mental health, musings

Someone’s always listening… but I hope your life is destroyed, Karen.

Social media is so weird. I often see posts from people expressing concern for other people, especially in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Just now, I typed “suicide” into Facebook’s search bar. This was what was at the top of the page:

Most days, I see people posting and re-posting statuses indicating that they would be available to listen to someone who is on the verge of a crisis. I see plenty of folks sharing suicide hotline numbers or memes that indicate that they’re caring people who don’t want others to self-destruct.

And then yesterday, I read a news article about yet another middle-aged white woman behaving badly and many of the same people who regularly post about wanting people in crisis to “reach out”, are cheering when she gets called out and vilified on social media for what amounts to a few minutes of shameful behavior. I wonder if these folks, who seemingly care enough about the depressed, anxious, and suicidal to post their supportive memes, would like to see the next middle-aged white woman who gets publicly destroyed committing suicide.

Today, it’s Amy Cooper, a woman who, admittedly, acted very poorly on Memorial Day when she and her dog were confronted in Central Park by a black man who was birdwatching. Ms. Cooper had her dog off leash in a wild area of Central Park and the birdwatcher, Christian Cooper (no relation), had asked her to restrain the pooch. He was well within his rights to ask her to leash the dog, since dogs are supposed to be on leash in that part of the park. For whatever reason, Ms. Cooper refused to comply with Mr. Cooper’s polite request, and Mr. Cooper started filming her as she melted down. The two got into an altercation, which escalated when Ms. Cooper called the police and told the dispatcher that she was being filmed by an “African American” and insinuating that he was threatening her life.

Before I go any further with this, I want to state again that I understand that many black people have been killed when the police have been called. I do understand that a white woman calling the police on a black man could lead to deadly consequences. Amy Cooper was definitely wrong to behave the way she did. But I still wouldn’t want to see her lose everything, including her life, for behaving the way she did a couple of days ago, especially when I don’t know what led up to it.

Christian Cooper’s sister later put the video on Twitter. Within 24 hours, Amy Cooper had given up her dog, publicly apologized, and was fired from her job. Some people were positively gleeful about this turn of events. A few said she should also go to prison, for good measure. To his credit, Christian Cooper expressed regret that the public backlash had gone that far. The Times reports:

“Mr. Cooper said in the interview that he had been overwhelmed by the response to his video, but that the retribution against Ms. Cooper had taken him aback.”

“It’s a little bit of a frenzy, and I am uncomfortable with that,” he said. “If our goal is to change the underlying factors, I am not sure that this young woman having her life completely torn apart serves that goal.”

But then he referred to Ms. Cooper as a “Karen”, which I felt really kind of cheapened the incident. I’ve known a lot of really nice people named Karen, and I don’t think it’s fair to lump all of them in with people who act entitled and rude. Why not address the behavior and have an honest discussion about it instead of resorting to a silly Internet hashtag?

I have mentioned before that I hate it when people use proper names as insults. I think it’s a stupid trend, and whenever I hear someone calling another person a “Karen”, “Becky”, “Patty”, or “Susan”, it automatically makes me think they aren’t very deep thinkers. Amy Cooper’s behavior is despicable in this incident, but that’s no reason to throw all of the legitimate Karens in the world under the bus. Why not just condemn her behavior instead of just labeling her as a “Karen” and laughing at her for getting fired? And why not stop and think about why this happened instead of just going into a frenzy and assuming that Amy Cooper is an awful person and saying she should go to prison?

I dared to express my opinion about this. As soon as I did that, I got attacked by a couple of people who don’t know me at all. Both of them– total strangers to me– made negative assumptions about my character simply because I viewed the situation differently than they did. Both of the prime offenders were other white women who became angry and borderline abusive simply because I dared to state that I don’t think people should be losing everything over these kinds of incidents. When a person becomes unemployed, particularly at a time like now, they can end up in a downward spiral that could legitimately lead to their end and will, no doubt, affect other people. While I don’t condone Amy Cooper’s actions two days ago, I do hope there are people in her life who can help her through this situation. I don’t want to see her life destroyed over what amounts to a couple of minutes of deplorable behavior caught on video. At the same time, I also don’t want to see people of color being killed because someone like Amy Cooper calls the cops on them.

