Crisis Text Line is an organization that works to connect with people in their most terrifying and intense moments. If you’re feeling suicidal or like there’s no one in the world who understands you, you can text into their services (741741) and someone will be there to help you through it.
The volunteers literally save lives by acknowledging other people. What CTL figured out, and what we all know to be true, is humans need inclusion to survive.
Which is essentially the point of the internet — at least when it’s on its best behavior. It’s an invisible thread that connects us with each other, with information or advice, with video from the 2001 Super Bowl Halftime show. All the necessities.
But the Internet, like the people it’s made of, is not always on it’s best behavior.
And no, this isn’t another hot take on the infamous “YouTube commenter.” That debate is tired and useless.
What I’m talking about is more subtle, and thus more dangerous.
Because the troll is usually too dramatic and hyperbolic to have any long-term effects. Sure, they’re jarring. No one wants to hear a stranger tell them to eat shit and die. And it can ruin your week to read people (men) hoping for you to be raped because you have the audacity to voice your opinion.
That stuff sucks.
But a rational mind can brush those comments off. They are so clearly about the other person’s own hatred of themselves rather than anything the receiver said or did. So although it’s shitty to get this kind of vitriol from people, it couldn’t negatively affect you in a way that you wouldn’t notice.
And anything that can go unnoticed while it changes you for the worse is the problem that needs immediate attention.
For most of us, this silent killer is anything that is packaged as inclusion, when the real objective is to enable our worst behavior.
Content like this permeates most facets of our society and we’re all worse for it.
Think about Tumblr’s incessant quest to affirm your asshole tendencies by labeling them “qualities of an introvert”. It’s a handy way to absolve you of any and all accountability. We basically created a system to let ourselves off the hook for mildly unfavorable characteristic.
Look, I am an introvert and also a huge flake. My friends have, on more than a few occasions, pointed to the warning sign that acts as my last name. I’m Mckenna Bailey, ameteur bailer. I’m bail-ey.
Most of my flakey tendencies happen when my mental illness gets the best of me.
Other times I just don’t want to go. And in those moments, if I turned to the Internet for advice on how I should handle not wanting to fulfill a commitment, I would find infinite posts, articles and “studies” that prove standing up my friends is totally acceptable. I deserve to do what I want. They just need to understand that I’m an introvert.
But that’s not how adults behave. Adults honor their commitments, reschedule or give enough notice that their friend can make other plans with their night. In this case, when the Internet is saying “me too” it’s less about inclusion and more about commiseration.
If we’re all acting like this, than none of us can be wrong. Right?
It’s not just online. The entire series Girls was built on this idea that you can be a terrible version of yourself and your friends aren’t allowed to make you better. If they try to, you’re allowed to yell at or avoid them for as long as you see fit.
We’re enabling our own worst behaviors and we need to stop.
Because let’s face it — we’re already fighting a war against people who want to blame us for the fall of J.C Pennys and Applebees. The last thing they need is additional ammunition against us, especially by our own creation.
But more importantly, we’re better than that. We’re the generation of side hustles, carreer freedom, and innovation that literally changed the world. We made Facebook and AirBnB and also we have Rihanna.
So rather than enable each other to be lazy or rude or devoid of any accountability in our lives, we should encourage each other to be great.
Encourage each other to be inclusive, connected and collaborative. If we keep the healthy balance of inclusion rather than enabling, we erase one of our biggest obstacles — ourselves. Getting out of our own way will change the way the world talks about us and remembers our contributions.