I do not trust the internet with my child.
Fisher wants his own YouTube channel. For a while, he wanted it to be a Bey Blade channel. Then, Minecraft. Now, Nerf Guns. Until about a month ago, he asked repeatedly, and I repeatedly said NO. Finally, in a heated exchange, he huffed, "Mom, why don't you trust me?!"
In a moment of clarity, I told him that it wasn't about trusting him.
"I do not trust the internet with my child!" I yelled.
It was such a real and true statement that he hasn't asked since.
This is a tired topic, isn't it? Maybe it's tired, because we're tired. Of what?
I like parts of the internet, clearly. I like information at my fingertips (but miss card catalogs and the smell of Encyclopedias). I like posting pictures with captions that read like prose. (Apparently this is called "microblogging".) I like posting book reviews online. (Even if hardly anyone reads them.) Plus, I promote my music online; and, well... You're reading this on the internet.
Yet... underneath the goodness, there is an oily current of scum.
Shortly before that last conversation with Fisher about starting a YouTube channel, I'd read an NPR article about TikTok moderators suing the company for psychologically damaging work conditions. Their entire duties were to catch and delete aversive content. They described spending up to 12-hour shifts filtering out animal cruelty, child abuse, graphic footage of deaths, pedophilia, and torture -- with nothing but a lunch break. TikTok provided no emotional support services to address the disturbing content they watched for hours at a time.
The thought of it is overwhelming: That it exists at all and that so much of it exists. The thought of my child swimming in it makes me hyperventilate.
I think of these things often. I am thinking of them more acutely now because of the troll party that occurred in the comment section of a friend's music release.
Recently, a music friend released their first video -- an anthem for those who are queer and non-binary. It was honest and real, well-crafted, professionally-produced, and a celebratory release. And then the trolls appeared with their saddle bag cheeks bloated with vitriolic barf. They spewed. It was cruel and hateful, irrational and gratuitous. Also: really stupid.
This friend eventually had to disable commenting. But that didn't stop the "laugh" reactions. There are currently over 1,000 of them, outnumbering the hearts 10 to 1. I am so disheartened by the math of this. I want to believe that the equation isn't finished. It's like watching the midterm election polls. The votes are still being counted! Will love win? I am so disappointed in people. Imagine putting out a piece of your art, something so personal, that took so much of your care, your time, your enthusiasm, your money, and having people from all over the world -- none of whom would ever have 1/10th of the bravery it takes to put something honest into the universe -- come to laugh at it?
And how? The things they said: How does anyone say such things to anyone? How do those kinds of words settle finely in anyone's psyche? And who? Who says these things with so little shame, so little regard? I need to know.
I need to know... because I need to know. Because I don't know why I need to know. Because I haven't reached transcendence. And Is transcendence even the aim? When does transcendence become willful ignorance or apathy? These are other things I do not know, but they make me feel unsteady. What if we get it wrong? What is certain: something is amiss. There is a draft. Maybe we could find the rip in humanity's fabric and patch it with a SpongeBob iron-on.
Anyway, the trolls -- I went to their profiles. I keep going to their profiles (because I need to know what is wrong with them. Because they need to be fixed. Please see previous paragraph.). And do you know who I see? I see women with fresh highlights and men with fresh fades. I see other musicians (extra shame on them), conspiracy theorists still waiting for that pedophilia ring to bust up in the basement of a pizza shop. I see military men, one with RESPECT, HONOR, INTEGRITY plastered across his cover page. I see a father posing with his wife and child in front of the word JOY. I see a mom whose "About Me" section glowed about being an admin at her church and volunteering at her son's school. All of these people took time out of their Thanksgiving Day celebrations to consciously and deliberately inflict psychological pain on a stranger who was doing nothing but making art.
I was apoplectic. And I was just an observer. How did my friend feel as the target? I can tell you how they handled it: with more grace, honor, dignity, and respect than any single one of the camouflaged buttholes in the comments section.
As for the bystanders: What is our correct response? What is of use? The artist's supporters left encouraging and supportive comments. We love-bombed them. Then the haters (including the church mom) mocked us. They left "laugh" reactions to our kindness. They even did it to the artist's MOTHER who has the audacity to love their child fiercely and without condition.
I want so badly to believe in "karma" or something like it. To believe that over the course of your life, the degree of harm you intentionally inflict on other living beings multiplies by the lack of shame and remorse you feel about it, and then comes straight back to you, straight up into your face, like a swarm of bees.
But does that make me just as bad? Is that just a patchouli-scented version of revenge? It makes me jumpy in my skin to do nothing. It sinks my faith in goodness; and I so very much wish to hold onto that, because otherwise what is the point of doing anything at all? We might as well just buy things, shit on each other, and torch the planet until it dies or we die, whichever comes first. Is anyone okay at all with that proposition?
So the church mom... I googled her. I found her church. And I emailed them. I told them that she had participated in the hate-trolling of my friend and asked that they review the teachings of Jesus with her. Should I have done that? Was that petty? I don't know. Should I be telling you that I did this? I also do not know, but I'm tempted to delete the confession. Regardless, I did both of the things. I will transcend at a later date. That date is not today.
For the love, People. Life is so goddamn hard. BE KIND or BE QUIET.