This Week In Internet Outrage: 22-Year-Old Ripped Apart For Having A Job, I Guess

Though they’re par for the course, my least favorite thing on the internet are these seemingly mandatory weekly outrage-fests that everyone loves blindly jumping in on.

This week’s unfortunate sacrifice is 22-year-old Taylor Cotter. Cotter wrote an essay for The Huffington Post about not experiencing the post-grad struggle she’d assumed was mandatory in this economy. She’d romanticized (and saw in the media) a “10-cents-a-word” life in New York City, but in the end, because of the pressures of the “real world,” she chose a steady job at a steady company in Boston.

If I were Stefon from Saturday Night Live, I’d start by saying, “This story has everything…” Because it does. Because the internet and Gawker are predictable anger-and-self-righteousness factories that love these beautiful keywords: 20-something, writer, success, complaints, etc. It involves someone having dreams and hope. It was born to be mocked.

But the open celebration of bitterness is astounding. We rip apart young people for not working hard enough or not having jobs and then we rip them apart again for working hard and having jobs. How dare this generation not support themselves immediately out of college! How dare they ask their parents for money! How dare they have massive student loans! Wait, what? A young girl has a well-paying job and acknowledges her debt? BURN HER, FOR SHE IS A WITCH.

I get it. Cotter’s article was tone deaf to the struggles of a butt-load of people out there. But guess what? People are having all sort of different lives, all around you. And I’m sorry, but you’ll probably have to hear about them. It’s this weird internet thing now that NO ONE is allowed to talk unless they’ve suffered immensely — or at least unless they have a worse life than you. And that’s complete bullshit and I’m tired of it.

I don’t understand the appeal of sitting by like some bloodthirsty hyenas behind your keyboards and wasting time being blowhards about other people. Does it feel good? Does it actively help your situation? It seems bleak, exhausting and frankly, bizarre.

You know who’s being mature and kind about this whole thing? Cotter. She’s responded to the mocking tweets (which by the way, why @ reply a person you’re sh-t talking in your shit talking tweet, you attention-seeking moron?) with class and grace, explaining herself rationally and saying she definitely appreciates her position and luck. Going through Cotter’s resume on her website, it doesn’t seem like she rode the lazy river to mild success — she had mad internships and jobs at publications before landing a job right out of college. She seems like a fairly normal girl. Isn’t that what hard-working, acceptable 20-somethings should be doing? Why is everyone so mad at this generation again? Did we steal something from them? Did our success or writing come to their door in the night and make it impossible for them to succeed or write?

Also, did you know Taylor Cotter is a real person? The last thing she was in the news for was helping stop an alliance between Northeastern University and Chic-Fil-A because the restaurant chain supports anti-gay institutions. Yep. That “HORRIBLE PERSON” everyone has decided to harvest? She’s an LGBTQ activist. GASP. Wait. People aren’t one-dimensional villains who exist primarily to serve our outrage purposes and gain us hits and money for our website? Just as easily, Taylor could have been a Tumblr hero for her work at Northeastern. Instead, she’s a cardboard cut-out symbol of those “clueless 20-somethings.” She’s brought to the gallows while we clap and feel smug.

Sure, everyone wants to take the easy way out and only see one side. You can’t behead someone if you know they’re a complex and multifaceted person who has made mistakes — just like you might have in your past. (I know! What? It’s like we’re all… people!)

Earlier this week, on Gawker, Cord Jefferson wrote a piece about moving from New York to Los Angeles and how it affected his quality of life and mental health. People in the comments ripped him a new one for daring to write about New York City (YOU’RE SO PRIVILEGED TO EVEN LIVE THERE. I LIVE IN A SHITHOLE TOWN IN A CARDBOARD BOX DOWN BY THE RIVER SO MY OPINION IS MORE VALID.) and for daring to write about his life and experiences (WHAT IS THIS? THOUGHT CATALOG? THE ONLY PLACE ON THE INTERNET WHERE PEOPLE WRITE ABOUT THEMSELVES APPARENTLY).

