I was in line at Whole Foods today when I did something I hadn't done in a long time - something I used to do nearly every time I was at the grocery store. I picked up a physical copy of Los Angeles Magazine and tossed it in with my hummus, crunchy hippie bread and sliced mangoes. I just saw my secret best friend and life idol Mindy Kaling on the cover and decided at least one article of the many needed to be read.
Since the "dawn" of new media, I've always kept with the old ways. I still read physical books, would watch TV news programs when I had cable and always enjoyed a lighthearted beach read with Cosmopolitan or Glamour. When I graduated from undergrad in 2004, Facebook hadn't yet been opened to my school (the University of Texas) for more than perhaps a month, and the new "trends" talked about in my advertising classes were that of movie theater advertisements and even commercial text messages. Even these ideas were somewhat offensive to me - was nothing sacred? Would I be sold something at every turn in a few years? It's actually worse than what I imagined.
While I'm not bombarded by branded toilet paper or receiving unsolicited text messages from car companies, the new way of getting information really and truly is driving me crazy. I was worried about advertisements, but I had no idea what I was going to be dealing with was the unfortunate access to all humanity - including the racist, idiotic, uneducated and infuriating masses to which I had never been exposed.
I used to enjoy reading the news online. It would be one of the first things I did when I arrived at work or on a break during law school, to catch me up on current events and get a general glance at what was happening in the world in case someone decided to pull out some political trivia at lunch and I didn't want to look like a giant moron.
Now I hate it. I haven't gone to the homepage of an online news site in months, likely because everything is already splashed across Facebook for the world to see. I don't get to pick and choose articles by title; I cannot avoid the pictures and headlines that follow the cute video of my friend's new puppy. The worst part isn't even the article, it's the COMMENTS.
I moved to LA to be around like-minded people. So far, it's been working out well with regard to actual physical humans in my proximity. Sadly, however, the bigoted, intolerant embarrassments of humanity I sought to escape by hiding out in a liberal haven have been able to follow me - through the glorious world of the internet.
A typical "morning" (in quotes because during phases of unemployment, the time I wake up is rarely in the actual morning) for me starts with checking my email (jobs) and checking Facebook (friends who live as far away as Abu Dhabi and Singapore). Unfortunately, after a mere twenty minutes of browsing, I'm already stark raving mad by the time I get up to brush my teeth. In between the vacation photos and life updates, I sometimes stop to read articles that look interesting. This is a giant, GIANT mistake.
No matter what news site it comes from or what the topic is, inevitably the comments section will make me hate humanity. Since they're hidden behind the protective wall of the internet, the racists, homophobes, gun nuts, right-wing crazies, Jesus freaks and general trolls start spouting off inane bullshit that is not only horrifying but generally has the spelling and sentence structure of a seven-year-old's book report. I try so hard to avoid the comments, but it's like a train wreck that sucks me in. By the time I put my phone down and actually step out of bed, I'm infuriated and pretty much hate the world.
Yes, I may have an anger management problem. Yes, I probably shouldn't worry about what other idiots are posting on the internet. Does that help me stop? Nope, sure doesn't - because it's THERE. I generally leave most comments sections grateful for LA County gun laws because I'm milliseconds away from buying an assault rifle and killing most of the people I just saw post inane shit on the internet.
So when I sat on my couch this evening and picked up my shiny new LA Magazine with lovely Miss Mindy on the cover, I was in for a surprise. One of the first articles I read was about the airBNB and rental crisis in LA, with the article mentioning differing viewpoints. I felt myself getting anxious and didn't understand why. When I finished the article and turned the page, I felt an odd sense of relief. I just read an article about a somewhat controversial subject and I didn't have to hear ANYONE ELSE'S OPINION. It was a magnificent feeling. The next page wasn't filled with angry, unsolicited comments that strayed so far off-topic that you forgot what the article was about, it was, in fact, a lovely fashion spread of clothing and accessories that each individually cost more than my rent. But in comparison to the feeling I got whenever I finished an online article and even just glanced at the comments section, I will happily indulge the editors' obscenely priced idea of fashion - especially because it's also not followed by a diatribe from readers about body image and the lack of plus-sized models.
Everyone's entitled to an opinion, I just strongly prefer not to hear it.