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A few days ago, during a late-night Instagram scrolling marathon, I came across a post from a celebrity gossip site and before I knew it, I had been sucked into the pit of despair—also known as the comments section.
The post referenced Selena Gomez and her rumored relationship with music producer Benny Blanco. And the comments were, well, less than positive. Less than supportive. Honestly, less than kind.
I’m not emotionally invested in who Gomez, or any famous person, dates. Reading these stories is usually just mindless entertainment, a way to pass time when my brain is too fried to focus on the heavy stuff.
But I’ve never been mindless enough to jump into the comments section during one of these scrolling sessions to rage about or prejudge a stranger’s life choices. And yet, that’s exactly what so many people chose to do with their time that night.
There were vile comments about his level of attractiveness, and hers. Comments shaming her for everything from her mental illness to her past relationships to her weight. Comments bashing her for publicly commenting about the relationship and for not talking about it enough. Comments claiming she’s too good for him and not nearly good enough. Comments from people who have zero connection to either of these people but who believe it’s their duty to inject an opinion into the situation.
The truth is, we all do this to some level, both with people we know and people we don’t. And having opinions, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. Even judgement isn’t inherently negative.
But why do we feel the need to insert ourselves and every thought that crosses our mind into other peoples’ lives? And why does it seem people feel most compelled to do this when what they’re sharing will hurt or degrade or shame or punish others?
Why do we spend so much time and energy hating on each other?
I understand that this probably seems like a low-level example: a rich celebrity being attacked for her dating choices. Not a big deal, right? Wrong. Because anyone who’s been on the internet in the past few months (or years) also knows that this level of hatred and negativity goes far beyond celebrity gossip culture.
The comments I’ve come across in posts about the ongoing genocide in Gaza, the calls for an immediate ceasefire and the return of hostages, and the immense pain felt by both Palestinians and Israelis have honestly left me questioning how much humanity still exists in humans. (See also: the devastating displacement and violence in the Congo, the woman in Texas who is battling for the right to get an abortion, the ongoing mass shootings in this country…)
And while talk about celebrities and their dating lives can’t compare to the atrocities of people being bombed, slaughtered, kidnapped, and denied basic human rights, if you boil both issues down to their core, there are a few common denominators: we’ve forgotten that the way we treat each other matters, we’ve forgotten that we are more similar than we are different—we’ve forgotten empathy.
We all suffer in ways both seen and unseen.
We all struggle and hurt and feel pain.
We all want to feel seen and heard and understood and valued.
We all want to be safe and healthy and happy and loved.
We all want freedom.
We all want peace.
We all want the opportunity to live.
And more importantly, we all deserve these things. Because no one life is worth more than another, and no one person deserves love or respect or freedom more than another. And our pain isn’t the only pain that matters in the world.
Our hearts all break, for so many reasons. We all grieve and hope and plan, and yet, we so often dismiss these commonalities when we’re dealing with people whose choices don’t align with ours, who believe something we don’t, who see life from a different perspective.
I’m not suggesting we pacify others just to keep the peace, or that it’s easy to keep our cool when people are hurling insults or hate around. It can feel overwhelming and unfair and make us questions whether sharing any bit of our lives or our beliefs is worth it. But in these circumstances, the only thing we can control is ourselves. And I refuse to be the person who spends their nights hurling hurtful opinions in the comment section of an Instagram post.
I’d rather use my time to advocate for the causes I believe in. To learn and share information and stories that can hopefully inch us closer to peace. To call out injustice without sacrificing my compassion. To remind myself that I can disagree with someone without spewing venom at them. To distinguish between what is my business and what isn’t. To recognize that I don’t need to RSVP to every drama I’m invited to.
And in those moments when it’s hard, I do my best to connect with this quote from Toni Morrison:
“No more apologies for a bleeding heart when the opposite is no heart at all. Danger of losing our humanity must be met with more humanity.”