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.