The Vortex of Meanness

Have you ever marveled at meanness? I think marvel is usually used in a positive context but when I marvel I’m generally dumbfounded. The meanness I’ve witnessed lately really does have me dumbfounded. I’ve written in the past about the glee of the masses who revel in political meanness, but this week I’ve been taken aback by social media meanness.

A friend of mine, along with his adult sons and friends, produced a really beautiful adventure docu-drama. They are Christians who run Christian organizations, so the film, no surprise, presented a Christian world view. The twist in this story is a few business sponsors got excited about the film and promoted it to their consumers. Unfortunately not all of the consumers saw promotions that made it clear that this adventure film was more than an adventure film. So some felt deceived into watching the film. The day after the film’s one night engagement, when my friends learned about some of the audience feeling deceived, they felt badly and quickly responded on the film’s website with a letter of apology and an offer for a refund.

Enter the vortex of meanness. Maybe a couple hundred, out of the 40,000 who saw the movie, (.005%), have become obsessed with outrage. And their outrage has led to bullying, mockery, and just plain venomous social media posting. I don’t get it. How do we get so stirred up and personally affronted, that we allow ourselves to not only stew in our outrage but lash out at people we don’t know? How do we lose any sympathy for the feelings of the alleged offenders? And what’s even more baffling in this incident is that the alleged offenders, reached out, expressing their good intentions and sorrow over the unintended offense, along with a refund. But that hasn’t stopped the howling.

Clearly a nerve was hit. But why respond with meanness? Meanness is actually a mild word. The mode of this meanness could more accurately be labeled as hatred. I guess that’s why I’m calling it a vortex. Someone felt duped and was offended by the message of the movie and started stirring up that offense into a maelstrom of meanness. Social media and movie review websites have been used to power this whirlpool into a growing excuse for cruelness.

Cruelty has often been the tactic for those who feel insulted. Married couples are insulted by their spouses inability or unwillingness to meet their needs and add to the strife by name calling or using a bully’s tone of voice. Young adults are insulted when they feel their independence is being threatened and speak disrespectfully to their parents. Americans are insulted by the way our government seems unable or unwilling to improve the issues of our day and so some of us are choosing a bully to lead us. Germany was insulted by the way they were treated after World War I which, in part, led to the cruel hatred of World War II.

A couple months ago I had problems with a furniture company messing up their delivery to our home multiple times. I complained and I must admit I felt a rush over being the squeaky wheel that got the grease. I wasn’t mean but my email to the company did express some mild outrage. It “worked” for me. How is outrage working for these people who have created this massive social media onslaught of hatred?

I know psychologists could give me a list of reasons for outrage expressed with hatred. Pride threatened. Dignity threatened. Self worth threatened. Masculinity threatened. Fear. Anger misplaced. Childhood wounds. A culture that glorifies outrage.

The irony is I think the answer for the magnitude of their outrage is in the film they so disdained. They are living in a small story that distorts their interpretation of their role in the bigger story of life. The title of the film under attack is “A Story Worth Living”. Being the perpetrator of mocking, bullying, and viscous expressions of outrage is not a story worth living. Love is worth living. Bringing what Jesus has to offer the world is a story worth living. Jesus created each one of us in his image and offers each one of us a life worth living.

Choosing to bully does not come out of a high opinion of oneself.  Oh that these who are caught in this vortex of cruelty would know just how much they are worth. They have a role to play in the bigger story. It’s the story of God’s love for us and purposes for us.

And, since I too am a person who speaks from a Christian world view, I’ve gotta add that there’s another unseen side to this. Satan loves to use our misplaced outrage to shut down the good news that is Jesus. Mix a little offense with a reaction that is disproportionate and evil will be glad to keep the violent turmoil of the whirlpool of hatred spinning.

Holy Spirit, help us to not get sucked into a current of cruelty. Lord shut this vortex down.

I’m praying as the producers of “A Story Worth Living” prayed and continue to pray, “Jesus, we pray and proclaim your love over every viewer”.