Sometimes catharsis can come from the most unexpected places. For me it was the realization that I use the word 'hate' too much and that it is an indication that I hate too much. Someone I know posted something on facebook and I made a tongue-in-cheek comment about how it combined all three things I hate (for those curious the three things were Disney World, Starbucks and Harry Potter). Another friend of the original poster replied to my comment and... Well, it spiraled out of control. Or at least it almost did. Maybe this person was a huge Harry Potter fan and she was tired of having to defend her tastes in the public domain all the time. Maybe this person was having a bad day. Or she did not understand Internet-style humour (do people really not know about Godwin's Law anymore?). After one comment, my reaction was that of laughing incredulity, but it got under my skin. And then the comment dug deeper and deeper. How dare she make assumptions about me? In minutes I was shaking with rage, thumbs aflutter composing a post so heinous and bilious that I nearly dropped the phone. Something I pride myself on is that I try to show my male students that they have to treat women with respect, as human beings, and here my post all but started with 'cunt' and went downhill from there. What was wrong here? What was wrong with this picture?
I deleted the post. Never replied to the comment. But that rage, that hate, refused to go away, it just sank deeper, lay still. Do I just post another snarky reply? Try to tone it down? In the end I did not reply at all and just let it lie. Hours later I made a separate wall post to the effect of "stupid people on the Internet". Why? To feel vindicated I guess. To feel I got the last word in. Which of course I didn't, because this person would not have seen my post. It did get me thinking though. Maybe what set the other person off wasn't a bad day, or a love for Harry Potter books. Maybe it was the word 'hate'. And maybe, what provoked such rage in me was that it exposed my reliance on hatred.
Human beings tend to see things in black and white. We can't help it I think. Like or dislike (perhaps facebook is far wiser than many people give it credit for not including a dislike button), yes or no. When given a communication outlet for our opinions that is as physically disassociated as the Internet, we have a tendency to push things to extremes. Like becomes love, dislike becomes hatred. Sardonic irony gets smeared over everything, and that I believe is also its own brand of hatred - the kind where you hate something or someone but you don't want to appear too worked up over it, so... irony it is. It works in reverse too, when I said 'hate' what I thought I was doing was being ironic: "No, I don't really "hate" it, I just dislike it, but it's somehow funnier if I say hate." Well, no, no it's not. If I said 'hate' then that's what the other person hears, and it's also what I want them to hear (whether I realize it or not). So really I'm trying to be ironic and earnest at the same time. The tone is irony, but the message is really "Look! I can take a strong stand on this issue! I have principles!" Dislike is wishy-washy, it's a wet towel of emotions, and we don't want to appear wishy-washy, now do we?
Hold on though, it's deeper than this. Did I say 'hate' to the person whose comments provoked the rage? No, I said 'hate' to the original post. Did I have to comment at all? Why post at all if my comment was a snarky kneejerk ironic reaction? What did I gain by it? Did I somehow enlighten the original poster as to the error of his ways? Did I make the world a better place? No, I just shitposted for the hell of it, to make a stand (but you know, in a physically safe, but emotionally charged way) to show that I could take a stand. And when someone else calls me out (rightly or wrongly) it put me on the defensive, it challenged my plan. Goddammit, I had this whole nice picture in my mind all laid out! It's a funny comment, it'll get a couple of likes, maybe a snarky response by the original poster, let bygones be bygones and let the good times roll on. Now how dare this stranger ruin my plan, challenge my power - nay, my right! - to ironically shitpost? Hence hate, hence rage. See, this is what I ultimately realized. Hatred is a natural emotion, but it's not a right, and it's not an expression of power that I think many people mistake it for. Hate is a response to power, hatred is not an emotion of a strong person, but an emotion of a weak person, or one who is unsure about the security of his power. So when someone challenges our hatred, it provokes rage. I think I could do better in the future.