We’re all just gleeful to tear people down, which makes me incredibly uncomfortable and we’re gleeful to wallow in our own lives instead of actually doing anything of substance ourselves. It’s like these internet harvests exist purely so we can stand up and get the shiny Self-Righteous Medal for being, I guess, “Most Oppressed” or “Most Outraged.” In the end though, Taylor Cotter is a person. Not a good person and not a bad person. A person who experienced something, had some different thoughts and wrote them down. We’re all so obsessed with this black and white spectrum — this picture, this idea that everyone writing for the internet should toe a certain line or else shut up forever. I’m not convinced, guys. Yes, Cotter put herself out there by writing the piece, but there’s got to be a better way to hold internet discussion than this self-righteous mob BS.

Because… is this fun? Is this public drawing-and-quartering of a breathing person fun for all of you? Because it depresses me to watch all the damn time. It’s irresponsible and it’s not fixing anything.

This piece probably isn’t going to stop anyone from participating in these weirdo witch hunts every week. I’m going outside and I’m having a beer. Have fun in the elephant graveyard with the other hyenas, Hamilton Nolan. I’m out.

PS: What’s with the Boston dig, Gawker? Wicked uncool. TC Mark

image – Huffington Post

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  • http://mrb370.wordpress.com maria

    I thought the whole outrage was because she has a job but was acting ungrateful because she longs for the glamour of the poor, semi-homeless hipster.

    • http://gravatar.com/gabydunn Gaby Dunn

      Read the actual piece. She never says that she longs for that. It’s a sort of “grass is greener” situation based on what she saw in the media. It’s not completely unrealistic to think someone behind a desk might wonder what it’s like to freelance or vice versa. I’m speaking as someone who did both — spent years with a job with a good salary but no freedom to write (my passion) and then left and am working paycheck to paycheck but doing what I love. It’s an interesting thesis, I think. She’s not the first person ever to idealize the artistic life. Hasn’t anyone seen RENT? (lol)

      • Doug K

        The Boston digs are because it’s a terrible town filled with awful people. Quite simple, really!

      • http://twitter.com/MeghanButler Meghan Butler (@MeghanButler)

        I think that that tends to be the point of our 20s – to realize that the life we imagined [whatever it may be] doesn’t actually fit for us. I certainly went through the same thing with my life during my early 20s. I hate how the internet allows people to totally harass others without realizing that they’re actually talking to a living, breathing person. Horrible.

    • Matt

      Way to be a generalizing asshole, Doug. From all the Bostonians to you, here is a friendly “fuck you.”

  • http://nunudeen.wordpress.com nunudeen

    I love this!

  • http://twitter.com/jesshett jesshett (@jesshett)

    slow. clap. for. Gaby. and the highest of fives while we’re at it!

  • Shauna

    Most people didn’t rip her apart for having a career. That’s obviously impressive at 22. It’s not that the author doesn’t deserve her success, rather that she doesn’t seem to fully appreciate it. She claims she’s missing out on an integral, character-building part of life, but in reality she can have that life if she wants. It’s almost like those people who say that the lives of people on welfare are so great because they freeload and don’t have to work–but if that were the case, why aren’t they leaving their jobs and getting on welfare? It’s privileged naivety.

    • Shauna

      Also, I understand it was more of a hypothetical, and people do have idealized thoughts about how “others” live, but it still seemed like an article that wasn’t fully thought out, especially for being posted on the HuffPost blog.

  • http://gravatar.com/belownewyork belownewyork

    Snaps!

  • http://twitter.com/rionharmon rion harmon (@rionharmon)

    you go girl

  • Guest

    Are we so sad a race that we have lost the ability to be happy for other people?

    • KC

      As someone who is actually struggling, she can shove that essay up her ass. I have the ability to be happy for other people who aren’t so narcissistic.

