People Are Awful, the Latest in a Continuing Series

Patton Oswalt / Getty

The worst thing about the internet—aside from the people who think Bitcoin is good, I guess—is that something about the medium compels us to offer up our opinion on everything. I should know, given that I've tweeted more than any human should: We see a story or an anecdote or a tidbit and decide that it must be passed along, immediately, with our insta-analysis, our winners and losers, our cheers and jeers (but mostly jeers). Often that's not a big deal and sometimes it's actively good: I find I get more, better-curated news from my Twitter feed than just about any other source.

Other times, though, we're handed a reminder that a not-insignificant portion of people are legitimately terrible.

Consider, for instance, the news that Patton Oswalt is getting remarried. Oswalt's wife died suddenly about a year-and-a-half ago; as part of his coping process he wrote about the tragedy quite a bit, working out his feelings in public. Last week he announced he was engaged. Happy ending to a sad story, right?

Wrong, apparently. Because, as Erica Roman reminds us, the internet is full of assholes:

Well, it’s been 442 days for him now and it makes my heart happy to see that his heart has continued to move forward, that it has healed and expanded to the place where he can now love another. My happiness for him quickly shifted to indignant anger on his behalf as I began to read the comments under the article.

Comment after comment poured out judgement and disdain. It made me sick. I had to stop reading before I gave in to the temptation to rain fire in response to every comment. Instead I decided to address them here all at once.

So, my dear ignorant, judgmental, assholes, this one is for you.

You aren’t entitled to an opinion. You don’t get to comment on the choices of a widower while you sit happily next to your own living spouse.

I'll quibble only with Roman's formulation that "You aren't entitled to an opinion." To paraphrase a great movie line, "Entitled's got nothing to do with it." People have opinions about everything, all the time. Some of those opinions are good, some are bad, but they just happen. We humans are little judgment boxes, running around all day deciding what's good and what's bad, what's ugly and what's attractive, what's pleasant or un. We can't help it; it's in our nature.

What you aren't entitled to do is voice that opinion, especially in some sort of hugely public way (e.g., tweeting about it or commenting about it). If you have very strong feelings about someone's personal life and the way they cope with a tragedy, you should really think twice about voicing that opinion—about commenting on their Facebook walls or tagging them on Twitter—and then, if you still think it's a good idea, you should think a third time. And a fourth. Keep thinking about it until you realize that the decent thing to do is to keep your trap shut.

Look, like I said, we all have opinions. We all chit chat. We all gossip. But we don't, like, go up to the subject of the gossip and say "Oh man, I can't believe you're getting remarried, that's classless as hell." If you did do something like this, you'd get a punch in the nose—and you'd deserve it. No jury in the world would convict your assailant, because no jury in the world likes it when people act like dicks for no good reason.

So the next time you see that someone you don't know is making some sort of choice that you disagree with on a very personal topic, maybe you can do the decent thing and kindly shut up. The world's awful enough without you adding your two cents to the pile of crap we wallow about in every day.