I’m as vulnerable to click-bait as anyone, so this summer, when I saw an outrageous BuzzFeed article about my high school, I clicked on it. Like everyone else who read the article, I was upset … by the shoddy journalism and blatant sensationalism of the piece. For those who didn’t see the article, it was a piece by Katie Baker titled “What Happens When a Prep School’s Black Student President Mocks Her White Male Classmates.” While the Lawrenceville School can be annoyingly pretentious, during my four years there, I felt accepted by both the faculty and the student body despite being female, Asian, and not wealthy. Reading through all the facts of the scandal, it seemed as though this incident was merely the straw that broke the camel’s back. The Lawrenceville School has a strict two-strike policy that Maya Peterson, the student body president, seemed to have already violated by making a couple of bad choices that would have gotten anyone else kicked out of the school when she was an underclassman. She was asked to step down following a photo that she uploaded to the Internet that was poking fun at the white male demographic at the school. The uproar was mostly caused by the article that made it seem as though the only thing she had done wrong was mock a privileged portion of the student body, without considering the rest of her actions. This does not mean that I think Peterson was entirely in the wrong, nor does it mean that I think what the school did was right. I’ll leave that issue to the people involved to figure out. Rather, I came out of the experience with the realization that people love to be angry.
BuzzFeed, Clickworthy, and other websites like these work so well, not just because of the promise of cute cat pictures, but also because getting upset is fun and rather addictive. Sometimes, after a long day, I’ll sit down with a cup of hot chocolate and go on fixthefamily.com to get myself worked up and fuming before going to bed. Even though I know their arguments for why girls shouldn’t go to college (she will attract the wrong types of men and not learn to be a wife and mother) and why feminism is bad (it’s sinful and degrading to men) will make me angry, I still enjoy reading it if only to rant about it with my always-obliging roommate. For articles on more reasonable websites like BuzzFeed, however, it is worth thinking about why people jump on the accusatory bandwagon so quickly, often without fact-checking. If I had not gone to this high school, I’m sure I would have shared the article on Facebook, ranting about the racism and elitism still alive and well in parts of “civilized” America today. Just by looking through the acidic comments on the page, I was able to see how outsiders would view these events, and the hundred-plus replies on each comment showed how people were more than willing to engage in battle over something about which they knew almost nothing.
Being a denizen of the Internet, who spends most of her time vegetatively scrolling through Tumblr, I can confirm that the most ridiculous stories spread the quickest. Despite all the warning signs, people are always quick to feed the countless trolls who live under the Internet bridges. Tumblr is a really scary place where people will get angry about anything and everything from really important societal questions to otp (one true pairing) disagreements. This permanent dissatisfaction does sometimes lead to some good conversations about social justice in the anonymous Internet sphere, but often just leads to good old-fashioned cussing. This disgust for absolutely everything that permeates most of the Internet seems to be a defense mechanism against feelings, which have been dubbed “uncool.”
Just last week, I was on my way to an interview, confidently getting into stride and perfecting my Boston College-stare-into-your-soul look, when I tripped and fell. It was right behind Rubenstein and I had just passed a big group of people whom I had stared down. As I fell, I panicked internally, and the first words out of my mouth were, “Ew, gross.” Given the circumstances, I was too weirded out by my own reaction to do anything except run away from the scene of the crime. Later, as I thought about what happened, I realized that my reaction was mostly so that I would not look stupid in front of the big group I had just passed. Mission failed—miserably. Although I was internally flustered, my automatic defensive reaction was to pretend disgust—although in this case, it didn’t work so well. I would like to think that I’m a good specimen of the Internet, given my poor taste in puns and penchant for socially unacceptable jokes. After examining the Internet click-bait phenomenon again in light of, well, me, it seems that we can see the love of overflowing righteous anger as merely another extension of these disgusted feelings. Being disgusted is a good, safe alternative to sticking your neck out there by voicing a real opinion.
When introducing the Internet community, it would be easier to define it in terms of what it dislikes than in terms of what it likes. We don’t like extroverts, we don’t like introverts, we don’t like cynics, we don’t like romantics, we hate the young and despise the old, we hate feelings, opinions, and even hate. The Internet has become a gathering place for those who hate things recreationally and Buzzfeed is our playground. And so, I’ve emerged from the depths of the Internet to leave you with this word of wisdom:
Featured Image is a screenshot of buzzfeed.com