On hate mail

I’m lucky. I don’t get a lot of hate mail despite my prolific presence on the internet.

But I do get some. From strangers with whom I have never interacted as far as I know.

The last couple:

“You sound high maintenance and up yourself” – 58M

“Old disgusting bitch” – 31M

These are mild, I know many people get much worse. I recorded this one that was so over the top that it made me laugh.

I don’t react with hurt or shock: mostly I’m just baffled by it. The ‘why’ is beyond my grasp. I just can’t imagine the kind of person who would behave this way.

I want to ask them WHY they would send such a thing to a stranger that they don’t know. Just… why?

What was it about about me that made them feel compelled to throw their opinions at me? Have I espoused some viewpoint somewhere that they simply cannot abide? Have I presented some version of myself that they feel really needs to be taken down a peg or two? Are they projecting something onto me that they hate so much that they can’t possibly keep it to themselves? Do I represent something so terrible that they feel they simply *must* address it in such a way?

Though really the question I want to ask even more is: What is it about THEM that makes them feel compelled to write something nasty to some random person on the internet that they don’t even know. Does it make them feel better about themselves? Does it give them some respite from whatever unhappiness they have going on in their lives? Does it somehow quell something that is gnawing at their insides?

Of course, I never ask them these questions because I don’t want to engage with people who are capable of behaving that way and I doubt I could get any insight from trying.

And sometimes I want to send them a little note, without any irony or sarcasm:

“I’m sorry you are so unhappy, I hope your life gets better.”

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32 Comments

  1. I have in times past, been told that I am incendiary, and arrogant in my sometimes acerbic political commentary, and perhaps this is so.

    However, as bad as I have been, I simply cannot see simply attacking someone, who I don’t know, because I don’t care for a particular opinion. In the better than four years that I have been following you, I have found you to be smart, witty, lovely, wise, level headed, and a good friend.

    So, if you ever have doubts, take it from me, a cynical bastard, I know what lovely looks like, and it describes you perfectly.

    1. I like to believe that MOST people cannot see attacking someone they don’t know, though I at least can fathom that there is a *reason* if they disagree with my opinion about something. It makes somewhat more sense to me if they DO know me and have decided they really dislike something about me and feel compelled to say something. Soundcloud-guy was of that ilk: he just HATES dominant women, so I have *some* understanding of the apoplectic rage that prompted him to vent his spleen at me. But the fly-bys who don’t know anything about me? Puzzling.

      And I do appreciate the kind words, they are always lovely to hear, so thank you, but trust me: random strangers on the internet have no power to cause doubt, or hurt, or anything really. I am just baffled by it, and oddly curious.

      Ferns

  2. I think you have really nailed it when you mention it really is about them and not you at all. I can only vaguely understand it in an intellectual sense as an outlet for people with so much uncontrolled anger/unhappiness that it just leaks out randomly. And the unfortunate part is that I don’t think most of them realize it’s not about their target but themselves. Luckily I don’t get that kind of hate mail since I’m not much of an internet presence! I did have a random stranger in the grocery walk up and call me a slut once though. It was rather shocking and left me at a loss for words. After the fact, I had a good laugh about it!

    1. “I can only vaguely understand it in an intellectual sense as an outlet for people with so much uncontrolled anger/unhappiness that it just leaks out randomly.”

      Yes. I imagine having a target for it is possibly a kind of relief.

      Ferns

  3. “I’m sorry you are so unhappy…”

    You stumbled upon the real reason in your last quote. Some people are so unhappy with their lives they allow hate into their hearts and they throw it out at anyone who crosses their path. I always say to others that I once had faith in the good of people, until the day I started working customer service.

    You are truly an amazing woman. I know this because you blessed me with your friendship. The fact that you keep your head up and you don’t engage with these black hearted people simply shows you have more character than they will ever have.

    Keep staying awesome, don’t worry about the why of hateful people.

    Respectfully,
    Mysticlez

    1. I honestly wonder if they are generally hateful people or if they are normal, loving, sweet-seeming people who have a reserve of hate that they keep for anonymously flinging at strangers.

      I’m not ‘worried’ about the why, I’m genuinely curious about it.

      I mean there are some people on the internet who I think are idiots (whodathunk it?). Every time they put something out in public, I roll my eyes and think “oh, FFS, JUST SHUT UP!”, so I kind of GET the *feeling* behind it. But there is a huge, giant leap from there to going out of my way to send them hate mail.

      I do what most sensible people with reasonable impulse control do: I avoid interacting with them, ignore them to the best of my ability, or some people (not me, oh god no!) might engage them in public discussion if that’s where they are expressing themselves.

      How one gets from there to sending hate mail is baffling to me.

      Ferns

  4. I don’t get much in the way of hate mail since I stopped writing about politics. In my opinion, it is simply a sign of either a need for argument (a diagnosable condition known as “assholery”) or an attempt to keep intact a fragmented worldview that is threatened by reality.

    1. I understand it MORE if I can see a *reason* for it. For example, “I disagree with your politics, therefore I hate you and I’m going to let you know” is at least a logical progression.

      ” In my opinion, it is simply a sign of either a need for argument (a diagnosable condition known as “assholery”) or an attempt to keep intact a fragmented worldview that is threatened by reality.”

