When parents are smashing eggs on their kids’ faces, is it time for a digital reckoning?
Social media has hit 'Peak Wicked', and when parents are inflicting low level violence on their kids for laughs, it's time to reset. In fact, it's time to get Old Testament, says Amy Kean. But if we can't rely on God to sweep away humanity's detritus, we'll have to take it upon ourselves.
I’m not a religious person, but I think we’re due a Noah’s Ark: Part 2.
Most of us know Noah from school. He was the original good guy. Main character in a primary school tune - “the animals went in two by two, Hurrah! Hurrah!” - and chosen by God to spearhead a new phase of existence on planet Earth.
God was furious, because the world had become a shitshow.
According to my Catholic education, God came to Noah one day and screamed: “I’m DONE! I am sick of humanity’s shit. We’re starting again.”
Noah was like: “Oh wow! Are you just ranting, or… am I gonna be involved in this?”
God was furious, because the world had become a shitshow. According to Genesis 6:5–7. “The Lord saw how utterly wicked people on Earth had become; every thought was only evil all the time,” and decided that radical measures were required. No, not a plague of locusts, or boils, but a fucking flood.
Above: At a certain point it makes sense to smash everything up and start again.
God said to Noah: “You’re actually an OK guy, albeit a hideous people pleaser, so I want you to build a massive boat made out of gopherwood - IT HAS TO BE GOPHERWOOD - but only you, your wife, your sons and their wives, and two of every single animal on the planet are allowed on. With my deathly floods, I’ll make everything else extinct.”
The lesson (I think) is that at a certain tipping point, let’s call it Peak Wicked, it makes perfect sense to smash everything up and start again.
I’m not sure of exact time frames, but somewhere in between half an hour and seven years later, the floods came, the Ark floated, and Earth was offered a reset. God then asked Noah and his family to reproduce amongst themselves, which I won’t dwell on here.
But the lesson (I think) is that at a certain tipping point, let’s call it Peak Wicked, it makes perfect sense to smash everything up and start again. Like a bad doodle on an Etch-a-Sketch. Or Jenga when there’s only one brick at the bottom. That tipping point has arrived once again. But, instead of humanity being filled with evil thoughts, they're now viral thoughts, which is basically the same thing.
Above: The 'Egg Crack Challenge' on TikTok is the 'Peak Wicked' tipping point.
My proof is a TikTok trend (obviously). The 'Egg Crack Challenge' involves mums asking their young children to cook eggs with them whilst being filmed for the internet. Instead of cracking the egg on the side of the bowl, the mum cracks it on their child’s head and giggles, to camera. The children react with a mix of shock, hurt and sadness. Occasionally, they retaliate. I’ve watched a few of the videos and I don’t like them. It’s never nice to have a parent inflict pain on you and laugh.
Smacking your kid in the face for LOLs and a million views definitely feels like a final straw.
The challenge is typical of a social media-first society, in which every single significant life moment is recorded for clout. Increasingly, those moments are fake. It started with a stepdad being gifted adoption papers for his birthday; TikTok-ers cosplaying as homeless people to test the generosity of the general public; old women with dementia forgetting their grandchild’s name. All taped, uploaded and shared. Smacking your kid in the face for LOLs and a million views definitely feels like a final straw for a digital population out of ideas, resorting to low level violence, just to be seen.
What have we become?
Above: Actor Rachel Zegler received huge backlash for comments she made about the upcoming remake of Disney's Snow White.
Twenty-two year old West Side Story star Rachel Zegler has been hired to play Snow White in Disney’s upcoming live-action version of the film. On a red carpet, when asked how the new film will be different to the origins, Zegler said: “It’s no longer 1937. She’s not going to be saved by the prince and she’s not going to be dreaming about true love. She’s dreaming about becoming the leader she knows she can be and the leader that her late father told her that she could be if she was fearless, fair, brave and true.”
It’s a bit cheesy, and empowerment-by-numbers. But read the quote again and tell me if you’re surprised that Zegler is (at the time of writing) one of the most hated and attacked women in the world.
