This was written back on January 4th of 2008.
First, a disclaimer: I don’t watch really Youtube. I know what you’re thinking: You lie.
No. I really don’t. My computer still putts around on dial up, so unless I want to experience processing information in real time as if I have ADHD, I’m not going to link onto any video type material, no matter who sends it to me. It’s not that I’ve never seen Youtube.
I’ve been at a friend’s house and seen the One Semester of Spanish Spanish Love song –a great humor short if you’ve never seen it. I’ve driven home my kids friends and heard about Chad Vader in the Grocery store, and about the puppet versions of Harry Potter singing about Severus Snape. I get there’s lots out there to see.
My main problem with Youtube is the absence of a filter to prevent personal public assassination of an individual in the name of showmanship, put downs, cruelty, smugness, immaturity and indifference to causing humiliation. That, and having dial up, I can’t see any of it. You’re thinking…so switch to broadband, cable, wireless, there are ways.
But you see, I know myself well enough to remember, I yell at phone service people who are indifferent to my pain. Appliance man, this means you. I have been known to roll down my car window when someone took the parking place reserved for new mothers and pregnant women. As the guy sprinted towards the Radio Shack, I yelled “That’s Funny, You don’t look pregnant!” Caught at the wrong moment –say during dinner time, after I’ve been on hold for fifteen minutes, or when pressed and stressed, I can be, and I’m sorry if my mother is reading this, rude.
As Youtube becomes more ubiquitous than it already is, I predict an increase in the percentage of women dressing up and wearing professional type makeup, as daily footage of our everyday becomes more and more posted on the internet. Maybe I should start dying my hair or at least brushing it. If’ I’m caught today on TV, Mom will be calling. “Why didn’t you at least get a haircut before you went off?” “I was at the hair dresser’s.” “Well, put on some lipstick if you’re going to talk like that. It’s Clinique bonus time, go in and get a pack.”
The reason for all of this, is that in our area, a woman lost her temper and made an ill advised return phone call to a high school senior that had called her home to nag about a snow day. Her husband was/is superintendant of Fairfax schools. That rant in its ugly entirety has even been run on CNN. While public humiliation is not exactly the modern day equivalent of feeding the Christians to the Lions, it is a public blood sport.
People watch and participate in the feeding frenzy because it seems there’s nothing wrong with a good public excoriation of another, as long as it appears that the person was deserving of such treatment. No one thinks they’d want to live in a society where scarlet letters are sewn on people’s shirts, but having a trail of websites that reveal any and all past discrepancies and personal failures is pretty much the same thing.
What is never asked, is if that treatment was warranted, and what injury might occur both to the individual scrutinized, and to their families for that moment of weakness, whatever it was, whenever it happened. The follow up, would we want that level of scrutiny put on our lives to discover all the moments when we’ve followed our spleen instead of the better angels of our nature. That is because the answer would almost always be “No.”
And then if it were asked, People would shrug their shoulders and say “What can we do?” We are going to have to as a society learn to manage our “God’s Eye” viewpoint that can turn the most intimate and private of conversations into one of the most popularly downloaded clips of the day.
We are going to have to remember that at any moment, we could be the one on candid camera, not just in syndication, but forever available, to us and our posterity. What we can do, is not watch or not listen. What we can do, is decide before we post, email, film or depict, would we want this done to us? In the meantime, I’m going to buy some whitening toothpaste and some conditioner. If I’m going to be made infamous for my flaws, I want to look good for Mom.
P.S. and as if to punctuate this slightly serious post, I just discovered my daughter. Apparently, she tried on all the pull-ups to find the one she wanted while I was typing. There are thirteen discarded ones in the bathroom. On Youtube today…
Now to 2021…we live in an age when people both imagine themselves cancelled, and actually do get excoriated by strangers. Both and happens, and we have to wrestle with the reality of this digital age, when all our written sins can bite us long after we’ve forgotten they’ve been said. The mechanism for public forgiveness is not in place, because the offense remains a forever sore festering. This is the world telling us, our sins are forever. It is the opposite of the promise of Gospel, which is “Your sins are forgiven, go and sin no more. Go in peace.” z
The bottom line is, we should take no joy in the downfall of anyone because of their revealed flaws, but pray for them that they discover they are more than the sum of their faults. Schandenfreude is not in the Gospel, and should not be part of our hearts response to anyone, even someone we believe deserves to be punished. It is hard to love one’s enemy, as hard as it is to get to Heaven, because it means surrendering the right to mock, to take pleasure in someone’s failures, or to revel in their being discovered to be less than how they presented themselves. It’s hard because it is a dark joy, born not of love, but of the satisfaction at the idea, there is someone it is okay to hate, to dismiss, to mock, to deny, to watch suffer. That spiritual darkness is not of God, not of mercy, not of love.
So today, when someone is having a youtube moment, be they someone you know in real life, or someone you know online, or someone you merely heard about, stop. Do not share. Do not join in the clever banter about how bad they are. Stop and pray for their soul. The prayer may not move them, but it will move you, and make you one step closer to God’s heart, because you showed great love for another one God loves, even if they do not know it.
P.S. I now do use Youtube regularly in my classroom…and here on my blog and obviously I don’t have dialup anymore. I have a zoom class in 9 minutes. Think I’ll put on some make up.
Here’s what I use Youtube mostly for now…to put on music while my students write: https://youtu.be/udBe7SwMdnI