If you’ve got nothing useful to say, shut up

Mary Novokhovsky

According to Nielsen Internet ratings, YouTube was the number one most visited Internet video site in the U.S. during September, totaling over 100 million unique users.

While a statistic like that probably doesn’t incite a reaction of shock and awe, one might be interested to know that YouTube beat out the number two most visited site for video content (Facebook) by about 68 million users. I think it’s safe to say the average American heads to YouTube for their daily video content fix.

If you’re a regular “YouTuber,” then I’m sure you’ve found yourself reading the video comments section, maybe even posting a few words of praise or criticism.

Personally, I’ve spent a long time avoiding entrance into heated YouTube comment wars. Lately, however, I find myself tempted to respond, not so much to the video I just watched, but to other user’s comments.

As the days grow shorter during these approaching winter months, so does my patience for assholes. Yes, assholes. Last night I watched a really bad music video on YouTube (I’ll refrain from inserting song and artist information as not to offend anybody’s personal tastes) and was curious to see people’s feedback on the video. I knew I hated it, but it was critically acclaimed, and I hoped that a quick down scroll would provide me with some insight as to what I was missing. After all, this video had thousands of “thumbs up!”

Instead of discovering musical revelations, I found myself reading hundreds of comments endorsing and debating smoking weed and doing other drugs (quoted mentions include “shrooms,” “da Xtacy” and “oxycotton”). I mean, this song did have drug references, don’t get me wrong, but any able-bodied Google user could have easily done a lyrics search and realized that the song wasn’t putting the “cool” stamp of approval on drug use but was merely discussing this artist’s need for an escape tool (believe me, there weren’t any complicated metaphors here). And no, I’m not about to start on an anti-drug rant — that’s not my point and not my place.

What I’m saying here is that whatever debate might have existed that was actually pertinent to the song had become buried beneath a slew of personal attacks, copied and pasted Erowid factoids and just dumb arguments (both in defense and in opposition of drugs). Now, technically, I could have saved myself the irritation by simply navigating away from the site. Clearly, drug use is a sore subject for me. Sitting on YouTube and allowing my anxiety to escalate was not the best move.

But alas, once I started it seemed impossible to stop. I read and read and then read some more. There were moments where I felt my heart drop into the pit of my stomach, especially after reading something along the lines of, “your friend is fucking dumb and he didn’t know how shoot up the right way, he deserved to die.”

I couldn’t help but think, who the hell is the asshole and what propels him or her to take time out of the day to talk that kind of shit? It was moments like this that went so beyond your “pothead vs. sober guy” debate and endorsements of experimentation in moderation where it was clear that some people weren’t interested in weighing in on the already off-topic issue — they just wanted to be dicks.

It’s unfortunate that some people have decided to use the number one video site on the Internet to spread their hate and agenda. The beautiful thing about open forums is that they allow you to express your opinions and discuss issues. Like many good things handed to us on a golden platter, people in our society have managed to take negative advantage of the forum — something that could have been, and may still be, a powerful and useful tool for us to honestly learn from one another.

Mary Novokhovsky is a columnist for the Maneater at the University of Missouri.