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How the inhumanity of social media comments led me to silence and submission

By Brett Easton Ellis

Somewhere in the last few years — and I can’t pinpoint exactly when — a vague yet almost overwhelming and irrational annoyance started tearing through me maybe up to a dozen times a day.

This annoyance was over things so seemingly minor, so out of my usual field of reference, that I was surprised by how I had to take a deep breath to dismantle this disgust and frustration that all due to the foolishness of other people: adults, acquaintances and strangers on social media who offered up their rash opinions and judgements, their mindless preoccupations, always with a unwavering certitude that they were right.

Brett Easton Ellis

A toxic attitude seemed to drift off every post or comment or tweet, whether it was actually there or not. This anger was new, something I’d never experienced before — and it was tied in with an anxiousness, an oppression I felt whenever I ventured online, a sense that I was going to somehow make a mistake instead of simply offering an opinion or make a joke or criticize someone or something. This idea would have been unthinkable ten years earlier — that an opinion could become something wrong — but in an infuriated, polarized society people were blocked because because of these opinions, and unfollowed because they were perceived in ways that might be inaccurate.

The fearful began to instantly see the entire humanity of an individual in a cheeky, offensive tweet and were outraged; people were attacked and unfriended for backing the “wrong” candidate or having the “wrong” opinion or for simply stating the “wrong” belief. If it was as if no one could differentiate between a living person and a string of words hastily typed out on a black sapphire screen.

The culture at large seemed to encourage discourse but social media had become a trap, and what it really wanted to do was shut down the individual.

What often activated my stress was that other people were always angry about everything, presenting themselves as enraged by opinions that I believed in and liked or thought were simply innocuous. My pushback against all of this forced me to confront a degraded fantasy of myself — an actor, as someone I never thought existed — and this, in turn, became a constant reminder of my feelings. And what was worse: this anger could become addictive to the point where I just gave up and sat there exhausted, mute with stress. But ultimately, silence and submission were what the machine wanted.

Brett Easton Ellis is a U.S. author and screenwriter, best known for his novels Less than Zero and American Psycho. The preceding is from the introduction to his first work of non-fiction, White.

35 thoughts on “How the inhumanity of social media comments led me to silence and submission

  1. My personal measure of how i comment on these forums is simple, would I make this statement to a person sitting next to me in a bar, or coffee shop, or bus, etc ? If it passes that test then I feel free to say it. I do try to be helpful but then of course you get some idiot attacking you because, well because they can behind the veil of the internet.

  2. I have felt that way too…It really is too bad. So much for “connection,” right? I agree with Pixelvt too.

  3. Yup, you’re a white, middle aged, well educated male…All heavy no-no’s in the world at large…

  4. Be Bold! Summon Courage! Take Action!
    Unsubscribe and Delete all your mailing lists, social media accounts, and most of your useless “friends.”
    See what happens over the next couple of weeks…

    1. Absolutely nothing will happen if you unsubscribe and delete except you’ll regain your freedom. You’ll find you have more time for worthwhile endeavors.

    2. Then you’ll live in a cocoon that will insulate you from knowing things such as how crooked the Verkeleys were. Sorry, that doesn’t work for me.

        1. I can’t do that here because CHL wouldn’t publish it. If you really want to see it, you can look in the archives for the information (a deep search, for certain because it is in the comments, not the articles) That evidence is specifically for HOG, but I have other evidence for other Verkeleys as well.

          As I said previously, years ago, perhaps before you got here? Richard Verkeley tried to quell the rumors of HOG being crooked and he foolishly published the books for HOG on his publication, Gringo Tree. I assume you know who Verkeley bought Gringo Tree from. If you know how to read a financial statement, you can see for yourself that the books were cooked, but even more than that, he made the representation that there were only 3 paid positions at HOG and his financial statement showed that to be a lie. FWIW, there are currently at least two people at CHL that know this to be true, but I don’t expect them to jump up and support my claims.

          1. For the record, chl and GringoTree partnered with Verkley in 2012 but one of the partners, the chl editor, broke off the partnership four months later. He took chl with him, under threat from Verkley. The other current chl partner stayed with Verkley several more months before parting ways.

