Tasteless internet users, a fearless kind

Illustration by Casey Kleeb

Last month, tragedy struck Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT, when a gunman killed 20 young students and six educators. Jan. 15, 20 students sang “Over the Rainbow” on “Good Morning America” and released the song online to raise money for the United Way of Western Connecticut in remembrance of their peers.

Naturally, someone on the internet had to be a jerk about all the support the song has received.

On iTunes, the song has been given enough five-star ratings and supportive comments to fill 11 full pages.

On page 12, two individuals each gave one star ratings, one apparently doing it for fun, and the other being downright nasty, saying, “None of these reviews talk about the music (with few exceptions). Everyones [sic] just patting themselves on the back for spending 1.29 on last months headline.”

Punctuation errors aside — which I find offensive enough — who does this person think he or she is? The point of the song isn’t to be Grammy material. It is to pay tribute to lives lost in a grotesque act of violence.

And the many supportive comments aren’t people “patting themselves on the back,” as user JboogieTheBoogie claims, but instead are people who were touched by the song.

These people want the children and their families to know that others are still thinking of them, and they are willing to stand up and support their memory.

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The comment may not be as horrible as many on the internet, but it’s still uncalled for. What’s the purpose of being cruel?

An extreme example of this online cruelty is the story of Ulanda Williams, the woman who recently fell through a slab of sidewalk into a basement in New York City. Williams is a large woman, with reports stating that she is anywhere between 300 and 400 pounds. Most online comments on the various reports claim that she wouldn’t have fallen through in the first place if she weighed less.

Here’s the deal though; it was a 4-by-6 foot slab of sidewalk, and she was only standing on it for about 10 seconds while waiting for a bus.

Two people of my size would have broken it. Three or four kids might have done the same if they were standing there in her place as well.

The fact of the matter is that the sidewalk should have held her up without a problem. Inspectors from the New York City Department of Buildings state that faulty steel doors and a loose staircase caused the safety hazard and go so far as to state that the building has even more violations that haven’t been addressed.

All this information is readily available in the story, but most Internet haters only focus on the fact that the victim of the fall happens to be large. And they berate her for it. One comment on the Huffington Post website goes so far as to say, “They should leave her in to fill the gap.”

Really? Is this OK? Is this socially acceptable? Or is our society so empowered by the ability to hide behind usernames that people can throw common social graces to the wind and still think of ourselves as decent people?

This form of bullying and general disregard for people is never OK — not in person and not online. It doesn’t matter if the comment is as tame as JboogieTheBoogie’s comment on iTunes or as horrible as the many regarding Williams and her weight. It is both tactless and tasteless to make them. Making them anonymously under a username makes the action cowardly as well. Be better than that.

Because people from all walks of life deserve better than that.