I suspect those women felt compelled to attack me because they want to appear virtuous to others. I presented a different perspective that they didn’t appreciate. I have a feeling neither of them even stopped to think about my comments. I think they just decided to attack, much like the public attacks people who behave badly… especially when they are white women. I have noticed that the first name insults have all been coined in the wake of some middle aged white woman being a jerk in public. Someone out there in Internetland slaps a cute nickname on the woman and it becomes a slur that gets hurled at other similarly misbehaving white women. People make sweeping judgments about the women, even if they don’t know anything about her other than what’s in the media. A lot of times, their remarks include derogatory comments about the women’s looks, too. That shouldn’t have anything to do with a person’s decision to behave badly, but once someone goes down in Internet infamy, nothing is sacred.

I wonder what led up to Ms. Cooper’s decision not to cooperate with a polite request by a birdwatcher. Is she always that hostile and argumentative? Or did something happen recently to put her in a really bad mood? Maybe she was walking in the park to burn off stress. I noticed in the video that she had a mask around her neck. At least she was considerate enough to carry a face mask, right? And though she gave her dog, Henry, back to the rescue from which she had adopted him, the rescue did state that the dog was in good health. So that means she was taking care of him, even if I didn’t like the way she was jerking him around by the collar in the video. Chances are, most of the time, Amy Cooper doesn’t act like a “Karen”– as she’s now been labeled by supposedly respectable newspapers like The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.

Is Amy Cooper really an absolutely horrible person who deserves to be publicly destroyed for exhibiting what many people are calling “white privilege”? Would people like to see her kill herself over this? I’m not saying that’s what she will do, or even that it’s crossed her mind. I just picture how I would feel if people around the nation suddenly started attacking me because I was caught on video being a jerk and it went viral. I can state with certainty that I might consider suicide in the wake of such visceral attacks.

A lot of us are under a great deal of stress right now. We’ve been locked down for weeks. Many of us are drinking too much and not exercising enough. People are feeling angry, scared, and hopeless. Depression and anxiety in the wake of the pandemic are rampant. New York City, where this incident took place, has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic. Many people have lost their social lives, their jobs, and many people have lost loved ones to the virus. It’s easy to understand why some people are lashing out, both online and in public. Moreover, a lot of people have more time on their hands, which probably makes their attention to this news story even more concentrated that it otherwise might have been. To be sure, this was a very unfortunate incident, and Amy Cooper behaved very offensively. But I’m not quite ready to label her as a terrible person simply because she got caught on video losing her shit. That being said, I commend Christian Cooper for trying to handle this with some class, at least initially. And I’m glad he realizes that destroying people isn’t the best way to handle these situations.

condescending twatbags, rants

Pandemic shaming… it’s gotten out of hand.

Lately, I’ve noticed a lot of people lecturing others about what they should or should not be doing. I suppose it’s only natural, since so many of us are at home, bored out of our skulls. Yesterday, I noticed several of my friends posting yet more pleas to others to make sure they follow all the pandemic rules. I get why some of them are doing it. COVID-19 is very scary. People are getting very sick and sometimes dying, and being stuck at home SUCKS. We all want life to get back to normal, and posting a clever pandemic themed meme or a heartfelt Facebook post makes it feel like we’re doing something constructive.

However, when every other friend is posting about the importance of social distancing and wearing face masks, social media quickly becomes a source of frustration and irritation. Frankly, a lot of the information being shared by well-meaning people isn’t entirely accurate. I’ve started to hide posts and unfollow the worst offenders, because mainly, I don’t need the extra stress or aggravation. I am capable of reading up on what the experts say I should be doing. So are you. It’s gotten to the point at which I’m starting to view pandemic shamers as being akin to Trump supporters.

Last night, I found an interesting op-ed on The New York Times entitled “The Seductive Appeal of Pandemic Shaming”. I mostly agreed with what the author, Jennifer Weiner, wrote. The only thing I didn’t like was that she decided to use the trendy pejorative “Karen” to describe angsty, middle-aged, white women who seem to be the worst “pandemic shaming” offenders right now. As regular readers might remember, I kind of hate the recent trend of co-opting perfectly good names like Karen, Becky, Chad, and Susan to put other people down. However, overall, I liked Weiner’s message to the masses. She writes:

...posting pictures of non-compliers on social media, or calling them out to their faces, is unlikely to help. It might even make things worse. And it comes with risks to groups who are already suffering more than most from the virus and its effects.

