Would you like to feel better? Confident that your moral compass is pointing in the right direction? May I introduce you to a very interesting corner of the internet: the ‘Am I the A***hole?’ community.
If you haven’t had the pleasure yet, here’s a brief introduction. On the chat platform reddit.com, people go to a subreddit (online community) called Am I the A**hole? (AITA), in which they bring personal mysteries closer to a wider audience. Most of the time, these people want to exonerate themselves after wrongdoing. At other times, they firmly believe they are right. There isn’t a soap opera in the country that can touch it. Some of the more recent questions asked on the site include: “AITA for taking my girlfriend to court after she kicked me out of her bridal shower for cutting my hair?”; “AITA for putting jalapeños on my pizza so my girlfriend wouldn’t eat them?”; “AITA for breaking up with him because of his job?”; “AITA for getting engaged a week before my sister’s wedding and wanting to use the family reunion to discuss my own plans?”; “AITA for working 100 hour weeks and complaining about helping my wife with our newborn baby?” Recently, a man wondered if it was wrong to give sperm to his asexual girlfriend, who is now pregnant with twins donate and whether he should tell his wife.
It’s ultimately up to the site’s readers to judge who might be right, but if you ask the question there’s a very good chance you already know the answer.
“This subreddit is here so the submitter can find out what everyone else thinks about the ethics or mores of a situation,” the site header warns. “It’s not here to drag people into an argument you want or to defend your position. When people start saying you’re the asshole, don’t take that as an invitation to discuss the issue with them…accept the verdict and move on.” There are two verdicts, one of which the original poster must accept: You’re The A**hole (YTA) or Not The A**hole (NTA).
Yet, as we know all too well, people on the internet love a point of judgment and shame. AITA is a modern day equivalent of the old village stores where we can toss metaphorical tomatoes as well as feast on the tribulations of others.
Being able to give a public verdict on a website that bills itself as “catharsis for the frustrated moralist in all of us” – what’s not to like? With around 1.2 million subscribers making over 800 new posts daily, rest assured that things can get pretty heated, and often. Such is the popularity of the site that a podcast (aitapod.com) has appeared.
The hypocritical energy is high at AITA, which makes me think of an old adage, “He who is without sin cast the first stone.” Because if you’ve lived on this planet for any significant amount of time, at one time or another that’s what you were A** hole.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been a truly awful person, and I certainly don’t need a peanut gallery of anonymous referees telling me that.
When I remember even part of the way I was a horrible person, that gives me a big “Ik”. I’ve said horrible things about friends behind their backs. I fell out with them and enjoyed the high drama. I lied in job interviews. I treated former partners badly. Professionally, I pulled the ladder behind me. I have passed on opportunities to do people favors. Or worse, I did a favor with an expectation of a payout down the line. I’ve written negative things about people in the national press simply because an editor paid me to do it. I grew up as a writer in the noughties, when showbiz journalism burst onto the scene with its ringed cellulite plays heat Magazine, had a particularly gruesome connotation. I mistook cruelty for a sharp mind. I was the kind of person who prided himself on being a fiery truth teller or tough counselor with no time for social niceties. “You think so, but I say so” was something I was all too happy to say. But the thing is, social niceties exist for a damn good reason.
What was that about? Much of it was the simple idiocy of youth; not yet knowing who I am. I gained ground by being the loudest and most shocking person in the room – something almost impossible to do without coming off as an asshole. I also realized that pretty much 99 percent of those actions came from a place of pain, insecurity, or hurt. And if you think about it, the most terrifying human behavior (the internet troll, the serial scammer, the fanatic) has a similar origin story.
We would all do well to remember how much of an asshole we’ve been in the past before pointing out other people’s nefarious ways. I get it. It’s hard to pass up an opportunity to be morally superior, especially when, as in the case of the AITA subreddit, people are actively encouraging it. But it’s worth remembering that judging others doesn’t exactly cover you in glory either.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/aita-ive-lost-count-of-the-number-of-times-ive-been-a-truly-terrible-person-41614422.html #AITA – I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been a truly horrible person