      • Jake

        Hahahaha I love this comment!

  • Mary

    “I don’t understand the appeal of sitting by like some bloodthirsty hyenas behind your keyboards and wasting time being blowhards about other people. Does it feel good? Does it actively help your situation? It seems bleak, exhausting and frankly, bizarre.”

    Isn’t that what this is? Oh wait..this is about a group of people and not one person. And its a blog and not in the comments. That makes it different and totally not the same. (yeah, no) People are horrible. Other people like to point out when people are horrible. The end.

    • Alexis Carole

      This article isn’t making comments on someone’s personal being, life, or experiences. Its merely a commentary on how as a society (or at least an Internet society) we seem unable to see things from both our own and another person’s perspective, and we seem more interested in tearing someone apart (with unnecessary cruelty, a lot of the time) than giving them the benefit of the doubt.

  • assssss

    Look, my problem was not that she has a job. My problem is that her romanticized image of what her life should have turned out to be like is based on this ridiculous notion that everyone out of college HAS to live in some sort of angst filled 20-something life where they feel the need to emulate some unrealistic character of fiction.

    Its not just Ms. Cotter, but our generation as a whole. Its something that is seen a lot on this blog. All the “what to do in your 20’s”, “how to survive a quarter life crisis”, and “things you should do before you turn 25” lists…. they all perpetuate the same ideal: That although we are so privileged, we must go “explore” ourselves by inflicting some sort of suburban life sacrifice.

    Although I dont agree with Ms. Cotter’s ideal lifestyle, i think that it is actually a step in the right direction. She has shown a light on the troubling truth: Real life is not like the stories we have grown up with and are bombarded with in modern media. Real life is Carpe Diem-ing the fuck of what actually comes your way and making it your own.

    She is only 22. She will have plenty of time to look back and realize that the drama filled life she so desires now is nothing but a misguided pipe dream.

    The world moves on….

  • http://twitter.com/mbp817 Marc Phillips (@mbp817)

    This pretty much sums up every chip-on-the-shoulder Internet commenter: “(YOU’RE SO PRIVILEGED TO EVEN LIVE THERE. I LIVE IN A SHITHOLE TOWN IN A CARDBOARD BOX DOWN BY THE RIVER SO MY OPINION IS MORE VALID.)”

  • http://gravatar.com/rosiemccapp rosiemccapp

    All of what you said is true. Sometimes I feel guilty because I DO have a good paying job and I DO have health insurance, blah blah blah and so many people I know don’t. I’ve never been openly criticized as such but I don’t feel comfortable discussing it because yeah, I feel like people ARE going to judge me based on my career success.

    • http://gravatar.com/gabydunn Gaby Dunn

      Oof, the guilt. You’re allowed to have the life you have, Rosie. No need to participate in the shouting match for who is most oppressed. As long as you’re aware of your luck and such, you’re fine.

      • Lena

        There is a vast difference between feeling guilty about your success when others are struggling and writing a tone-deaf article where you pine for a life of someone struggling to feed themselves.

    • http://twitter.com/mbp817 Marc Phillips (@mbp817)

      I know. Sometimes I’m afraid to tell certain competitive friends about my success. Shouldn’t we be celebrating success? Why does it seem like we have to favor the average to below-average people? There may be more average people in the world, but that doesn’t mean it’s at the expense of the successful.

      • http://gravatar.com/gabydunn Gaby Dunn

        This could be a whole other article, but it’s the same way we downplay intelligence now in for example, presidential candidates. If you’re a president who is smarter than the average citizen, you’re elitist. I don’t want a president like me. I want a flippin’ genius president. But instead we value the below-average. Not sure I explained that well, but it’s weird as hell.

      • To Marc

        Isn’t the meaning of success subjective?
        If you ask me, “average” people have been thrown under the bus FOR the “successful” people since the beginning of time. I dislike your smug tone and the implication that young people who are unemployed are in that position because they are “average to below-average”. You sound like a bit of a dick Marc, and chances are your friends think so too which is why you can’t brag like you’d want to.

