As a recovering insecure young person, I’m willing to tell you something about insecure young people that others perhaps won’t: We fuckin’ love to hurt people. That shit makes us hard, it gets us up and out of bed on cold mornings. We shrivel at seeing others succeed, we love tearing people down, we get off on it like a junkie who’s super-duper deep in it and just looking to maintain what feels like normal. Unchecked, that totally destroys you. And we kinda can’t talk about it, and that’s a problem.
But why can’t we talk about it? Why deceive ourselves when it’s way less destructive to just own up and do the hard work it takes to break the hate boner cycle? Simple: It pops the illusory bubble around what makes us, well, Us. For most insecure, self-centered young people (which are a common kind, so don’t feel bad if this applies to you) there’s an emotionally necessary adherence to a narrative of persecution. Nobody understands you, half the world’s out to get you, everyone has it better than you, everyone who has something you want cheated for it, everybody’s always mean to you, whatever, any combination of these and many others. It doesn’t matter if these things are true, you need them. You could be a self-sabotaging shitheel with half the practice and ten times the entitlement as the people you routinely tear down as overrated and over-indulged. You could be a half-practicing member of the most powerful religion in the country and an absolute nightmare to the people you say are ruining and dictating your life. Doesn’t matter. The important part is that things aren’t going your way, and because you feel powerless and worthless it’s super important that that not be your fault.
As soon as you acknowledge your hard-on for hurting people, that necessary fantasy of blamelessness starts to… deteriorate. In the words of Jonathan Coulton: You’re all alone. Well, maybe that’s because you’re so unpleasant. That’s a personal reality that’s difficult for anyone to face and twice so when half your identity is tied up in being:
2: A gossamer angel completely free of blame for the above.
Blameless gossamer angels don’t get off on hurting people, only the Bad People who ostracize them and steal their opportunities do that. A pure, innocent gossamer angel can’t exist in the same body as a Bad Person, so when you catch yourself catching yourself you just. Shut the fuck up about it. You circle the wagons around your personal narrative and you deny, deny, deny. It’s absolute piece of shit behavior, and I did this for yeeeeeeears in high school and the first couple semesters of college.
This – both the thing and not being able to talk about the thing – is maybe a huger problem now than it has been in recent memory ’cause now we got the internet and it’s easier than ever to cultivate a community around hating everyone almost as much as you hate yourself. The presence of a community can lead to a shared delusion of righteousness, and that’s not a great delusion to harbor when you’re a loose mass of people with poor impulse control rolling around attacking other people for a pale imitation of what it feels like to have control over your life. It’s incentive to keep quiet because you’re not just popping your own bubble, you’re (potentially) collapsing your community and risking exile. It has the potential to trap you in an arrested state of mind where you keep reaching a revelation that the community’s weight on your stamps back down.
Speaking of arrested states and vicious cycles, the internet also gives us unprecedented access to an ever-renewing supply of our favorite prey: Other insecure young people. Yeah, another crappy thing we don’t like to admit is that we’re not especially adept at (or inclined toward) punching upward. A hard lateral wallop is about all we’re up for, most days. We’re all down for a private sit-and-bitch about people with actual social sway, but when it comes time for a good beating only the blood of those too small to defend themselves will suffice. Picking on people with more self esteem than we’ve got just doesn’t pay out in the volume we need. Worse, they’re way more likely to call down actual consequences. Best case scenario: They’re not affected, ignore you. Worst case scenario: They call down the thunder on you and strip you of what little social standing and self esteem you have. People with the self esteem to assert themselves are best avoided, but internet access and a culture of self delusion assure you a steady supply of people to rip apart.
Fresh teenagers with social anxieties slip into the internet every single day, and you just have to sit there, twenty odd years old, still convincing yourself this is fine.