“Am I the only person here who loves to watch a couple together that hates each other’s guts?” begins a Dane Cook bit from his album Retaliation. Entitled “The Nothing Fight,” Cook shares a (probably fictional) anecdote about a couple he overhears in the grocery store arguing about something completely inconsequential and how he spies on them with voyeuristic glee from around the Entenmann’s display at the end of the aisle.
Although listening to it again, I don’t think it’s aged well. I found it uproarious upon its release and part of its relatability has to do with the familiarity of past failed relationships and remaining with someone you actively disliked as you continuously fought about any number of irrelevant things. The other part, the more interesting part, is Cook’s ghoulish schadenfreude delight at this couple having it out in a very public way. To whatever extent, most people take some guilty joy in gawking at a public altercation.
You used to have to leave your house to encounter something like this. With social media, it’s easier than ever, which brings me to this meme:
You’ve probably seen this in the thread of a Facebook friend who’s posted something controversial, political, or otherwise of public concern. And given your friend list, you probably know which of your friends tend to bring their flamethrowers to conversations, and it’s not unexpected, or even necessarily wrong, to take some pleasure in seeing how they’ll react this time. I understand this.
But flatly declaring your rubbernecking intent via this meme and that “I just came here to read the comments” is just plain gross.
I believe one of the most powerful ways we evolve and grow as people is by spending time with those whom we don’t always agree, and having civil conversations about the issues of the day.
I flew to Philadelphia recently with my friend Adam, and we ended up spending the whole flight talking about politics, policy, religion and whatever else came up. We came at the issues from slightly different angles, and while I didn’t necessarily change any of my opinions, I evolved them in a meaningful way as a result of involved discussion. I know I left the conversation feeling much stronger in my knowledge about the subject at hand, and by virtue of having listened to my friend without any preconceived agenda of the net result of that conversation, I ended up with a deeper sense of empathy.
For the record, one thing I will never concede to him is his ludicrous assertion while flying over the Delaware River that seeing it rendered George Washington’s crossing of it unremarkable since “that’s not that big, really.” GO BACK TO ENGLAND, YOU TURNCOAT! USA! USA! USA!
I recognize that a long, engaged conversation with someone you like and have liked and respected for more than a decade is different than sparring with a quasi-stranger on Facebook… but imagine if we treated the two interactions the same way. Imagine seeing something on Facebook, and instead of loading up with your best ammunition and firing at will, you instead sought greater understanding. That by understanding them better – no matter how unfathomably wrong you initially perceive them to be – you listen and you dig in, and by virtue of that effort, you actually understand yourself better.
I also recognize that some people are just wired to be jerks, and this utopian dithering I’m peddling isn’t universally practical. But I wholly believe elevating the discourse is. And for my money, the best way to start is getting these prurient bridge trolls who live to watch strangers combat each other to piss off.
Just to summarize the intent of these meme-posting jackals: Not only are you not here to contribute anything meaningful, you’re wishing for the absolute worst of the bottom-feeders to hurl Molotov cocktails at each other for your personal amusement. And you’re fully okay with declaring your intent as a grotesque sideshow patron. Swell.
Were you one of the kids who egged on the two school bullies to kick each other’s asses and get suspended while you cried innocence in the aftermath ignoring your culpability in making the environment more incendiary? Were you in Michael Vick’s backyard, too? Were you there with Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer in the back of Marcelino’s bodega at 3 in the morning to watch Little Jerry fight another rooster to try and get Jerry’s bounced clown check removed from the front counter? Did you buy one of those abhorrent Bum Fights videos?
You are the curiosity delay on the highway when there’s an accident going the other way that screws up everyone’s commute to work. You are the reason we have TMZ. You are “The Fappening.” You are the Huffington Post’s idiotic policy of covering Donald Trump’s presidential campaign as “entertainment,” and look where we are now on that front.
In short, you are the worst. Stop posting this.
Better yet, meme or no, stop doing this.