  • Alexis Carole

    Thank you for writing this. So, so true.

  • Kerri

    Thank you.

  • Angélica

    To be honest, I also got annoyed with the “First World Problems” tone of the article. Because where I come from, a “third-world” country, everyone would kill to have a situation like hers. But after reading it, I thought that maybe, someday, Ms Cotter might come across this article and give a little wince. I certainly do not agree with the trash-talking/insulting of the author via Twitter, Gawker, etc.

    • Angélica

      To some extent I kinda understand what she’s feeling, but I guess I read the article a little differently.

    • Emily

      Just going to leave this here: “(YOU’RE SO PRIVILEGED TO EVEN LIVE THERE. I LIVE IN A SHITHOLE TOWN IN A CARDBOARD BOX DOWN BY THE RIVER SO MY OPINION IS MORE VALID.)”

  • http://twitter.com/kaimcn Kai (@kaimcn)

    The outrage isn’t about Cotter having a job, it’s about her completely denying the privilege of having a job, having a car, having a 401K and writing a tone deaf piece in the middle of horrible economic times.

    It’s total privilege to be able to support yourself these days. It’s demoralizing and painful to have to move back in with your parents (sometimes leaving your friends, job, school, city) when you feel like you should be buying a home, working, having a car, saving for the future. It’s also a privilege to be able to live on a part time job in an expensive city because someone else needs to support you. Cotter also denies this privilege. It’s also demoralizing to work a job where you are continually disrespected to be able to eat and live, especially knowing that your options are limited and, oh look at that, you’re living below the poverty line! There’s no car, 401K or home ownership anywhere in my future!

    The outrage isn’t over someone in their early 20s getting a job, it’s about whining that she has that job and can’t live the student lifestyle minus homework.

    Wanting to pattern your life on Girls is as pathetic as wanting to pattern it on Sex & The City. Cotter needs to wake up to the real world and realize how privileged she is. The article reflects poorly on all 20somethings trying to prove their value to anyone who isn’t a 20soemthing.

    • http://gabydunnthoughtcatalog.wordpress.com Gaby Dunn

      You’re right, but I don’t think she was whining. There’s always a sort of “grass is greener” situation that goes on. Her idea of the world around her didn’t match what she was experiencing. That can cause a lot of guilt, especially when you’ve romanticized that sort of life. Or thought that you’d want to be an artist, versus sitting at a desk. Like I said, her original article was tone deaf, but it was another perspective. She didn’t cause anyone to be poor. Seems weird to have so much ire towards her.

      • Mara

        It’s exactly the attitude that she has displayed (albeit magnified) that DOES keep people poor. She showed no awareness of how her privilege (with her own merits as well) got her where she is. This is how the privileged reach the conclusion that the marginalized deserve less or else they would be succeeding too. I’m not saying that Cotter specifically believes this, but the line of thinking is not at all uncommon. She also glorifies poverty. When you can justify someone’s suffering and convince yourself that some nebulous benefit (“life-changing, character-building experiences”) arises from it to outweigh the cost, then you don’t have to help them. You can let them be poor. You can let them eat cake.

        And if anyone doubts me abouth people thinking such things, I have literally heard my classmates say on the topic of poverty in India, “But at least they have such a DEEP culture. Not materialistic like us,” as if it were a choice.

  • http://twitter.com/LaBelleHeureuse Ashley (@LaBelleHeureuse)

    This article was so dead on, well done!

  • Robert Wohner

    I think the most tiring part of the epidemic of Internet Outrage is that so many people don’t take the time to read the original article. They read a few soundbites on a website and pounce on them. Cotter clearly communicated her thoughts in a skilled and thoughtful way. I’m not sure why so many are uncomfortable engaging with those thoughts in the same manner. I think there are a lot of ways one could reasonably disagree with her premise – that by not struggling she’s missing out on a valuable perspective of life – but the reaction was ridiculously overblown.

