I think the television character Will McAvoy from every amateur journalist’s gospel show ‘The Newsroom’ put it best when he said that snark is the idiot’s version of wit, and that we are being polluted by it. Big Brother. Love Island. Jersey Shore. RuPaul. Even Gordon Ramsey’s acclaimed Hell’s Kitchen (a show which should have cookery prowess as a focal point) spends the majority of its airtime having its contestants rant directly to the camera about their fellow opponents; the production hoping it propagates conflict on screen.
I get the appeal; I am not criticising the hundreds of millions of people that tune into reality TV on a day-to-day basis. This is not about the escapists. I once binged an entire season of Big Brother because I could not face the outside world, cocooned from the rising deadlines and social obligations in the safety of watching people I did not care for interact with each other. Whilst I told myself I was conducting an anthropological study of the human condition, I was just enjoying the bitchiness on television. And that was okay. As long as it is just on the TV.
The line between reality and television is blurred by the amalgamation of the two which has led to a large proportion of people aspiring to be those figures they see on TV; fantasising them – claiming them as idols whilst only seeing their edited highlights. When the curtain calls, and the credits roll, the show continues: we are no longer bitching about figures distant from us – but about those around us. And that, in my opinion, is not okay.
Bitching predates reality television by a longshot – that much is true. It is not TV that is the major problem problem, it is unfortunately a part of human nature. To talk about people behind their backs has become a pastime; a hobby. A way for people to score points with the right crowd at the expense of others. What is so terrifying is the fact that less and less people are being called out for it to the point where it has become a social norm to express your grievances to anyone, but the person who has annoyed you, in whatever capacity.
People used to argue that bitching is cathartic, which was at least a reasonable argument. But now I have heard an increasing number of people argue something much, much worse: that it’s fun. And the majority are seemingly on their side. Please stop.
Make no mistake: not making your grievances known to someone who has bothered you, and instead making those grievances to someone else, does not make you a nice person. A nice person would approach the individual that you have a problem with and express that concern kindly; resolve it. They would embrace civility, not break its very foundations.
The next time you are tempted to bitch, take a pause. Is it worth jeopardising your integrity? Is it really worth slowly dismantling how trustworthy you are as a person? There are an infinite possible avenues of conversation that I implore you to explore. We need to start talking about things that matter rather than our own incredibly minor struggles and woes – “There are things we can do. Things that we can do everyday. Things that are free. We can be one inch nicer to each other. An inch more polite. We can be decent.”