When The Viral Phenomenon Is Someone Real

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One guy got a shock when he realized the YouTube video being passed around Facebook was of a childhood friend. Our perspective changes when the human cartoon we laugh at is someone real — or even ourselves.

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In this writer's case, the wake-up call came in the form of childhood friend Neil Lansing — whom you may know as the guy who tried to smuggle 30 things into prison in his anal cavity and launched a thousand easy jokes. Writes Luke O'Neil,

Most of us are Internet bullies now, some of us more active than others. Spend any time online, and you'll recognize that the worst way to react to stories like this, or anything else embarrassing, is to defend yourself or the people you know. There's always some sap in the comments saying, "This isn't funny, that's a real person with real feelings." Well, yeah, but they aren't my feelings, so ... To show such concern on the Internet is a sign of weakness; it's called being "butthurt." (Yes, I know.) Now I've found myself in the awkward position of being butthurt myself. I'm acting like troll bait, and it's an uncomfortable place to be.

What O'Neil takes away from the story is unclear — he as good as admits that he's unlikely to change his stranger-mocking ways — but the point of his story is. The truth is, a certain toughness is necessary to inhabit the world of the Internet, or you'd be crying all the time. But that's different from cruelty. And sometimes it takes knowing one of those faces to see the difference. What this piece reminds us is that, eventually, statistically, we or someone we know is going to be publicly humiliated — on the Internet, on a reality show, in a blog. What will we do with that knowledge? There are worse things than being "troll bait" — keeping in mind that "trolls" are actually people, too; we can't have it both ways.

Remembrance Of Things Assed [Slate]

DISCUSSION

By
yfunk

I read this article when they first posted it and was afraid that I was one of those "butthurt" internet citizens who gets labeled as not being able to take a damn joke. I then read the end of the article where O'Neill admits that he learned absolutely nothing from this experience because it honestly doesn't affect him THAT personally (i.e. it's not HIM that's being made fun of, just someone he knew and feels really sorry for, but not enough to change anything) and that he'll continue mocking others to make himself feel better. After reading that, I realized I wanted nothing to do with that kind of crap and I'm glad that I still feel like a freak when everyone else is making fun of peoples' misfortunes online and I actually wonder why that's news or why anyone would want to watch it.

Don't get me wrong, I love me some good trash-talking about douchebags who deserve it (like idiot frat members who post ridiculous diatribes about women being "targets" instead of human beings), but I sort of draw the line when people are physically hurt or don't do anything damaging to anyone else. If I can still have this empathy after 18 years of being on the internet (old skool Prodigy, y'alls!), then that makes me feel better about myself than watching anyone make fools of themselves in any capacity.