      In my case, I imagine there is a desire for acknowledgement (preferably, I assume, they want to know that I am hurt/upset/impacted by what they have said). I’m wary of talking about hate mail for that reason: I feel like it’s a victory for them to even talk about it.

      Ferns

  5. Just a couple of weeks ago I got my first piece of hate mail — actual mail — an anonymous letter claiming to speak for all the “concerned citizens” calling me unprofessional and unethical. I was furious, but I was able to calm down through reminding myself that this person is a coward who obviously knows nothing about me. What really helped turn my day around was when someone else came into the office and, unprompted, told me how much they appreciate the work I do.

    1. Oh. That sounds much more horrible because it’s ‘real life’ stuff and (presumably) about your work :(.

      I’m so glad that person happened to give you that lovely positive feedback just then.

      Geez, some people suck.

      Ferns

  6. Albert Einstein feared that “our technology has surpassed our humanity”

    Unfortunately I beieive the internet is such an example, especially with the anonymity it offers. Those who hate must find your intelligence and class very intimidating (and were probably looking for something else in their search ). I am glad that you do not let it affect you.

    1. “Unfortunately I beieive the internet is such an example, especially with the anonymity it offers.”

      I am 100% in agreement with you there.

      On a wider scale, I think we are in the middle of a social revolution right now, and historians will look back on this period as they have done with major social change like the industrial revolution. I am fascinated by it, and how we are struggling to keep up.

      “Those who hate must find your intelligence and class very intimidating (and were probably looking for something else in their search ).”

      *smile* Thank you: I think I shall adopt that reasoning for myself.

      Ferns

  7. Ummm, you need to get your tyres kicked ? did I hear that right ? My hearing is really shot these days so I am not sure but lol that’s a new one to me
    Coug

    1. You heard right.

      He was responding to this post in which I said:
      “I have never advertised… Because it makes me feel uncomfortable: Like I’m a used car to be looked over and assessed for road worthiness, to have my tyres kicked, to have strangers look under the hood and take me for a test drive…

      What a charmer!

      Ferns

  8. I am amazed at how angry people can be in general. There are so many good things to enjoy on this earth. Really no time for foolishness. It can hurt at times when people lash out. Oh well, life goes on for all of us. Tom

    1. Yes, there are a lot of angry people in general, and often for good reason (social injustice, persecution, corruption etc), but to reserve it to spew vitriol at a stranger on the internet is a whole other thing.

      Ferns

  9. The straight out hate mail is pretty easy to dismiss, and as you say, it is quite obviously about that individual far more than you.
    I don’t get much of it either, and am just fine with that.

    1. I have had a good run without getting any. I imagine it would be wearing if I got a torrent of it.

      I’m not built to handle big doses of negativity (not that anyone is, but some people deal better than others).

      Ferns

    1. I had not seen that, no. Thanks for the links.

      I can actually understand the glee of trolling in discussions (i.e. derailing, baiting, poking, watching people lose their shit) much better because honestly, I love the occasional train wreck.

      Sending pointed personal hate-mail to an individual may come from similar personality issues (I really have no idea), but it seems to me to have a very different motivation and desired outcome.

      And yeah, when people use the word ‘sadist’ in the clinical sense, it makes me bristle also :).

      Ferns

  10. Sometimes I send back a reply like, “Sorry that your mother and sister wouldn’t let you have a three-way like you wanted, but it isn’t my fault. At least you still have your hand, right?”

    1. *laugh* I occasionally feel like replying with something scathing, but I KNOW that attention is what they want.

      Mostly I don’t even want to give them the satisfaction of blocking them because that means I have to acknowledge their existence.

      Ferns

  11. Pretty mind boggling, I agree. And it sounds scary too.

    One thing I have come to realize over the years is that there are a lot of people that do not think the way I do. In fact they think in an alien and non-understandable way.

    While that is not very comforting, it does seem to help me let it go. But I have never gotten hate mail.

    Regards

    1. I do wonder how prevalent stranger hate-mail is for men. I have assumed, without any actual evidence, that it’s really only women who get it.

      I assume any hate mail men get would be more of the ‘I disagree with you about something so [insert violent vitriolic hate-fest here]’

      Ferns

  12. Well, I certainly hope you are indeed high-maintenance. What a letdown it would be to finally meet you in person after all these years, only to find myself lounging on a couch, waiting for you to fetch me a beer.

  13. I agree entirely. I have never understood people online or in the daily life out and about generally who just seem to relish upsetting total strangers.

    As greg said above, its alien. And that’s a picture I myself use when trying to cope with any of these people, they’re from another planet and I have no comprehension of their ways, and they have none of mine, and I’ll keep the distance thank you very much, because I don’t want to be anywhere near what they have inside of them.

    Because as we all know, there’s no doubt it takes a little coping with sometimes, doesn’t it. The nastiness can take you off guard. And I have to remind myself of exactly your point in your post, Ferns – it’s about them, not me.

    Great post; very encouraging; affirming greater sensibilities in life. Thanks.

    1. “The nastiness can take you off guard.”

      This is so true! Luckily I get them rarely, but it means that when I open an email and I strike something really hateful, it is a shock (I feel like I do a cartoon double take: it’s a horrible feeling).

      I can imagine that if someone gets a lot of it, opening emails could become an emotionally fraught experience, each time fearing and expecting to have hate spewed at you.

      I’d have to get a mail minion if it ever got to that *smile*!

      Ferns

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