Now Listening | This American Life, Podcast #545
As I was traveling back from Jacksonville this afternoon, I turned on an episode of This American Life. I’m a fan of Ira Glass and love the vast and eclectic mix of stories NPR brings into my life. But I hesitated for a moment when the topic was announced on podcast #545: If you don’t have anything nice to say, say it in ALL CAPS. As the stories began to unfold of internet trolls and the terrible things human beings say to each other on the internet, it started to hit close to home. I have had enough of that in my life and I almost reached out to turn it off. But my husband encouraged me to hear it out and see how the story resolved itself.
It made me think of a photo I came across the other day on Instagram. It said: You will never regret being kind.
Really? I have wondered lately. For those of you familiar with me and my corporate platform of kindness, you would immediately think that I would wholeheartedly agree with this statement. But again–I had hesitated when I first read it. Did I regret being kind to the people who have taken my kindnesses and responded so cruelly? I asked myself that question honestly and I didn’t have an immediate answer and this shook me to my core.
The first story in Podcast #545 is about a writer named Lindy West. I have never read any of her material but apparently her schtick is to be funny and confident about her weight and encourage women to be comfortable with themselves and feel beautiful at any size. Her work is polarizing and she talks about how she gets hate mail daily from internet trolls who make a career out of posting hate-notes under fake names. One internet troll in particular sent her the worst hate-note possible–he formed a twitter account under the name of her father (who had been dead for 18 months) and created this profile: “embarrassed father of an idiot–other two kids are fine, though.” I gasped when I heard it read over the radio.
This sent Lindy into a spiral and she responded with an article reminding this anonymous troll and all of the others out there that she was a human being with feelings and that this had crossed a line. For the first time ever in her career, the troll reached out and actually apologized the next day. The podcast captures parts of a two hour conversation they shared where Lindy tries to understand what makes a person do such hateful things.
His comments were interesting–and confirmed my theory on why people respond to kindness with hate: I think my anger towards you stems from your happiness with your own being. It offended me because it served to highlight my unhappiness with my own self.
He went on to say: I can’t say sorry enough. It was the lowest thing I had ever done. When you included it in your latest Jezebel article, it finally hit me. There is a living, breathing human being who’s reading this shit. I’m attacking someone who never harmed me in any way and for no reason whatsoever.
The second act of Podcast #545 covers a term I had never heard before–vocal fry. I was equally appalled at the emails NPR listeners write in about the female reporters who apparently exhibit this phenomenon. The third act was about a nest of Ospreys and the worldwide chatter that a innocent live web cam on their nest produced. Bizarre. And the fourth and final act–well, it was so strange that all I can do is post the website they were discussing and suggest you check it out for yourself: www.anxietybox.com.
Do I regret being kind to people who have responded maliciously? I have decided the answer is no. I read the other day that you can’t roll around with your bullies in the mud and that’s true. When you choose to be kind, you choose to be kind no matter what.
I read a post on social media the other day that speaks to my corporate stance on kindness and looking at impossible situations and egregious behavior with a positive attitude: Being positive in a negative situation is not naive. It’s leadership.