Yes, it’s a thinky post! Because I have been thinking! Always dangerous, thinking about things. Might lead to self-improvement.
The Internet has a lot of open doors. So when we are having a nice cozy chat about celebrity gossip in our chatrooms, the subject themselves (or friends or relatives) could wander over and eavesdrop. Pre-internet, there were fan magazines and gossip magazines, but the chatty conversations were limited to hair salons and kitchen tables and fully private spaces. Now, both the “fan magazine” equivalent and the kitchen table are out there for anyone to read.
(Huh. The answer to this turns out to be “yes, Dean Martin did outlast Jerry Lewis”)
I started thinking about this because it came up on the Vanderpump board that I have been obsessing over since this totally ridiculous celebrity scandal broke. Someone posted saying “don’t be mean, these are real people, we don’t want to drive them to depression etc. etc.”. And there were some really good responses about how, actually, the discourse on this particular board was okay. And I found myself agreeing with the responses. And then I found myself thinking “this isn’t that different from what I would say at a kitchen table and it has the same limits”.
If I am at a kitchen table discussing a celebrity, or really anyone, I may joke about them saying something stupid, or seriously critique their behavior as unkind or wrong. But I wouldn’t say anything about a physical handicap, wish them harm, or critique their body. There’s lines you just don’t cross, as a Human Person, in any situation.
Still doesn’t mean I necessarily want the person to overhear me in my “kitchen” or wander into my chat room! And I think that is kind of fair. If I’m talking with the kitchen door open and you wonder by, you can tell this is clearly a private conversation not intended to be heard. If you feel hurt by it, well, you are eavesdropping after all. If I am in an internet chatroom talking about a celebrity, the same rules apply. Yes, in theory the actual person could read it. But they would have to seek it out and “eavesdrop” on a conversation that was not intended for them.
And all of this is totally different from seeking a person out and saying horrible things to them in person! To put it in high school girl terms, it’s one thing to gossip about the most popular girl in school and how you think her new hair style is terrible. It’s a totally different thing to write an anonymous note and leave it in her locker saying her hair style is terrible.
I think these are things most of us who have been active online for a while are aware of? It’s the same as learning proper social behavior in any setting, you observe and adapt and understand. Even in a chat room setting, you never wish harm to anyone or use lowblow insults, but beyond that you can say anything you want and celebrities beware if they seek out the conversation to listen. Never EVER direct message a stranger unless it is to say something kind, that is crossing a line. But if a stranger appears in the chatroom where you have been discussing them, you don’t necessarily have to “apologize” either, they sought you out, they risked seeing unpleasant things about themselves.
I’m not sure if I’m being clear, but I guess what I am getting at is when I myself have occasionally stumbled onto my blog being linked and people saying I am wrong or missing the point or whatever, that’s fair play to them. I published the thing, you have a right to say what you want about it. However, when someone direct messages me on twitter or elsewhere, that is something totally different. In that case, if you are being unkind, I don’t have to take it, I can block you and ignore you and report you. That’s very different from discussing somewhere I can’t “hear” you.
At the same time, I try (although I may not have always succeeded) to maintain healthy critique levels here. Yes, I do not like Ranbir Kapoor. But I am not going to wish him physical harm, just as I wouldn’t wish that on any person in the world. And I’m not going to critique him for things out of his control, like being too short or too tall or having a big nose or anything like that. But there’s no reason I can’t say mean things about his acting, his interview quotes, all kinds of things like that. I’m in a “private” setting talking about a public figure, it’s allowed.
Does that make sense? Did I articulate the same things you feel without having articulated them before? Am I missing a major “internet etiquette” thing that we have learned?
There’s plenty of terrible stories about “doxing” and “revenge porn” and obsessive harassment of celebs, I feel like it’s important to recognize that there is actually accepted codes of behavior that we all abide by in the internet society and people should know when they are breaking those codes. It doesn’t just happen “without meaning to”, it happens on purpose and most folks are polite enough not to do those things.
I know what you mean. Commenting on celebrities is one thing and writing nasty comments to them directly is the other.
I never write bad things to people because what’s the point?
Exactly! Write a nasty comment, and it either has no effect, or it makes another person feel terrible. It’s not like they are going to read this anonymous internet comment and think “it’s true! I should change my behavior!” You are just being mean for the sake of being mean. The most likely effect to have is depression and paranoia in the target, why do that?
I feel like the meanest thing would be to put the note *outside* the popular girl’s locker: targeted and anonymous, but public. On the internet, the equivalent is probably dissing someone on their Twitter account.
While the truly private message might even be kindly meant, giving the popular girl a chance to fix what doesn’t work. That would just be presuming too much familiarity.