She continues with a quote from Damon Young, author of “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker,” who has seen a lot of people calling other people out for not following the rules.

I understand the compulsion” to call people out, Young said. “But is it really helping? If what you’re doing is supposed to be about saving lives, is this actually doing it?”

Frankly, I don’t think it does help very much. What it mostly seems to do is piss people off and make the situation worse. I was reading the Duggar Family News group this morning and someone posted about how Jill Duggar Dillard posted on Instagram about how she and her husband, Derick, went to visit Derick’s family. As Duggar followers know, Jill and Derick, like most of the rest of the Duggar family, live in Arkansas. According to group members in the know, Arkansas has not enacted a “stay at home” order, nor is wearing face masks in public currently a requirement there.

Jill and Derick went to see his mother and stepfather and did not wear masks or practice “social distancing”. Derick’s mother, Cathy, has some significant health issues, which were documented on the Duggar family’s reality shows before Jill and Derick fell out with The Learning Channel and Jim Bob Duggar. Lots of posters were going off about how *wrong* and irresponsible it is that Jill and Derick didn’t wear masks and gloves… or that they visited his family in the first place. As I read shaming response after more outraged and shaming response, I was suddenly reminded of an angry hive… a somewhat timely image, as I read about the murderous hornets that are now in the news. And then I took note of this exchange:

Notice the overall tone of these posts. It’s kind of aggressive. The hand-wringing face mask crusaders are doing their best to shame the holdout into seeing their view. But are they changing her mind? Not really. As you can see, she gets more and more hostile. I doubt she’ll be donning a face mask due to these people– perfect strangers who don’t know or care about her– piling on her on social media. And I’ll bet there were a lot of people reading who silently agreed with the original poster. Most adults like to think of themselves as able to take care of themselves without “special help”, especially in the United States– “land of the free”.

After I read this post, I thought of another quote from Weiner’s op-ed, which came from Syon Bhanot, a behavioral economist who teaches at Swarthmore. Does calling people out online for their “misbehavior” actually make the situation better? Does it save lives? Bhanot says that when you point out misbehavior online,

“you’re not confronting it — you’re virtue-signaling.” And confronting wrongdoers in person “is not going to be motivationally effective,” he added. “Shaming creates defensiveness. It doesn’t persuade, it entrenches.”

Makes perfect sense to me, especially when you look at the exchange I read in the Duggar Family News group. Neither side was backing down. The conflict was getting worse. The mood was getting uglier. And I wondered if that made things better in the already difficult situation we’re all having to weather right now. Bhanot says that instead of personally calling out “wrongdoers”, it’s better to appeal to the authorities and ask them to handle it on an organizational level. I would also add that sometimes there’s something going on that you don’t know about and is none of your business. One astute German in a local Facebook group posted that someone you see in public who is not wearing a mask might have a medical problem that makes mask wearing difficult or impossible. I think it’s better to just give those people a wide berth rather than berating them.

I was still thinking about the subject of pandemic shaming last night, so I did more Googling and found an article on The Guardian by Poppy Noor about shaming that is going on in the United Kingdom. Noor writes that a few weeks ago, journalist Amelia Gentleman tweeted a photo of an apartment building where someone had posted huge posters shaming a neighbor for not socially distancing. The disgruntled neighbor was perturbed because “Ann” had been having people over and when she was asked to stop having company, refused to comply. So Ann’s neighbor decided to publicly shame her with the posters… which anyone passing could see, but as you can now see, has been picked up by the news.

Noor writes that most social distance and face mask shamers are simply trying to do the right thing. They see someone out and about with no mask on and feel the need to call them out, reminding them that they could be spreading the virus. But what if that person is a nurse or a grocery store clerk on the way to work? What if it’s someone making sure an elderly family member is getting food or medication? What if the person not wearing the mask has severe lung disease or anxiety and can’t wear the mask without panicking? And why is it any of your fucking business? Especially since, if you’re seeing these folks out and about, you’re probably out and about yourself. No one needs to be reminded about the coronavirus right now, anyway. I was actually kind of happy to read about the killer hornets yesterday, because it was a diversion from the 24-7 chatter about the virus… and Donald Trump’s moronic handling of the situation.

