Putting "You Suck" In Perspective

Yesterday, my girlfriend and I were discussing the culture of online commenters. Specifically the phenomenon of how they usually take on one of two tones: “This is the greatest thing ever!” or “I hope you contract feline leukemia for this!” If you look at the YouTube comments for a baby giggling or a dog catching a Frisbee, you will witness more racial and homophobic slurs than you ever imagined could be directed at a dog and/ or baby.

For a long time, we discussed the improbable vitriol that people level against each other online. Personal attacks from people who don’t know each other. Vicious professional critiques from folks with no background in the field they’re commenting on. It’s easy to say brutal things anonymously about people you’ve never met. There are no consequences. My girlfriend mentioned how frustrated she is that so many people tear down the work of others without considering the value it has to others or the time it took to create it. She’s baffled by people who criticize without ever creating.

I earn most of my living as a standup comedian. Despite the popular conception of standup comedy, hecklers are not common. Most of the time, when someone speaks out of turn, it’s just because they’re drunk or caught up in the excitement of the show. It is rare to get someone saying something intentionally disruptive, especially with animosity.

The internet, however, is a different story. Take a chunk of material that has been performed hundreds of times in front of thousands of people. A bit that has never, ever elicited so much as a single legitimate “Boo!” Throw that same material up on YouTube and just watch the deluge of ad hominem attacks begin. Sure, it’s good to know when material doesn’t resonate with an audience, but is it really necessary for anonymous commenters to critique the fashion choices and facial features of a performer? Probably not.

I’m an adult human. It’s not going to ruin my day when someone writes: “Not funny.” or “Yur bald.” Especially because it’s easy to write the commenters off as a brigade of shut-ins who take breaks between Skyrim sessions to raid their moms’ fridges and write mean things about anyone whose comedy clips pass across their browsers. That’s what I tell myself, anyway.

Last night, after our conversation, my girlfriend and I went to the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ to watch the Boston Bruins play the New Jersey Devils. (Those are two hockey teams. You probably knew that, but maybe not.) The arena was not full. Lots of the more expensive seats closer to the ice remained empty even midway through the first period. Still, there were probably eleven thousand people in attendance.

Almost twenty minutes into the game, Petr Sykora of the Devils scored against Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas, making the score 1-0 in favor of New Jersey. (Sorry for all the sports talk, people of the internet. I know it’s not really your thing. I’ll get to the point.) The arena erupted. Lights. Sirens. Cheering. “Rock and Roll Pt. II” by Gary Glitter blared over the speakers. We all know it as the song with the world’s simplest lyrics: “Duh da dat du da dadadada… HEY!” It’s one of the most popular tunes ever written by a guy with a child pornography conviction, but that’s beside the point.

After the entire crowed shouted “HEY!” the fans, in unison, tacked on an unscripted “YOU SUCK!” Not just once. Each time the “HEY!” came around. That’s four-ish cries of “YOU SUCK,” followed by an additional “BOSTON SUCKS!” as the song faded out.

Wow.

We like to think of professional athletes as herculean figures beyond the reach of criticism from the common man and woman. Sports talk radio gives the average citizen a chance to vent about his/ her frustrations with Local Sports Team, but only regular callers are delusional enough to believe that coaches, players, managers, or owners would ever listen to their complaints. Most people understand that it’s just entertainment.

An assembly of 10,000+ people shouting “YOU SUCK!” in public, though. That seems harder to ignore.

I’ve had people tell me I suck before. But I’ve never had ten thousand people at once tell me I suck. In fact, I don’t think ten thousand people total have ever told me I suck. That seems like a lot to deal with.

To put things in perspective, I got teased a little bit in school. I think everyone did. But usually, it was one person at a time. Maybe two. Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins got told he sucks by the equivalent of my entire high school, plus forty percent of my hometown’s population. That’s not only the school bully making fun of you. That means if you go to the grocery store, and there are five lanes open, two out of five of those cashiers will statistically have told you that you suck.

The NHL season is eighty-two games long. That’s forty-one games on the road. Forty-one crowds saying you suck. (Assuming they’re all as vocal as the Devils fans.)

That hockey game gave me some clarity. I’m no longer frustrated with the internet. I’m just grateful that the YouTube commenters make their anti-Semitic comments one at a time. TC mark

image – Shutterstock

More From Thought Catalog

  • http://www.oneyearintexas.com Perfect Circles

    Youtube comment sections are the most pathetic, hilarious, reprehensible, challenging, demeaning, hopeful and awful places on the internet – with the possible exception of TC comment sections during early 2011.

  • Anonymous

    What a crappy article….

    Lol jk, I enjoyed it. Hilarious.

  • http://raymondthimmes.com/ Raymond Thimmes

    I’ve often chocked up internet hate to the easy access to anonymity. Maybe it’s more of a group think mentality. But the eleven thousand shouting you suck in person to an athlete on ice has the same anonymous effect as a screen name and dildo avatar.

    Thanks for the perspective. Also, where do you perform? I’d love a link to some of your stand up. :-)

  • Incilin

    This is why we need Facebook profiles linked to all commenters. It takes away anonymity. 

  • Guest

    To be fair, I’ve been to my fair share of hockey games, and the Devils games at the Prudential Center are the only time I’ve EVER heard a home team crowd yell “you suck” in sync like that every time they score. Take that for what you will but it’s one reason I hate that arena.

  • Anonymous

    Youtube comments are the verbal mosh pit of commentary. 

    • beatrice

      no doubt, no doubt at all

  • http://dirtyyoungmen.wordpress.com/ Maxwell Chance

    This sucks! This is the worst article I have ever read in the world. If I could physically touch this article, I would do mean things to it. In fact, I just printed it out just so I can spit on it. I hope that the next time you go to type something an icy wind blows over you and your fingers freeze right as they touch the keyboard and they shatter and you can never type again. You gay, Jew idiot.

  • Guest2

    This article wasn’t very interesting or original. Definitely didn’t suck though.

  • Allison Pelle

    the “you suck” chant is not uncommon at hockey games. my brother played ivy league college hockey and usually when a goal is scored, the fans point to the goalie who let it in and chant ‘it’s all your fault. it’s all your fault” which sounds a lot worse than “you suck” i have a feeling these guys are used to hearing it all the time.

  • gigglefest

    Thought this was going to be a weird discussion of how telling someone they “suck” comes from “sucking dick” an activity performed sometimes by women or sometimes by gay men and how using it in a negative context is demeaning towards women/gay-men, which really just means demeaning towards the concept of femininity, etc….

    But then I realized I wasn’t on Jezebel anymore and I enjoyed reading this lovely article about hockey. I really like hockey! Also isn’t the new Prudential Center just lovely?

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