“Why are people so mean?”
I think that’s something we have all asked at least once in our lives.
Of course, when we ask it we’re talking about other people. We want to know why that person over there is so mean to us, or our friend, or some seemingly innocent victim with whom we identify.
We conveniently forget about all the times we’ve been mean.
We justify the hell out of it or try to laugh it off as not a big deal if someone dares to remind us.
But we, every single one of us, have been mean.
Even though we hate it when it’s done to us. Even though we encourage others to avoid it. Even though we preach and admonish and rage against all of the unnecessary meanness in the world.
We still do it.
Which begs the question even more:
“Why are people so mean?”
Our mothers and friends have given us multiple answers to this question. People are mean because they’re jealous, small, empty, lonely, insecure, and afraid. Of course that’s why people are mean to you, because they are wounded and broken and less than you.
So why are you mean?
Why am I mean?
People are mean because it feels really damn good.
Think about the last time you let yourself indulge in a really good bitch session. Whether it was celebrity snarking on the Internet or swapping husband woes with your girlfriends, there was a moment when you let yourself go because it felt good.
Anger and rage make us feel powerful. Not because we’re assholes, but because releasing those emotions causes a spike of endorphins in our system, and endorphins are awesome.
Being mean can literally feel good physically.
It can give you a little high, a rush, a giddiness that you might start to attribute to time spent with good friends. Man, I always feel so good when I hang out with these people!
Being mean feels good.
It feels good in the way that drugs, sex, gambling, and Twitter feel good.
It’s fast and it’s easy and it fills you up with a storm surge of power and importance that leaves your ears ringing and your cheeks flushed. Before you know it, you’re laughing louder than you’ve ever laughed before and ordering another round to keep the high going just a little longer.
But then it doesn’t.
The surge fades and you’re left with that awkward silence that comes just after you’ve laughed too loudly in a suddenly quiet room. You notice the twisted metal and broken boards, signs of destruction both inside and outside of yourself. You wonder how this happened, where all this dirt and mold and nastiness came from when everything was just so good.
I think addicts call it “the crash.”
It’s what inevitably follows the cheap thrills of drugs, sex, gambling, Twitter, and meanness.
The crash isn’t so bad if you’ve got other stuff to keep your head above water. You can spend a weekend in Vegas and go back to your family and job without feeling like something’s missing. You can pick up the phone and talk to your mom when Twitter is quiet, and still know that you are relevant.
You can confess to those who believe in you when you’ve been mean, and be reminded that you are better than that.
There’s nothing wrong with a cheap thrill now and then.
I love a loud game of poker with dudes who let me trash talk them. I have a blast from time to time on Twitter.
It’s OK, once in a while. Like $3 plastic sunglasses that you buy because they’re pink, even though you know they won’t last.
It’s OK when you know it won’t last.
It’s OK when you know it’s not real.
But is it ever OK to be mean?
We all rush to our keyboards to assert that no! never! It’s never OK to be mean!
But it’s human. It’s human to want to give in to the cheap thrill of pettiness. It’s human to feel good, if only for a moment, when you’re being an asshole, when you’re cheering for someone else’s defeat.
It’s human at the most basic level.
But it’s possible to strive for more than that, too.