Personally, I haven’t had much of a problem staying holed up in the house. I seem to have a low need for socializing with people other than Bill and our dog, Arran. Not everyone is like me, though, and some people are starting to go a little crazy, especially as the weather improves. Some people want to go sit on the beach or play basketball because it’s good for their mental health. Mental health is also important. Without it, people become hopeless and despondent. They start drinking too much booze and entertaining thoughts of suicide. So I’m inclined to give people a break… and a wide berth when I see them outside with or without a mask. As Noor points out,

Take the case of a friend’s mother, who was recently reported to the police for making too many trips outside. She, in fact, was dropping off supplies to people who were sick and in isolation. Now she might feel less inclined to do so – but who cares, so long as whoever dobbed her in gets to post on social media about it?

Too much of that kind of thing will also cause people to be paranoid. I read another account of a couple in Australia who were fined because they were reported for posting pictures of themselves doing “non-essential” travel. But then it turned out that the photos were taken months before the coronavirus struck. From the article:

The husband and wife were fined the equivalent of $1,000 each by state police for “going for a drive to Lakes Entrance,” which was deemed a violation of the country’s strict lockdown.

The couple was warned that if they “posted any more photos,” they would “be arrested,”

The cops revoked the fine once it became clear that the pictures were a year old, although the wife had to contact the media to get the police to drop the citation. But that led people to wonder if the police were Facebook stalking the populace, looking for people to nab. Who turned them in to the authorities, anyway? That is a rather uncomfortable thing, isn’t it? Might make one not want to do much posting on social media or sharing of photos if it means the cops will show up on your doorstep with a citation, especially when they don’t have all the facts. It’s creepy as hell, too.

The police should have more important things to do than investigate this kind of thing. It’s a pretty shitty thing to do to someone during these stressful times, particularly if you don’t have all the facts. If someone is genuinely breaking the rules and actually causing trouble for you, that’s one thing– it’s appropriate to call the police in that case. But snitching on people who aren’t personally affecting you or calling them out based on erroneous assumptions is ugly behavior that causes more problems than it solves.

I did have one friend who wrote that she was upset about some things she’d been seeing. Even here in Germany, some folks are protesting. They aren’t bringing massive weapons like they do in the United States, but they are coming out en masse to complain about the measures enacted to slow the spread of the virus. Also, some people are defiantly throwing parties. I don’t have a problem with calling the authorities when something like that is happening that affects someone personally. But the group shaming, online nannying and nagging, and bold confrontations of strangers is counterproductive. Most people don’t react well when they’re shamed and policed by ordinary citizens, especially when the shamers are total strangers on the Internet. All it does is make them defensive and defiant.

So, at the risk of sounding preachy myself, knock it off, please. Live your life and do your part to stay healthy. Hopefully, your neighbors and the strangers on the Internet will do the same.


A little “Clarity”…

It’s dark and rainy outside, here in Beaune. I have a few minutes to write this as I wait for Bill to get out of the shower and make coffee. I would make it myself, but Bill is better at making coffee than I am. I wasn’t even much of a coffee fan until Bill and I met. Funny, isn’t it, that he is better at making coffee when he was once a Mormon? But then, before he was a Mormon, he was Methodist, Episcopalian, and Catholic, so I guess that’s where he got his mad coffee making skills.

Last night, I wrote a post about how I think using generic names as insults is “stupid”. I still think it’s stupid to call someone “Susan”, “Becky”, “Patty” or whatever when your intention is to insult them. It was probably cute when the first couple of people did it. Now, it’s become old hat. Or, at least that’s my humble opinion. I don’t enjoy being insulted. I don’t think anyone enjoys it. However, I have much more respect for witty insults than cliched ones, and that was the idea last night’s post was ultimately regarding.