          2. Odd..isn’t it. It is SO easy to find evidence (or what passes for it), by using a search engine. I can only think that such challenges are either confrontationally hypocritical or a sign of a basic lack of knowledge of the internet.

      1. 😉
        Did do it awhile back. Very freeing in ways I did not expect…
        And here I am again.

  5. I totally agree 100% !
    Even on here people have to be rude for NO reason. I cut out Facebook and all that scrap just for that reason. No one can have their own opinion if it isn’t the same as your so called friends they go crazy on you with rude comments, blocking, deleting, etc.
    I have been so much happier in the last 2.5 years without all the social media sites.

    1. “I have been so much happier in the last 2.5 years without all the social media sites.”

      I guess that picture in your avatar is more than 2.5 years old.

      1. Wow !
        You are a lot smarter than you look.
        Yes it is but that’s for this site which is getting just as bad as Facebook, and all the others.
        You just showed what I’m talking about without even knowing it.
        Why do you hide behind a zero photo of yourself ?
        Just like all the others who act tough behind your computer cause you won’t show your identity.

        1. Are you truly so dense that you complain about me not posting a picture while you use a phony screen name? Do tell me what you would do if I were to post a picture along with my full name and address. If you come up with a good answer, I’ll consider doing so. Personally, I’d rather have you mistake me for “acting tough” than following your lead and acting ignorant.

          1. That’s okay I don’t need to see your ugly face. You just go on hiding I really don’t care. If you want to know why you should post a photo of yourself is so when people see your ugly face out walking they know to avoid you cause you’re a fake, and ugly hateful person.
            I’m done wasting my time on your trash talk as I have better things to do.

            1. You remind me of trump. If I let you ramble on all on your own, you expose yourself for the fool you are. Do tell us how you know I have an ugly face if you have never seen it?

                1. I got my cut, and he fell for it hook, line, and sinker.
                  Sometimes it’s like taking candy from a baby.

        1. It makes perfect sense if you give it some thought. Does fireymom really look happy in that avatar? Integrate that with the 2.5 years in her post and you’ll get it. If not, pixelvt will explain it to you.

  6. Everything that happens to us can be a learning opportunity. When another person bothers us, it is our choice in how to respond. Yet to not forgive the grievances we hold is to hold toxins. To forgive them is an exercise far better than exercising in the gym for physical health. Jack La Lane might attest to that. Upon our last day on earth, the chances are if we do not forgive all this, we will return to avenge our grievances and just experience another round of illusions away from our Source. The only time there is to learn this… is now. Fortunately, it is always now!

  7. Very well-said, Brett. I feel the same way. I get frustrated and angry when I see nasty, attacking, mean-spirited posts. It’s okay to disagree. It’s not okay to attack people. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Let’s be more considerate and respectful of people’s feelings. The bests posts, even if I disagree are well thought-out and clearly stated with facts and circumstances the writer wants to share. That is the purpose for this forum. Share experiences and opinions in an intelligent and thoughtful way. I would be so happy to see responses that are respectful. Thank you, fellow expats, for your consideration and Brett for a great article.

  8. The kinds of things the author speaks of are strictly forbidden in my group, Expats Without Agendas – Ecuador. People play nice, or they go bye-bye. Differences of opinion are encouraged, but if you can’t do it in a civil manner, we simply won’t tolerate that. We’re the “anti-snark” group. BTW, I see Facebook here in Ecuador as sort of a “necessary” evil, as there’s so much info you won’t find anywhere else (easily). So anyone who wants to try out a kindler-gentler facebook, come check us out.

    1. Oh, for joy! Just what the world needs is more political correctness and censorship. How did you say I can avoid your group?

      I’m sure you’re the arbiter of who is playing nice and who has crossed your line, right?

    2. I joined Facebook when it began, used it for a few days and what I saw made me totally uninterested and wary. I have tried a score of times to cancel my connection, but nothing I do will allow me to do that. They entrap people.

          1. I know you were using the word “lucky” as a figure of speech, but there was no luck involved in my decision at all. I have never regretted it.

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