She is loathed. She is unsafe. Because of a mediocre soundbite about a fucking Disney film. That’s it. Build the boat, Noah. BUILD THE BOAT.
The internet came together and decided to bring her down. Apparently she’s ungrateful. She’s smug. She’s detestable. She was diagnosed by the unqualified masses as a narcissist because, of course she was. It’s in the mainstream press. People are telling her to kill herself. She is loathed. She is unsafe. Because of a mediocre soundbite about a fucking Disney film. That’s it. Build the boat, Noah. BUILD THE BOAT.
Zegler’s not alone. Doja Cat, Britney Spears, Taylor Swift, Sandra Bullock and Haley Bieber have all had quite remarkable hate lately. And boy-oh-boy, when it’s more serious, The vultures are ready. Lizzo is dealing with a lawsuit from two former dancers who stated on TMZ that it was “implied” the singer showed bias. Didn’t know you could sue someone for subtle undertones of an implication, but here we are. It was enough for social media mobs to unleash some of the most sexist, racist and fat-phobic abuse I’ve ever seen on the internet. When you get a sec, watch the Depp vs Heard Netflix documentary, which is even more shocking in hindsight. The internet has become a hellhole, especially for women.
Above: Social media has become The Blob, like the 1958 horror movie starring Steve McQueen.
Hell is other people, but purgatory is a pack of angry, never-ending internet people that won’t let shit lie. Internet people who are now, openly, calling for the suicide of a young woman, being egged on by millions of other angry people around them. How in the heavens did we get here? In the 80s, this was described by sociologists as ‘the hypodermic needle effect’ in which mass media would inject a scare-story (i.e. AIDS, or chip pan fires) into the public realm and cover it relentlessly until the masses were sufficiently freaked out and addicted to news about it.
Social media is The Blob. A minor event occurs and The Blob emerges, feeding on it, amplifying it, adding poison and leaving destruction in its wake.
Over the years the dynamics have changed and, these days, everything’s quicker and louder and way more immersive. The same theory applies but, now, I’d call it something different. Something like…The Blob. The Blob is a demonic entity even God would be proud of. A 1958 horror movie starring Steve McQueen, The Blob centred around a carnivorous amoeboid alien that crashed to Earth from outer space. It blobs along, angry and sucking up every living being in its path, growing larger, redder in colour and more aggressive, eventually becoming massive, like a skyscraper. The only way to kill it is to freeze it.
Social media is The Blob. A minor event occurs and The Blob emerges, feeding on it, amplifying it, adding poison and leaving destruction in its wake. The Blob has no perspective. The Blob is on a mission. The Blob is a fucking alien. The Blob needs more and more casualties and more humiliation in order to survive.
Above: 'The Blob' can band together online and make social media a poisonous place.
The Blob is everywhere. I’ve felt The Blob now and again. Last year I had to lock my Twitter account after posting a video of a dozen men marching through the streets, drunk at 4pm, intimidating everyone around them, screaming in the name of football. I believe the law would call it ‘anti-social behaviour,’
“Well, this is completely normal,” I tweeted. My God, I wish I hadn’t. Not only was I threatened by hundreds of football fans, described as a “cretin” and a “fucking slut”, a bunch of them decided to go on Amazon and give my book 1* reviews. (Don’t worry, it’s had enough genuine 5* reviews to not make any difference.) It was terrifying. Incredibly OTT. And you know what? It’s NOT normal to march through the streets in a mini-army, off your tits at four o'clock in the afternoon. What’s interesting is that these guys didn’t just want to reprimand me, they wanted to hurt me and my career, and knew exactly how to do it.
They had empathy, just the wrong kind. There are two types of empathy. Compassionate empathy is when you are able to ‘feel someone’s pain’ and use emotional intelligence to put yourself in their shoes. Cognitive empathy is being able to put yourself into someone else’s place and see their perspective, but there is no feeling there. You know how it feels, but with zero compassion.
