I’ve never been one to buy into the notion that blatant criticism is an essential part of one’s existence. Sure, critical analysis is required, consideration once the event has passed is a wise and often fulfilling way for a person to learn lessons about their failings, their successes and their days that are mere fodder to the gods and a good clip behind the ears never hurt anyone. But criticism for the sake of criticism is unjust, snide and a malignant aspect of our society. This is coming from a man who enjoys a couple of film and album reviews, a cup of Rooibos tea and a slice of mint chocolate more than waking up with a beautiful woman curled into her pillow as the smell of spring drifts through with the morning breeze. I just find criticism for the sake of it a very dangerous thing.
Okay, you can say it, you can tell me what you are all thinking. If you can’t cop criticism, you won’t be able to cop life. Criticism leads to positive change. Criticism is a necessity, a fruit of life, and a way you might not have considered had it not been for the retractable words. Yes, criticism in a particular form is useful. However, we reside in a world where criticism is constant, criticism comes from all angles and we are told that if we lash out, behave differently to it or take it too seriously, we are inferior, even weak. You read articles, and news websites, and YouTube videos and forums and Facebook comments and reviews and Instagram photos and Twitter musings and press releases and on and on and on and on and what you find, whether serious or not, is a chain of snide, smug individuals trying to reduce someone’s work to nothing more than a bitter, rampant rejection of that idea. And for what? To get a little bit of minor satisfaction in deliberately making someone feel like shit, perhaps?
My generation is in that unusual position whereupon we hold the greatest advantage of being the first generation to know what it is like to be connected with basically every other human on the planet (if we want it to be that way) but also the misfortune of having to deal with the fact that we were also the first to be introduced to the notion of ubiquitous opinion and ultimately, ubiquitous criticism. Don’t get me wrong, I am amused by trolling, I find it is a valid form of satire when used correctly. But the bad outweighs the good. We’re told to rise above it when we want to put ourselves on the line but then also told to take into account valid criticism. Where do we draw a line? Is listening to contrary opinion becoming something we completely separated from or become so bogged down by it that we minimise our own being into a shell of our former self?
Winston Churchill once stated that ‘criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.’ This is an extremely poignant point but one that I no longer consider to be a fundamental truth. Our way of life has evolved into a 24/7 cycle of connectivity, where high profile people are expected to heed to the whims of those who pay for their wages and face backlash if they refuse such advances. What occurs is this grand compromise, a worrying compromise that pushes us into a place where frustration reigns supreme. Our choice has been reduced to either you buy in, or you sit out.
You only have to look to the myriad of examples that bob around in the internet’s wilderness to realise that transgressions now sit with a person for as long as they live, or in this crazy new-age, as long as that person remains relevant. The death of Jacintha Saldanha and the aftermath of the controversy is an example of how an incident that indirectly resulted in a suicide sullies a person’s reputation for life. The two radio hosts who made a prank call impersonating the Queen and the Prince of Wales enquiring about the Duchess of Cambridge’s health after giving birth. It succeeded to get through Saldanha and was transferred to a nurse caring for the Duchess.
In the following days Saldanha committed suicide and the two radio hosts were the figures who received mass scorn from the public for their role in Saldanha’s death. What was not said was that Saldanha had mental health issues and had previously attempted to end her own life on two occasions. Although the prank was the likely catalyst for Saldanha’s death, the foundation for it was clearly her battle with her mental health. An apology from the two Australian radio hosts didn’t appease the bloodthirsty public, and the witch-hunt ended in the show being cancelled, the hosts being stood down and left to fend for themselves as advertisers threatened to boycott. Twitter was abuzz with accusations, threats and outrage against the two, as they dealt with the consequence with supposed blood on their hands. It was a tragedy no doubt, but did it warrant the disgraceful retribution against the two that snowballed into days of potentially harmful abuse? No. Not in a million years. But they just had to cop it. Cop it sweet because they were in the public eye and a harmless prank went horribly wrong.
This is just one of the examples of how social media has become the uncontrollable beast of ‘keeping the bastards honest’. Sure, to an extent this is very true. Nothing like telling the PM his policy on education is absolutely fucked before calling him an ‘unsociable cunt’ or something along those lines. However, there comes a point where criticism is just gratuitous and a certain act is undeserving of mass condemnation. There is nothing wrong with condemning a man who has raped a woman, for life. He has put a person through a terrible, terrible experience and deserves to be chucked in the dustbin of history. But a woman who has breastfed her baby while she is taking a shit is just placing human beings on a pedestal so we can cut them down for being ‘unsanitary’ or ‘unfit to be a mother’. People, take a step back from your outrage and stop being so fucking small-minded. We’re in danger of becoming so driven by negativity, cynicism and outrage for the smallest things that we will become so stagnant in debate and so insular that the only decisions that will mean anything will be small-minded gossip that simply shouldn’t matter to anyone minus the people directly involved. We can’t just sit back and say, ‘this is the world we live in.’ It shouldn’t be. We’re so much better than denying freedom of expression when it is completely warranted.
The mainstream media are just as fallible, knowing that their unsubstantial reporting will lead to hits from 140 character junkies. At what cost though? The cost of reports that could advance us to a point where we don’t see women getting subjected to unfair work conditions, horrific treatment behind closed doors instead of just being subjected to constant criticism for how they parent their kid, how they dress and how they look. The cost of allowing our most spiteful emotions from acknowledging when someone does something well, when someone is making the most of a situation and suffocating their desire to improve. We’re in danger of our instincts encouraging snub rather than… what is a word that rhymes with snub? (Loser) What was that mate? (Nothing… fucking loser)… Alright, imaginary voice of the internet, you win this time. But next time, I’ll be stronger, I won’t allow your words to upset my vibe. (Cool story bro.) Grrrrrr, that’s it! I quit. I quit the internet!
Two hours later… Fuck me, these 7 second videos are both hilarious and educational!
We’re fucking addicted. We’re becoming more and more addicted to bringing people down, salivating over a life we’d prefer to our own, being brought down a level of idiocy, leaving us dull and predictable. Our hearts are hardening, our cynicism rising and why? Because there’s a certain part of us that is losing touch with our emotion. We’re being sapped of genuine emotion through our overexposure to bullshit, our overexposure to human interest stories on our phones rather than the human interest stories that are right in front of us. It is a lot easier to empathise with someone when we don’t actually have to help them in person and listen to the tale of woe and their hopeless situation for a period of time longer than the 2 minute YouTube video. We’re in danger of overdosing on criticism, overdosing on social activism that isn’t all that helpful and in danger of forgetting what is right in front of us. A world that we can actually make a more positive place by being open and available and… there in person.
I’m sick of people potting each other without the threat of consequence. We’re being taught to love and accept others from an early age and then change our tune as we grow up because it is cool. It’s making people feel like shit even if you don’t have to deal with the reality of that. The internet is a wondrous place but it can quickly change into a toxic haven for the insecure who can’t dish out an opinion in person, a place where kids can be reduced to sad, defeated human beings and a place that can crush the human spirit and leave us our pitiless as a malignant tumour pushing us to the brink.