I wrote last night’s post in response to being labeled “Susan” and “Karen” on a New York Times comment thread I started. This is the third post I’m writing that was fathered by my innocuous, matter-of-fact comment about getting spam from people in India. The first post was about how bewildered I was that some people either took apparent offense to my comment or decided to hit on me. The second post was about how irritating it is when someone comes along later, revives a comment thread, and then doesn’t even have the decency to be clever and funny when they hurl insults at me.

This post is about a comment I got on my official OH page. A reader decided to explain to me why I got called “Karen” and “Susan”. I’m afraid my retort was a little snippy. I apologize for that. I’m ragging, have a cold sore, and am still wondering if I’m speaking a foreign language. You see… I completely understand why some people were insulting me for daring to comment about Indians losing their Internet access as I continue to be spammed by people in India. For the most part, I think people were having some fun at my expense, although one or two really might have been offended that I commented about spam. To be clear, I was also having some fun replying to the commenters who took me on, although I was legitimately baffled as to why the race card got thrown out there, especially when I noticed that other commenters made much more offensive comments that were legitimately racist and sexist, yet they didn’t get hit with a ration of shit. I figured it’s because I’m a middle-aged blonde woman who can’t possibly know anything about the world… or so it may appear from the outside. If I happened to be a swarthy man from Asia daring to comment about India, maybe people might take me more seriously. I also understand that when you put something out there on social media or elsewhere, you invite commentary. It’s too bad so many people choose to be uncivilized rather than understanding.

However, to my knowledge, no one commenting on that thread has ever even met me in person. In fact, while some of my regular readers know me offline, most of them don’t know me at all, other than what I’ve written in my blog or on Facebook. So it’s strange to me that someone would presume to know what’s in my head. Last night’s commenter used the word “worried” when she explained why I got labeled “Karen” and “Susan”. She wrote that I was “worried” about being spammed when people in India are suffering. The fact is, I don’t “worry” about spam. It is what it is. We all get it in our inboxes and those of us who write blog posts get it in comment sections. It’s a problem that affects everyone, and I’ll never change it by complaining or “worrying” about it. I also wrote in my initial post that I understand that people in India are having a tough time. I even explained why I knew they were having hard times and expressed concern for them.

And yet, somehow, people are still under the faulty impression that I’m more concerned about spam. The fact is, I’m not. If you’d heard me say “And yet, people from India still constantly spam my blogs…” in person, you probably would not have come away with the idea that I’m worried or upset about that. Online communication is different. You don’t have the benefit of body language, facial expressions, or vocal tone to get the nuances of what a person means or what might be in their heads. Non-verbal communication is extremely important in everyday speech, but online, you don’t usually have non-verbal cues to help express your point. And so, people often inaccurately translate what they read. They interject their own interpretations into words and make assumptions that may be incorrect. Or they simply decide to stir up shit for fun and adventure.

This phenomenon is fascinating to me, which is why I was inspired to write about it. The first post was about the many reactions I got from other New York Times Facebook followers. The second post is about how annoying it is when someone revives a dead thread with stale and unfunny insults, rather than insight, wit, and empathy. I wrote last night’s post while drinking wine after having spent hours in the car, which also affected its tone and color. I was blowing off steam. I doubt people will stop using “Susan” and “Karen” as insults, simply because I think it’s stupid.

Anyway… I hope this is “clear” to Clare and any other readers who feel the need to explain Lacey’s “Susan” and “Karen” comments to me. One might assume Lacey was “offended” that I “care” more about spammers on my blogs than the poor Internetless people in India. Personally, I think Lacey just wanted to be rude to a stranger and figured I was an easy target. But I could be wrong.

Maybe Lacey stays up nights worrying about people in India. Maybe she’s launched a “free the Internet” campaign for Indians who can’t get online. Maybe she is the biggest, baddest, and best darn social justice warrior there is… Perhaps she’s even written a dissertation on racism toward the people of India. Somehow, I doubt any of that is true, but it could be the case, for all I know. After all, just as Lacey doesn’t know me, I don’t know her. Well… I do know that lobbing witty insults isn’t a strong suit of hers. Or, at least I didn’t see any evidence that it is. Maybe she saves her best put downs for the “Pattys”, “Beckys”, and “Chads” out there.

condescending twatbags

Using names like “Becky”, “Chad”, “Susan”, and “Karen” as insults is a stupid trend that needs to go…

A few days ago, I made the mistake of leaving a comment on an article shared by The New York Times. My comment was apparently offensive to some people, who claimed it was racist. You can read about what happened in this post.

