It’s been two weeks since I was laid off by Tribune Media. I got the call that Screener was closing up shop while having dinner with one of my very best friends and her parents in a small town outside of Krakow, Poland — the first time I’d been to Europe not for work.
Almost instantly, I was resolved to not let the news bother me. After all, I still had several days of vacation ahead of my that would find me going to a wedding in Scotland. Besides, anyone who knows me know I was less than ecstatic with the way things were going. I was looking forward to whatever came next — instead, it found me. Now comes the time for something bigger and better. I’m actually excited about it.
There was, of course, a downside. And it came via social media. After noting that I was available for hire — and getting an incredibly supportive response from so many — I saw a few tweets starting to trickle in, taking joy in the fact that I was “fired” because of something I wrote about a character on a TV show that they disagreed with some time ago.
It really bothered me, not because they were whining at/about me (That’s pretty normal) but because it’s not just me. The entire Screener team was let go at a time when work isn’t just falling from the sky. A lot of people are now unemployed (Not fired, by the way) and that’s unfortunate.
Luckily, we had a talented writing staff that I’m confident will find their way. But I can’t help but wonder about the negativity that can arise from people who consider themselves fans.
Here’s a secret: Just about every one of us who writes about TV, film, comics, you name it — We got into it because we’re fans. We’re such big fans that we made a point to turn the thing we love into a career. That doesn’t mean we can’t be critical of it. Or have a point of view that others disagree with. It’s the nature of opinions.
Being gleeful about an office full of people that find themselves out of work, though? That’s a bizarre place to exist. It’s a mix of internet anonymity and lack of maturity, really. It’s all fun and games when you taunt people on the internet, hiding behind a clever name and the avatar of a fictional character.
And the sad thing is I’m the anomaly. This is the piece of the internet that straight, white males normally aren’t exposed to. Practically everyone else deals with the negativity, aggression and downright disturbing side of the internet on a daily basis and that’s just … not okay.
The internet can be a beautiful place. But it can also be profoundly sad. Why is that? For some reason, my mind always comes back to anonymity and how it’s trained people to think it’s okay to say whatever they want, regardless of how horrific it is. My experiences are minor compared to what so many people go through daily. After all, I’ve only had one person request that I commit suicide.
But even just that one instance, which came from a superfan of yet another show, is too much. As humans we should aspire to be better. Now more than ever it’s important for us all to aspire to be better than we are.