some sort of stakes for the characters to go through in order to get the payoff (which is something that’s been happening since Shakespeare wrote his first comedy/farce)…so why do we get so angry? The instantaneous gratification of letting someone know you’re displeased with their actions has given way to manners and civility. Celebrities, artists and athletes seem to bear the brunt of it simply because of the jobs they do.

These writers, producers, and actors are telling stories. Only they know how the story will end and how the characters will get to the end from week to week. We don’t always have to agree with certain plot points or developments, but shouldn’t we keep open minds? Maybe the journey will be even more beautiful and entertaining than we could have ever imagined.

Not everyone who comments, anonymously or not, is mean, critical or over the line. There are often some very nice comments, and usually they outnumber the negative ones. And they are all taken to heart! (Seriously, I appreciate all the comments I get, even the negatives- shows me I have room for growth!).

However, the internet does allow us to be anonymous or be far removed from the person we want to say mean things to. That space between doesn’t mean that there aren’t consequences to those words. Bullying is becoming a very real world problem. It is only getting worse because it no longer has to be face to face to cause pain. The internet is a wonderful tool that lets us span the entire globe for information, relationships, entertainment, and shared interests, but it is also making us forget how to be human. More importantly, does aiming negativity at people we don’t know, like Mr. Murphy or Ms. Rhimes, make it easier for us to aim that same negativity at people we do know? Or see it cross over into more of our daily interactions with people we believe we’ll never see again (like that distracted barista or that annoying girl in the ladies room who won’t stop talking on her phone)?

I grew up watching Bambi repeatedly before I realized how heartbreaking and sad it was, and the wise words of Thumper the rabbit seemed to have been ingrained in my head at an early age. The old “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” routine. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about this on a daily basis, hoping that more of us would remember that simple motto.

Jimmy Kimmel really summed it up this summer, just check it out:

Image via ShutterStock.

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