The Internet has done amazing, wonderful, stupendous things for connecting the world, promoting freedom and diversity, enabling distance learning and online friendships, and establishing whole new worlds of commerce, but there is a dark side to it that is really starting to bother me. All of this interconnectedness has created a meanness in us, or maybe it has simply revealed a mean spirit that was there all along, but I wish it would go away. Even kind, loving people I know are susceptible to it, and my hope is that this post will get folks to reconsider before hitting return.
I'm talking about the Mean Photo. You know, the snapshot of someone grocery shopping, or going to the prom, or on the subway who probably thinks she looks perfectly okay, but some stranger (or worse, a friend) takes a picture and posts it on the Internet for the rest of us to share and "like" and write snide, superior comments.
If I see one more picture with the caption, "Oh. Dear. God!" I may just lose it.
That is a human being in that picture. A person who got up that day, got dressed and left the house without ever thinking it would make her the subject of public ridicule, simply because her shorts are too tight. Maybe she's gained a lot of weight recently due to a medical condition and can't afford new clothes, or doesn't want to buy things in a size she intends to reduce. Maybe it's a single mom who had to choose between doing the laundry and going to her son's baseball game, so here she is, cheering him on, making the better choice, even though this outfit is all she had to put on.
Did you come up with the cleverest caption for the balding guy with glasses waiting for the bus? Congratulations! Yes, I'm sure he chose to lose his hair, be nearsighted and not own a car. You are so much bigger and better than he is, so by all means, make as nasty a comment as you can think of. He won't mind, since his life is already so perfect.
I've posted this kind of thing before and almost always, someone chimes in that the people on the mean picture sites are asking for it, since they went to Walmart dressed that way to get attention. Someone else once said to me, "Anytime you're in public, you're fair game."
Are you kidding me? You are not fair game to be ridiculed on a national level simply because you left your house in an outfit others would find weird or inappropriate. I've seen a lot of these pictures (sadly, because they are constantly being posted online and forwarded), and most of those people did not leave the house to get attention. They left the house to get milk. And they have the right to do that without being called a "plain ol' white trash nasty HEFFA" (yes, an actual comment at one such mockery site).
I know that writing this will subject me to all kinds of "lighten up" responses, and I don't care. I'm putting it out there, so I'm willing to weather whatever ridicule it generates. That's my choice.
But to degrade, insult, mock, malign, humiliate and probably hurt someone because their appearance amuses you is not funny. It's cruel. You're better than that.
Truly happy people treat everyone with respect. Show the world how happy you are. Delete the mean photo and go give a total stranger a nice compliment. Especially if it looks like she needs it.
A shorter version of article was originally posted on SpeakHappiness.com
To read more, you can visit Valerie Alexander's website, Speak Happiness, and follow Speak Happiness on Facebook and Twitter. For more detailed instruction in achieving lasting, permanent happiness, you can get "Happiness as a Second Language" on Amazon, and for added amusement, please check out the Happiest Book Trailer Ever.
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