There are a few standard pieces of advice that are indisputable. Use your parking brake on a steep hill. Liquor before beer, never the other way around. Pork should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees. And when it comes to articles on the internet, don’t read the comments.
We all know this. We get why. The comments section of almost everything online is just a cesspool of hatred, stupidity, anger, casual cruelty and—as we all now know—at least a marginal percentage of Russian bots. So, fine. It’s really not a hard rule to follow, right? Preserve your sanity; just don’t look.
Except I keep looking. I can’t help it.
I think it’s not dissimilar to having an annoying pimple that you can’t stop picking at. “That’s going to leave a scar,” you tell yourself. “Just stop touching it, it will heal faster.” But it’s just so gross and compelling, you wind up going back again and again to poke at it and next thing you know you have a bloody wound on your chin (or psyche) and you’re really, really mad at yourself.
It would be one thing if I couldn’t stop myself from just reading the comments. I’ve actually started taking it a step farther and am now arguing with people in the comments… about their comments. I know. I can’t explain it. It’s absolutely Sisyphean, the notion that I can somehow bring some wisdom or a new perspective to a random stranger on the internet.
Shouldn’t somebody let them know? How are they supposed to know how wrong they are if I don’t say something!?!
Over the past week I have argued online with the following people:
• A woman who suggested that a 14 year-old girl who was groped by Roy Moore was obviously “asking for it”
• A guy who thought that arming teachers in schools would be a great deterrent to school shootings
• A guy who thought that it was totally not worth tanking House of Cards just to bring Kevin Spacey’s sexual assaults to light
• A guy who suggested that NFL players who don’t stand for the anthem should have their citizenship revoked
• A woman who insistently used the phrase “black on black crime”
• Someone who claimed that Love Actually was the greatest romantic comedy of all time (I’ll admit this is low-stakes but… come on.)
No, it doesn’t work and yes, it actively causes me suffering. It’s a very bad habit, one I’m going to have to break if I’m going to safeguard my own health for the long-term. When I wade into these comments, I can literally feel my blood pressure going up. I get tension headaches from rolling my eyes so much. My uvula has permanent scar tissue from all the audible scoffing.
Sure, there are a few highs—the other day I accurately applied the label “troglodyte” in one of my digital skirmishes—but at what personal cost? At the end of the day I’m not moving anything forward, and I’m only hurting myself.
So, I’ve decided that I’m going to stop. I’m going cold turkey. The comments are dead to me. I feel freer just saying that! It’s a total ban, and it starts right now… or technically, right after I go check out Sean Hannity’s new Facebook post about the GOP tax bill. BRB.