Karl the Curmudgeon Hates Bullies

"People can sure be mean," Karl said. "I mean, downright mean."

I didn't say anything! I protested. All I said was I didn't think that was a good throw.

"Not you, Kid!" Karl said. "Not everything is about you, you know."

Oh no, of course not. That's 'cause it's all about you. You and your big bushy beard that just insists upon itself, and sticks itself out there!

"What the hell are you talking about?"

I don't know. I think that last schnapps went to my head. We were sitting in The Tilted Windmill, our favorite Dutch-themed bar, watching the Dutch Women's Curling Team in the European Curling Championships. It was a tough match against Ireland, but our ladies in orange were giving it their all.

"I'm talking about online," Karl said. "People are terrible people online. They're mean, abusive bullies."

Those people are called 'trolls,' I said. Their lives are so pathetic and sad, they get their kicks out of being cruel to people.

"Not those people. I know about trolls. I'm talking about everyone else powering the Internet Shame Machine. Those people who will jump up and down on someone and will ruin the lives of their latest victim, because there's apparently no room for forgiveness online."

Don't you think some of those people deserve it?

"Not necessarily. The Internet has become a den of nastiness and venom, even when it's standing up for those who can't do it themselves. Do you remember Walter Palmer, the dentist who shot Cecil the lion a few months ago? People just hammered that guy."

Yeah, but he deserved it, don't you think?

"To a point. I mean, the guy did spend $50,000 to hunt a lion, and he ended up shooting a protected lion that was beloved by the entire world, which we can agree was terrible. But people made death threats against him and his family. They vandalized his house and shut down his business. I think he should face legal consequences, but I don't think he or his family should be murdered."

That was pretty extreme.

"Or Justine Sacco, a PR flack who tweeted a joke about AIDS in Africa, and was roasted by the Internet so badly, she lost her job. People weren't just angry about her tweet, they wanted her to be fired, and there were threats of death and violence. People were actually happy ruining her life, trying to make her homeless, and demanding her death."

I see your point. That's—

"I even remember a story from 2013 where a guy got shamed on Twitter by a woman, after he told a private joke to a friend at a tech conference. Her tweet went viral, and the guy got fired 24 hours later. After he was fired, a lot of women-hating men went on a bullying rampage, made death threats, and got her fired as well. He could no longer take care of his three kids, and she slept on a friend's couch for several weeks for her own safety."

I get it, Karl. People love ruining the lives of other people.

"It's more than that. We've got a mob rule mentality where people just aren't happy with being outraged. They work themselves up into a fake blood lust, and they can only satisfy it with the heads of people who offend the Internet."

Weren't we like this before, as a society?

"Maybe so. When I was younger, we had decency groups and protestors who would actually wave signs at a particular location. That took some actual effort, because they not only had to make the signs, they had to go to the place where the protest was being held."

I thought when you were younger, you and your friends protested by throwing all the tea into the harbor.

Karl gave me the finger. Then he waved down Nicholaas, our bartender, and ordered a couple more beers. He took a drink from mine before he handed it to me.

"My point is, we can ruin someone's life as easily as we buy a book on Amazon. Social media has turned everyone from armchair warriors into click-tyrants."

I blame Facebook, I said. We've made it so easy to shove our opinions down other people's throats, everyone's getting angrier at everything. So one day, they reach the end of their rope, and just explode.

"That's why I'm not on Facebook anymore, Kid. I got tired of all the drama and griping. I figure I didn't need to be in that world anymore."

Uh-huh. You forgot your password, didn't you?

Karl took another drink of my beer. "Shut up, Kid."

"Cecil the lion at Hwange National Park (4516560206)" by Daughter#3 - Cecil. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons.

You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.