According to a 2017 study conducted into the psyche of online trolls, not only do they drastically over-index on psychopathy, but they also score very highly on cognitive empathy. In fact, according to the research “trolls employ an empathic strategy of predicting and recognising the emotional suffering of their victims, while abstaining from the experience of these negative emotions.”
They know exactly what they’re doing. This isn’t a mistake. It’s not people having a bad day, it’s intentional. It’s wickedness. And now they have a playground. And, like The Blob, it’s growing: online hate speech has increased by 20% in the last few years and (unsurprisingly) the country most responsible for online hate is America. BUILD THE DAMN BOAT!
Above: Social media is one of the most dangerous places on Earth with a 10-year study finding that girls aged 13 who spend two to three hours each day on social media are at a higher risk for suicide as young adults than those who don’t.
Elon Musk wants the wicked to roam free. Arguably a man who’d like to be God one day, he wants us to feel the full force of The Blob and intends to remove the ‘block’ filter from the X platform, formerly known as Twitter. It doesn’t make sense, he says. My experience is minimal compared to the online attacks against innocent women like Zegler, but if I’d been unable to block and hide myself from the trolls that day, I dread to think of the mental repercussions. Elon Musk will never understand just how exposed and vulnerable women on the internet feel. Seems his new CEO, Linda Yaccarino, doesn’t either.
The digital population has evolved into a mass of viral beasts, smashing dairy products into their child’s forehead.
I sometimes wonder whether evolution is circular, and we were always destined to return to our aggressive, Neanderthal state. We’re regressing, at the very least. Like a toddler acts up, screaming in the supermarket for any kind of attention, even if it’s the bad kind, the digital population has evolved into a mass of viral beasts, smashing dairy products into their child’s forehead for a mere second of spotlight. [For what it’s worth, below is my favourite response to the challenge].
To prevent The Blob from eating us all alive, we don’t just need a revolution, we need a reckoning. A digital one. The way the space is perceived has to change. Sending death threats to Disney princesses cannot be normalised. We’re at a crossroads, and how we behave right now is going to determine the future of today’s children and tomorrow’s adults. A 10-year study found that girls aged 13 who spent two to three hours each day on social media are at a higher risk for suicide as young adults than those who don’t. Social media is one of the most dangerous places on Earth. BUILD THE BOAT, NOAH! BUILD THE FUCKING BOAT!!!!!
We need an intervention.
We need a UN, but for social media.
We need independent regulators.
We need actual police, but for the internet.
Or, we just freeze out the US. See what happens.
Above: One user's response to the TikTok 'Egg Challenge'.
Now’s a good time for everyone to reflect upon the role they play in fuelling this hate, because sometimes the ‘goodies’ can be bad, too. High on our own supply, the path to self-righteousness can also result in bullying and intimidation. We’ve all taken things too far, just because we could. Outrage. Fury. Preaching. Condemnation. YOU HAVE SINNED AND MUST BE PUNISHED FOREVER.
If we allow this to continue, we are choosing mental illness for the next generation.
Stop adding to the hate. Stop calling Nigel Farage a cockwomble. Stop giving Laurence Fox attention. Not because I approve of anything they say, but because an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind. I’m not religious, but the Bible had some nice soundbites. Such as Peter 2:12: “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” And when people apologise, believe them and move on.
Social media has become a swamp. A bog. A dark, poisonous blob. We can’t ignore the damage any longer, or hope that it passes like clouds circling a mountain, or that feeling of nausea after three consecutive Baby Guinnesses. It will not pass.
If we allow this to continue, we are choosing mental illness for the next generation. We are making them less safe. We are the white American women smashing eggs on their toddlers’ foreheads. I urge you to step away from social media, so that we can turn it off and on again. Freeze it out, for a short while, to gain some perspective. In its current state, this blob of spiteful nothingness is swallowing up the world’s young and spitting them out harsher, needier and more wicked.
Dear Lord, pray for us.