Hours later, some twit from California chose to address me, even though the comments had died down ages ago. She proceeded to address me as “Susan”, “Karen”, and “Boomer”, again insulting me and calling me “self-centered” and “privileged” simply because I quipped that I get a lot of spam from people in India.

Rather than hauling off, calling her the c word, and advising her to go fuck herself, I decided to play along. When she called me a “Boomer”, I wrote “Shows what you know. I’m a member of Generation X.”

She then proceeded to explain to me what a Boomer is. Duh… I know what it is, dingaling, although as a child of the 80s, whenever anyone mentions “Boomer” to me, I think of this…

“Here’s Boomer” was a popular show when I was a kid. I wasn’t a regular viewer.

Then she addressed me as “Susan” and “Karen”. I told her that she should be learning a more respectful way to address her elders. She bowed out after that, but I was left thinking about what had just transpired. First off, I’m not sure why my comments merited being insulted. It’s a statement of fact that I get spam from people in India, even though their government keeps shutting down their Internet. There’s nothing racist about making that statement. It wasn’t even a complaint. It was a matter-of-fact observation. But it was fun enough to spar with some of the butthurt on The New York Times’ Facebook page when the comment was fresh. It killed an hour or so.

Naturally, “Lacey” from California had to come along and harass me some more. There’s one in every crowd, don’tcha know. And she didn’t even have the decency to be funny, original, or astute in her insults. For some reason, she felt compelled to rely on unfunny memes that have turned the names “Becky”, “Susan”, “Chad”, “Sarah”, or hell, “Hildegard”, into insults. I did some Googling and discovered that people have actually written articles about this phenomenon of co-opting common names of people of a certain age and using them as insults. Incidentally, two of my sisters are named Becky and Sarah. I also have a sister named Betsy, which is probably also being used as an insult by some empty-headed dipshit out there in Internetland.

You know, that might have been super funny when it first started. Obviously, some people think calling some random person “Karen” or “Susan” as a way of insulting them thought it was freakin’ hilarious at some point. But now, I’m afraid it’s become a cliche. And I’m here to advise you all, dear readers, that it’s time to up your game and come up with something more original and clever. Otherwise, why bother?

In the end, I probably did alright in advising Lacey that she should show more respect to her elders. I generally don’t enjoy being condescending and rude to people, even when they are being insulting and rude to me, but maybe that would have been a good time to say something along the lines of, “You know, dearie, if you’re going to start up a dead comment thread on The New York Times, you really should try to do better with your put downs. I’m sure that somewhere in that smog filled head of yours, you can come up with insults that haven’t already been passed around like a plate of hors-d’oeuvres at a cocktail party. Why don’t you take a time out from hanging out with the big people posting on The New York Times and work on your insults? Stop wasting my time with your unoriginal foolishness.”

I fear that the Internet has really made people less civil than they once were. I am as guilty of it as anyone. I get pissed off at people who pick fights with me for dumb reasons and feel tempted to indulge in insults… although I usually vent about it on my blog, rather than in a comment thread on Facebook. Sometimes the people on The New York Times are so stupid that I do tell them so… but it’s rare that I give into that impulse, because there are enough insulting people out there spreading meanness. It’s better to simply vent on my little read blog– especially now that I’ve moved it. But I’m not even safe doing that here, though…

I wish I was one of those people who is naturally sweet and nice. Deep down, I am a good person and I always try to be kind first. But unfortunately, people really irritate me, especially at certain times of the month. I still think that it’s stupid to insult people by calling them generic names that were once popular. Please don’t do it. Come up with something funnier, wittier, smarter, or even just original. Calling people “Becky”, “Boomer”, and “Susan” is just non-sensical. The joke– just like that comment thread on The New York Times– is stale. Effective insults require good timing, just like good jokes do. So don’t be a “Lacey”. Grow up, evolve, and come up with some wicked jokes of your own. The Jennys of the world will thank you for it.