The existence of rant accounts and roast subreddits is no big surprise to anyone who’s ever been on social media. Sometimes you just want to cut loose and scream into the void, except screaming into a void means no one else gets to find out how wrong they are so you make a dummy account where you can say what you want with impunity. Cool. So, what exactly do you get when that turns into a massive mudslide waiting to happen?
Trash-talk groups. The answer is trash-talk groups.
I don’t know where or why or how this became a thing, but it was sometime in the not-so distant past and very likely inspired by boredom that someone, somewhere decided it was a good idea to make a group where people were free to lampoon others from the comforts of wherever they happen to have an internet connection. You’ve got places where people from different universities live up to every trope imaginable poking fun at long-standing stereotypes and groups dedicated to taking the mickey out of members of the Conyo Republic or people in STEM fields. Nothing even remotely resembling a social group is safe from satirization.
Like anything in life there’s always a way to escalate things well past the point of way too much. There’s a very real, albeit subtle, difference between friends taking the piss out of each other over drinks and twisting the knife into someone’s deepest insecurities, but with two screens and a spotty internet connection to blunt words it’s almost laughably easy to cross the line between the two. It doesn’t matter if it’s the way someone looks, what their religion is, what sports they play, or even tropes about the uni they go to—if you go far enough you’re guaranteed to ruin someone’s day and start another online blood feud. Heaven knows we haven’t had enough of those yet.
Why yes, I’m aware that my sarcasm is showing, thanks very much.
In the past weeks many of us have been made self-professed hermits for our own good via the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), which, to speak in no uncertain terms, does go a long way towards keeping everyone in your not-so-immediate vicinity safe. Though we still rely as much as ever on brave souls selfless enough to keep at their day-to-day jobs, some are afforded the luxury of crawling into bed and catching up on their Netflix backlogs. Sounds like paradise, but for those of us lucky enough to be able to pass the time insulated from the new coronavirus, too much of a good thing can ruin the fun of not really having very much in the way of responsibilities. With how it can sometimes feel like the walls of your room are literally closing in on you, it’s easier than ever to go a step too far trash-talking friends and internet strangers under the guise of “messing around” with them.
Even though each day feels about fifteen years long, each one still only lasts about 24 hours and This Whole Mess will be behind us before we know it. But living through it now, it might be hard to forget that we’ve still got the rest of our lives to look forward to when things settle down, and when the PPEs come off and we all go back to being a bit less careful about washing our hands (please don’t actually stop keeping your hands clean), we’ll be stuck with the unenviable task of having to repair any bridges burnt by careless words and jokes wrung dry; it’s crass to make fun of how much someone earns and insulting the way someone looks is just low. It’s easier to repair something that you haven’t completely janked up in the first place, so speaking as someone who’s personally roasted most of their inner circle of friends to kindling, char responsibly. Frankly, it isn’t right to forget that for all we’re clacking away at keyboards or rubbing the oleophobic coatings on our phones off, we’re talking to people and being mean isn’t in.