Wishing someone would die from the coronavirus is not exactly a noble gesture.
It takes a certain type of venom, the kind that is typically reserved for sadists, psychopaths, and criminals. Venom is a poison and, to administer it, you have to be a snake.
Recently, Twitter erupted yet again with the news about President Trump contracting coronavirus. I scanned through a few of the tweets here and there (to see them, click the tweet below), felt a little sick to my stomach, and went back to watching the Long Way Up series on my Apple TV.
What you focus on will become who you are, as they say.
Scientifically speaking, it’s easier to think negative thoughts than positive. It’s based on the chemicals in your brain and how freely they move. There’s something about our thought process that leans heavily toward self-protection, a flight mechanism that senses danger and wants to blame and shame. When we touch a hot stove, we don’t think about the physics involved or admire the cookware. We drop the pan and scream. We swear at the stove.
Twitter seems to cater to the hot stove crowd. We’re all screaming. The problem is that, because of those chemicals, it takes more work to think about a positive response.
I won’t repeat some of the worst tweets, but most of them follow a similar vein: They wish the President would die, or maybe everyone at the White House. A few have suggested injecting Clorox. They get a lot worse form there.
Even a cursory scan through his announcement on Twitter reveals there is a lot of anger and resentment. At least one writer argued that some of it is warranted.
It’s not warranted. Wishing someone would die from a virus that has killed over 200,000 of us is not only a sign of inner venom, it’s simply not logical. Who created a floating scale of who has crossed the invisible line and deserves to die from the virus? At what point do we decide who makes us mad enough? The boss who overlooked us for a promotion? The neighbor who plays death metal too loud? The friend who gossiped about our poor clothing choices or hairstyle?
You might think President Trump is a racist, a liar, and a cheat. Maybe you’re right. The question is how much of a racist, a liar and a cheat do you have to be?
What actually takes hard work is to hit the pause button, to count to 10 (or maybe 20) and consider the options. We want to be known as people who advocate for life, no matter which life is at stake. We’re not selective about the type of people who deserve to survive the infection, since everyone should. We maintain hope and faith in the possibility that any single person can find rehabilitation. Even the worst among us, no matter how vile, is redeemable.
As always, the solution is a bit murky.
Twitter is taking a stance against death wishes. They keep saying they’ll suspend accounts when someone wishes President Trump will die from the virus. Meanwhile, the tweets keep popping up over and over again. Whatever Twitter thinks it can do or is trying to do to solve this problem is not working. In fact, it’s an epic fail.
In the end, the social media companies have some responsibility to weed out the bad eggs, but in the end: It’s the bad eggs that need to come to their own conclusions. There’s something deep inside of us, a fear or a coping mechanism, that wants to spread scorn and derision. On social media, scorn spreads faster than anything else.
Even the virus, it seems.