Conan O'Brien will give an interview on 60 minutes this Sunday. I just finished reading an article describing bits of the interview and Conan's thoughts on Jay Leno's actions. The article and Conan's interview isn't what inspired me to write, however. It was the comments section below the article. The idea that every article written on the internet offers a comments section for its readers to articulate their opinions in an environment that permits them to spout off without repercussions--and without the pressure of a natural discourse which requires them to think on their feet--is infuriating. It is a symptom of a culture that revolves around self-importance and vanity, a culture of individuals whom study their digital reflection the way a self-absorbed yet ironically timid teen might study a mirror. We've come to love ourselves and our easily crafted quips so much that we've quickly lost touch with reality and humanity.
The comment I read that infuriated me so much was the following:
"The fact of the matter is that America made up its mind. Conan at 11:30 pm was HORRIBLE. It was unwatchable. It was awful. Ratings tanked. Don’t talk about “lead-ins”, please…Conan did this all to himself. Also, doesn’t the guy already have like tens of millions of dollars in the bank? Why should we care? In fact, we don’t. Adios Conan. Enjoy the college circuit. What a loser."
I'm going to address this comment from finish to start. "What a loser". Though it's too easy, I cannot avoid pointing out that anyone calling someone else a loser via a message board or comments section is wonderfully hypocritical. I can't simply stop there, however. There is a deeper problem with this statement, a problem that is yet another symptom of our vastly disgusting and insipid race of beings. "What a loser" is a remarkably hurtful comment. Why spread negativity so directly?
One could easily argue that I'm spreading negativity in a similar fashion by attacking the person that posted this and saying the human race is insipid. I contend there is a fundamental difference. You have the benefit of exploring my thought process because I'm explaining myself in a clearer, more controlled and detailed manner. There may also be a touch of irony in my writing. I am not reducing my opinion to an angry, hateful remark to be found in the internet ether.
What does this poster gain by spreading hatred in this manner? Does she/he feel as though they are victorious in some manner? If that's the case then they are grossly mistaken for there must be a conflict in the first place if there is to be a victor. There is no conflict save the one created by this person's mind to feel as though they, in some way, are at odds with Conan O'Brien due to some wrong he committed against them. Or perhaps the poster's purpose is simpler and does not in any way stem from a desire to gain anything. Perhaps this person just had a thought, an opinion, and wanted to share it with others without needing to defend it. The problem here, then, is that this person has simply launched hate into the world without provocation and without real reason.
I have had the phrase "what a loser" forced into my inner-monologue as a result of this person's post. Now, I chose to read it and that's my own idiotic mistake, but there are others that purposefully read others' comments to get a sense of what people are thinking. This means that all of these people, whether or not they're on Jay's side, Conan's side, or indifferent to the NBC situation have had the extreme negativity of the phrase "What a loser" infect their consciousness. This negativity has now been plugged into their brain by someone with no real purpose and with no awareness of their own actions. This is negativity for negativity's sake. It is negativity without the nuance of human interaction and without identity. Even a mob has an identity. Even a mob has a purpose and a justification for their hatred. Even a mob can be disbanded, humanized. But not this. Not internet comments. Not message board battles. It is a direct shot of hatred to the system.
What makes this so destructive and potentially harmful is that it can be found everywhere, but when people read such comments they don't consider the ramifications to the level which I am describing. They don't consider what someone else's hatred or anger does to their thoughts, because of how harmless and disconnected the internet allows it to appear. But it's not harmless. Negativity of any kind from any source, especially negativity without provocation and negativity that cannot be countered in a legitimate fashion, affects us deeply. It's like a small, unnoticeable seed slowly growing in the back of our brains of which we are not entirely aware. Even if this negativity does not manifest itself in our actions, it's still there, flowing through our minds and potentially compounding with previous forms of anger or hatred, resulting in bad moods that we simply do not understand.
Are you ever angry and you're not sure why? Have you ever felt sick as a result of a bad mood, stress, anger, or someone's illogical attempt to mess with your head? While I do believe in "negative waves, baby", I think that there is an even more practical, tangible application of this idea that people could respond to.
The internet allows us to think we are all little islands of information. We are not and have never been islands. We are not encouraged to consider the affect words and the thoughts of others literally have upon us. It is difficult to see how connected each of us are (reality does not literally unite us unless we're making love), but it is impossible, literally, to be completely unaffected by people. Their opinons and prejudices reveal themselves to the world in speech or action and both impact their listeners ineternally and sometimes externally. To read their negativity is to inject their negativity like a drug, without realizing it. It rests in your brain, a nasty cournel of hate destined to spread in some way. What's even more troubling is that this sort of negativity has gone mainstream and even been sanctioned by entire news/media organizations, allowing radio talk show hosts the chance to rant and rave incoherently to a sea of unquestioning followers.
And, finally, there's the very simple truth that undermines any validity of the statement "what a loser". Conan O'Brien is, simply, not a loser. Anyone who succeeds at their dream is not a loser.