We all like to think we're better than those people who judge others.
Sometimes, the judging is right out in the open. It takes the form of celebrity gossip or comments on blog posts. Sometimes it's during chit chat with friends where we rip others apart with words, tearing them to shreds about the way they dress or the choices they've made. When I lived in the south, these types of conversations always included the words, "God bless her heart, but...". In the north, we don't add that disclaimer. No one here is blunting their claws before they swipe.
Blind Justice by dctim1 via Flickr
Why do they do it?
We certainly aren't judgmental. Are we?
Yeah, we are.
Alas, I live in a glass house and I've thrown my share of stones. I've lobbed them at celebrities (Doesn't she look fat in that dress? What the heck did she do to her hair?). I've pelted them at people in real life (Can you believe she's letting her baby cry for so long? You know if the PTA president wasn't such a witch she'd get more volunteers.).
A few days ago, I stumbled upon a website that mocks and criticizes some of the mega-popular bloggers. Some of it's in good fun. Some is more thought provoking. The comments are where things get interesting. A few venture to accuse all readers and writers on the site to be heartless. Besides the fact that those statements themselves were judgmental, I was wondering if they were true.
Are those of us that partake in gossip, even infrequently, cold and heartless?
Are the people who swear they never say gossipy things really so innocent of trash talking?
I doubt it on both points.
I tend to think some amount of gossip and judgment is natural. And, maybe it's not such a bad thing.
The website Medical News Today points to research from the University of Berkley that says gossip is good for us. It reduces stress levels and helps prevent bad behavior. I can see that. If people are judging someone for socially deviant behavior, then we're all less likely to engage in that behavior.
Take that PTA president, for instance. If enough people are talking about her being a witch, the next PTA president is not likely to be one. She'll be in the loop enough to have heard the gossip and know the objectionable behavior has driven people away from volunteering.
We look at others for our social cues. If we see someone behaving in a way we find distasteful, we judge them. Whether or not we say it out loud, is another point. Though, most of us probably do, at least to our closest family and friends. There's really nothing wrong with thinking, "I don't like the way she handled herself here. I'm going to be sure I never do that kind of thing."
As a blogger, I quite enjoyed reading criticisms about the super bloggers. Does that make me heartless? I think I'm more curious than heartless. What makes a critic point their sharp words at a certain blogger? I'd like to avoid that, please. Though, in all honesty, I don't have the page views to garner any critic's attention. The bloggers that do? Well, in my eyes, they're the lucky ones! I don't think a writer can reach a certain level of popularity and appeal to everyone along the way. They've got to ruffle some feathers. How can that surprise them?
Sure, sometimes lines can be crossed into bullying or even libel. That's not okay. Threats and aggression are not acceptable. Saying you don't like a star's dress or drawing attention to a blogger for inconsistencies you found on her blog seem pretty harmless comparatively. I admit, some of what I read on the website was bullying, but much of it raised legitimate questions about the super bloggers, how they represent themselves to their readers, and how some of them can be surrounded in an unhealthy way by yes-people.
Should we stop judging others? I suppose the answer should be yes. But, do we want to?
I think I hear a glass house shattering right now.
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