Good point, there’s a targeted message of “you are crazy” and hte targeted message of “I know I don’t know you, but your behavior seems unusual, perhaps you should get professional help”. One of them is just an attack, the other is meant kindly.
And then there is the absolute WORST version, the attack that pretends to be kind! Uff, I’ve got shivers remembering the times I’ve observed that. It’s absolutely devastating. “For your own good, we all decided you should know that no one likes you and you’re stupid and ugly. We are telling you out of kindness”.
I guess what I am saying is, never send Baby to middle-school. 13 year old girls can be sooooooooooo cruel and I don’t want her to go through that!
Well, luckily it’s not called middle school in Germany. 😉
About your board, though: If you put a sign on the kitchen door saying “we’re discussing Vanderpump here” you shouldn’t be surprised if the people involved with that are tempted to listen in. Though on the other hand, they have also been forwarned and might expect fewer limits on the gossip.
Hmm. What about a comparison of “this is a public meeting to discuss the mayor candidates”? You are welcome to show up if you are one of the candidates, but expect an open and honest discussion that may make you feel uncomfortable.
To use this blog as a comparison, I’ve actually had occasionally comments from directors/actors which FREAKS ME OUT. But on the other hand, I don’t feel like I have to apologize for saying “this one scene was really booooooooooooring”. That’s what I thought, I’m on my own blog saying my own things, if you are browsing the internet and find my posts about your work, there is no guarantee I will be saying nice things.
I feel like the mayor candidates would be officially invited. A book club that’s publicly advertised with the author showing up incognito? Someplace they would go if they want the audience’s honest opinion.
“”13 year old girls can be sooooooooooo cruel and I don’t want her to go through that!””
OMG Don’t tell me. Both boys and girls are the worst. Only few days ago my son had a very unpleasant situation with the kids from his class. He was bullied in the elementary school, so it’s hard to him to be open. Now in the middle-school the situation was way better, and he became a little less shy but still wary with the peers. Last year he used to go out with some of the boys but not often . Few weeks ago he felt he wants to go out with them again and tried to enter the group but without success. Once one of the guys invited him, but later when my son was almost ready he wrote: Sorry, the other guys told me you can’t come.
We were angry but what can we do? And the other day, there was our Saint Patron feast here and literally all the town was in the streets, and my son tried again to go out with the group (even if he was anxious because of the last rejection). At first one of the girls was like: Ok, you can come. But when he was searching for them , they hid, didn’t answer the calls, and in the end wrote: we decided that we don’t want you. I was there in the middle of the street when he came heartbroken, and when I heard the story I was so angry I started crying. I cried when he felt asleep and even now when I think about it. The teenagers can be monsters.
OH ANGIE!!!!! This is the absolute WORST!!! I am so sorry. Kids can be sooooooooooo cruel. Ugh! I want to fly out there and be your son’s best friend so he knows he is cool and interesting and people like him.
Is there gonna be a school shake up soon? Like, will he have a chance to reintroduce himself to a new group next year? Or will he still be with the same group of kids for a while?
This I think would be the equivalent of some regular person on a message board being mean to another regular person on a message board and that is NEVER OKAY. That’s why The Internet has moderators. I wish Life also had moderators like that, who could come in and say “whoa whoa whoa, that’s mean and wrong”.
On Fri, May 12, 2023 at 4:52 PM dontcallitbollywood < firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
That’s so devastating for the kids. I’ve also had my five-year – old come running to me crying because the kids he had been playing with on the playground didn’t want him along anymore. So it’s not really a matter of age. The problem is that you can’t force them to play together. But of course it’s cruel to say yes first and then change your mind.
Yes, it was exactly my first thought when I calmed down : we can’t force people to hung out with with us. This is life. But what makes me angry is that I know big part of the group didn’t care, because there were many people and one person doesn’t change much for them. It’s one or two assholes who decided they don’t want him, and the rest of the group didn’t have a spine to say something even if they knew it sucks.
I once had an author reply to a tweet I wrote about a book, and it totally caught me off guard and also taught me a useful lesson about the fact that many authors have alerts set up for when their titles are mentioned. It was OK in the end, we had a nice exchange, but eek!
I think the rules you describe make sense. It also helps when the people writing about celebrities understand there are real limits to what they know about the actual human, which is something I’ve always felt you navigate really well, even with someone like SRK who you’ve been studying and following for many years.
And of course when celebrities realize they may see things hilariously wrong about themselves and understand it is meaningless because we don’t know them. If Vicky stumbles across us saying we wish Salman and Kat got together, the healthy reaction is to laugh.