One of today’s internship jobs has been trawling a Russian opera singer’s Facebook photos for comments by anti-fans. (She had to close her profile for a while due to political tensions and people using her page as an outlet for their ideological vents.) My task has been to hide any comments that raise political hackles, which I am happy to do – her artist page should be about her art and herself as a performer, not a soapbox for people’s rants.
(Interestingly, I was told to ignore socio-political comments, such as people hating on her for wearing fur, and focus on the drama that went down during the Sochi Olympics in 2013.)
So far, I have gone through about 80 photos, with between 50 and 600 comments EACH, and there have only been 3 comments to hide, which is heartening. There have also been loads of well- wishers complimenting her on her voice, her dresses and sense of style, her time spent with her son, her new recordings, her beauty as an emblem of Russian pride – many of which include photos of heart-shaped bouquets of roses, blurred at the edges with a sparkly Comic Sans “I Love You!” blinking across the image.
But some of the other things people say are Just. So. Mean.
Maybe I’m hella naive. I know Facebook is a platform where people can say whatever, and be relatively unregulated.
But the fact that people feel the need to make some really awful comments is so heart-breaking, and it’s really making what should be a pretty simple task a much more draining one than I would have imagined.
Most often, people comment on her appearance (what’s new in the world of the Goddam Patriarchy?) “Why that new hair colour? Doesn’t suit you!” and “Um, that dress clearly needs a bra…” (and in response, “Nice boobs!” and a photo of her in a see-through shirt with, “There’s a bra! You can see!”) and “A bit too sexy for a mom!” and “Why that cut of dress? Not sexy enough!”
People comment on her weight CONSTANTLY. “The gown really isn’t flattering – look at the bulge!” and “She should really consider losing weight – it’s just not HEALTHY!” and “Stop eating Big Macs!” and “I know she’s an opera singer, but she should not be like those other big sopranos.” (Also, “Fat. The soprano’s disease.”) Even, “Wow, she looks so much better now that she’s thin!” is a compliment only thinly veiling fat-hate and body-policing.
On a post announcing her engagement, there are comments that say, “With HIM? Really?!” and “She could do so much better!” and “Why did she move on from the gorgeous father of her son to this shlub?” and, because her husband is from Azerbaijan, “Oh no, will she have to convert to be a Muslim now?”
Another photo showed her and her son in her dressing room before a performance. People ask why she allows him to play with her make-up – “That’s not what little boys should do – the theatre is corrupting him.” There is also one of them out in Berlin, and his fingernails are painted a bright blue: “How could she let him do that? He’s a little BOY.”
What do people possibly have to gain by spouting more meanness into the world? I wish I had taken a Psych or Sociology class on public behaviour to better understand it. Does it make them feel better about themselves (my current theory)? Is it just a way for people to vent their socially-constructed notions of beauty? Is it some kind of extension of schadenfreude?
Some people come to her defense: “Ignore them, you are beautiful!” and “It’s not your looks, it’s your voice that matters! Besides, you’re gorgeous anyway!” and “Congratulations, we wish you every happiness!”But the number who do so is small.
I just wanna bake a cake of sunshine and rainbows so that everyone can eat it and be happy.
Kindness. Kindness, always.