  • Lena

    The outrage, from what I saw, had little or nothing to do with her success, but with the fact that she was romanticizing the struggles of those living in poverty.

  • http://gravatar.com/revierypone Carli

    So she’s automatically an activist because she was trying to stop Chick-Fil-A from coming to Northeastern? For your information, I go to Northeastern and a lot of people were riding that bandwagon (me personally, I didn’t care. I like chicken).

    You spend way too much time trying to defend Cotter when you should be defending her piece. Nobody really cares that she had internships and was active on campus, because that’s all irrelevant when compared to what she wrote.

    Also isn’t it a bit hypocritical to be writing a response to this “witch hunt” on the Internet? Aren’t you defending Cotter against people who have an opinion on this too? Aren’t WE people too? Aren’t WE entitled to an opinion? Clearly this is just one-sided. Might want to rethink what you post next time.

    • http://gabydunnthoughtcatalog.wordpress.com Gaby Dunn

      You’re entitled to an opinion! I am not stopping you! But it’s a sad, weird mob mentality that takes over when an Internet harvest is occurring. That is what frightens me.

      • http://afilmstudent.wordpress.com revierypone

        I think you might have to write that article another day, instead of focusing so much on defending Cotter. That would have been an interesting article, and you completely skimmed over that point!

    • Brandon Scott Gorrell

      the point of ‘defending’ cotter was to illustrate that she’s a real person — not an overused cliche one-sided “privileged white girl” narrative thing. thinking in black and white concepts like that is probably one of the main enablers of mindless ridicule and self-righteous indignation that gaby’s railing against. her piece is in a sense secondary to what she has a problem with — the weird, sacrificial requirements of anonymous internet people, who need to regularly ‘harvest’ archetypes of evil or privilege or whatever for psychological/tribal benefits.

      • http://afilmstudent.wordpress.com revierypone

        But maybe the Internet isn’t so black and white either? I’m on the side of people against Cotter, and I formed those opinions on my own, This article demonizes people who take a voice on the Internet. Sure there are people out there who form their own opinions based on what other people tell them, but it’s not everyone. It’s not so black and white either. I called out Cotter on my own accord. That doesn’t make me a cliche.

  • Gee

    Gaby conveyed what Taylor was trying to say, much better than Taylor herself. I feel like Taylor’s story fell apart somewhere at ‘struggling-is-character-building-but-being-successful-isn’t’

  • http://leakytreehouse.wordpress.com leakytreehouse

    It wasn’t about her having a job–it was her attitude and the general tone of the article. But it makes sense that TC would defend her, since about 80 percent of TC’s posts are written with the same tone.

    • http://gabydunnthoughtcatalog.wordpress.com Gaby Dunn

      Hi. I am a person named Gaby. I am not Thought Catalog. I have my own posts! Let’s chat as people!

  • Jeff

    Well put.

  • Holly

    Love it. I read this before reading her article, and had I not known there were people so incensed by it, I would have never guessed. It was simply honest and well-written, and something probably a lot of successful, creative people have thought. She seemed grateful for her position, not bitter. Just wistful for that bohemian lifestyle, and I don’t see what’s wrong with that.

  • http://gravatar.com/jpmacor jpmacor

    I hope you realize that she’s not being ripped apart for her success, but for her wistful moaning about this success in the face of millions of others who don’t have it. Those selfsame people who would trade their starving artist lifestyle for a stable job, and wouldn’t think twice about their position, much less wax poetic about missing out on a perceived quintessential experience an artist is entitled to as depicted by mass media. It’s insulting to publish an article that is basically spitting in the face of those who don’t have a job, and as a topic among her friends could feasibly be well received, but as a published article doesn’t really hold true.

  • http://twitter.com/monangelina Monica Jimenez (@monangelina)

    All of this: just yes.

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