Don’t click on the comments

You’ve probably heard of internet trolls if you’ve been on the internet for any amount of time. These are people who make it their mission in life to post comments (or other content) with the intention of getting a reaction out of others. Sometimes the comments seem innocent enough, like someone who is “just asking questions.”

I see this all the time with the anti-vaccine crowd. When it has been explained to them over and over again that we rely on herd immunity to protect children who cannot be vaccinated, they ask, “Why is my unvaccinated child a danger to your vaccinated child.” This leads to a series of comments about how vaccines are not 100% effective, which leads the troll to burn a straw man and shift the conversation to how vaccines must be 100% poison because they’re not 100% effective. And don’t even get them started discussing the fact that vaccines are not 100% safe.

Other times, the commenters are authentically “unhinged”, in every sense of the word. They post inflammatory comments that range from plain, old xenophobia to outright racism. It’s almost as if Donald Trump himself has taken to the comment section. Nowhere is this more true than in the comments section of the Baltimore Sun. If someone is killed or shot, the trolls show up in force and blame the violence on everything from “Libtards” to “monkeys.” And we all know what they’re trying to say by writing “monkeys.” (They’re not talking about White people.)

Then there are other comments that you shouldn’t click, the ones that break your heart.

The other day, the Baltimore City Police Department posted on their Facebook page an update on the stabbing murder of a 19 year-old. In the comments of that post was the comment from a man who wrote that the victim was his son.

bpd_comment

I couldn’t help myself. So I clicked on his profile. In it the father posted a picture of his son along with a message:

“I swear I can’t believe I’m writing this. No parent should. R.I.P. my lil Asshole! God I will never be able to call you that again. You still had the best years of your life ahead of you. I truly loved you. You’re my oldest son. Now I will never see you grow into the man I know you were capable of becoming.R.I.P.”

He also “tagged” his son on the message, so I was able to click on the son’s page… Which absolutely broke my heart.

In the son’s Facebook page, I read several messages from someone who seems to be his wife, writing in his name. She mentions the things you’d expect from someone who loses a partner. She also mentions that they’re expecting a child. (There was going to be a baby shower soon, too.) And the latest message is that there will be a candlelight vigil for him at the spot where he was stabbed.

It took me about 15 minutes to get a hold of my mind and slow it down. I started thinking about the loss that his life will bring not only for his family but for the city as a whole. Nineteen years old is very, very young, with plenty of chances of turning his life around. (He seems to have been in trouble recently, but that’s neither here nor there.)

I also got to thinking about my thesis and how it was going to impact people I’ll never know. But that is for another day. For now, I can only recommend that you don’t click on the comments of a news article, or even on social media, unless it’s your own social media account, or your blog, or a blog you trust. Some people are out to get a reaction out of you, while others will get a reaction out of you inadvertently.

A few will break your heart.

I'm a doctoral candidate in the Doctor of Public Health program at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. All opinions posted here are my own, of course, and they do not necessarily reflect the opinions of my school, employers, friends, family, etc. Feel free to follow me on Twitter: @EpiRen

5 thoughts on “Don’t click on the comments

  1. “Nineteen years old is very, very young, with plenty of chances of turning his life around. (He seems to have been in trouble recently, but that’s neither here nor there.)”

    This point seems to often be lost on people. The “he shouldn’t have been with those people or doing those things” arguments ignore this completely. So many of these people are in their teens or early twenties. If we all paid for poor decisions made in that time period with our lives our species would be extinct.

    As heartbreaking as this is (I don’t watch the news for the same reason) it is a very real reminder about why you do public health. Keep fighting the good fight, Ren.

    On that note, how did the second draft of your thesis go? Did you get it finished as quickly as you said you were going to?

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    • I turned it around and sent it to my advisor. Everything is running smoothly now. Hope for a thesis proposal seminar in the next few weeks, then oral exams. Things are going to happen very, very fast in the next few months.

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    • Many, many, many, many times, I’ve wondered that I not only survived my own childhood, but also managed to not get myself killed as a teen.
      Then, there’s my military career and managing to survive that.
      Oh well, I guess male youth survival of their childhood and teens is as much a testament to the robustness of the human body as much as it is pure, blind, dumb luck.

      On another topic Ren and I have been discussing…
      I was greatly entertained this morning when I reviewed my latest blood work.
      Free T4, 4.24.
      Free T3, 22.80.
      Doctor was so entertained, he’s scheduled more blood work for tomorrow, to test for antibodies that we both doubt will be present in significant amounts and he’s referred me to an endocrinologist.
      More entertaining is, I’m still bouncing around stage 2 hypertension – despite a high dose calcium channel blocker and 100mg metoprolol, a beta blocker.
      Boy, but am I getting my money’s worth out of my company medical insurance!

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        • The free T3 alone can cause hypertension, as it’s hyperthyroidism (TSH was 0.01).
          Doctor wants me to pop in for antibody tests, just to rule out Grave’s or Hashimoto’s, but my thyroid is enlarged and asymmetric, which suggests toxic multinodular goiter.
          Anything beyond that is in the realm of a specialist.

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