In a recent interview, singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow admitted to succumbing to something she rarely does, namely reading the online comments about her work. Bad move. One particularly nasty quip, which likened a song on her latest album to the sound of "being raped in an open field," truly threw her for a loop.
"It was so heinous," she said. "I sobbed. I never read that stuff, but I happened to catch that one thing. And I sobbed...and it wasn't even what he said. It was the hatred."
While there is no excuse for comments that rancid, Sheryl can be consoled by the fact that any one of us who exposes him or herself online are targets -- be we powerful, established artists or merely innocent kids posting pictures to Facebook -- and thus must endure the wrath of a swath of (in)humanity called "The Hater."
They're everywhere. Inescapable. Usually anonymous, as rabid blowhard cowards usually are. Powerful, too. In the burgeoning YouTube creative community, veterans strongly advise newbies "Don't read the comments!" lest they want their souls destroyed by basement-dwelling knuckle-scrapers wielding keyboards like rusty scythes.
I suppose it's redundant to say that haters are evil.
But frankly, in this digital, Internet-speed age, I think they are a NECESSARY evil.
And rather than attempting the impossible task of trying to shut them down, I think a better tactic is doing the exact opposite -- embracing them and their handiwork. For what I've seen lately is that haters are not ultimately spawning hate...but love. And they are spawning it from a group of others who would've otherwise never been drawn into the debate.
Look at the counter-attack to the LGBT situation in Sochi. What was supposed to be a silent Russian crackdown has exploded into a worldwide outpouring of support. Brilliant ads, like this one from the Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion, have been created. Formerly brilliant ads have been "hacked" and used as protest vehicles. And Rob Ford's garish stupidity aside, rainbow flags are being flown from city halls all over the world.
Or how about the upcoming celebration of Pink Shirt Day on February 26? Now a nation-wide anti-bullying initiative, it started off as a protest against a bullying incident at Central Kings Rural High School in Nova Scotia.
Put another way, the haters have brought out the lovers.
So this week's learning is what I call Newtonian Physics for Emotions, where every action is met with an equal -- or better still, greater -- opposite reaction. This is why rallies against something are usually more passionate than rallies for something; boiling blood brings out the best in us.
While I'm no scientist, I'll continue with the physics analogy. It's common knowledge that it's easier to change direction of something that's moving than something that's standing still. If nothing else then, haters get things, and eventually people, moving. Their negativity, nastiness and brutality act as a catalyst for love, and give people who may have been apathetic a reason to jump off the couch and on the bandwagon.
So with that in mind, let's hear it for the haters. Enemies like them actually generate friends, and a slew of new ones to boot. Having them around is a true win-win; their vitriol will continue to result in positive counter-spin...until one day they'll realize the ultimate futility of their actions, and just shrivel up and blow away.
And you gotta love that!
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