Everyone hates a hypocrite don’t they? You know the type – says one thing but does another, preaches certain morals but displays conflicting behaviours. Depending on who you ask and what you read, you’ll hear them described on social media as the lowest of the low, absolute scum, or the old classic “tooth faced bastards”. But aren’t we all a little bit of that lowest of the low, two-faced scum sometimes? Is hypocrisy shaming because you are actually outraged, or just an excuse to have a go at someone?
First of all we’re all hypocrites. It’s human nature. I’ll be the first to admit I’m not perfect. I don’t need anyone else to tell me. But pointing out other people’s flaws is a favourite pastime for many on social media and I want to talk about where it gets us, pointing the finger at someone and hypocrisy shaming.
Someone “plays the mental health card” (btw please stop saying that, none of us is judge or jury about what is or isn’t a genuine experience for someone else) which is then invalidated by something they once said in the past which was uncharitable, unkind, ignorant, naive, or in some way less than angelic.
I’m thinking specifically here about a girl who once tweeted that glasses should be available on the NHS if – and I’m paraphrasing a bit here – gender reassignment is available for free, because short-sighted people don’t “choose” to have poor eyesight. It wasn’t a great tweet (although thousands of people thought it was) and it upset a lot of people who are going through the process themselves that their experience was reduced to a trivial choice.[As an important side note: it’s not my place to say how anyone should react to such a tweet; it’s nobody else’s job to educate the ignorant or to tread carefully with their words around someone who’s not trodden carefully with theirs. My understanding is that the tweet was a clumsy comparison by someone who lacked a full appreciation of trans issues (and believe me, I don’t know the half either) rather than reductive malice, and I happen to remember she was receptive to people who took the time to explain where her tweet went wrong, and how it made marginalised people feel. She also received death threats and personal abuse.]
Fast forward a year or so and the author of the glasses tweet has fallen out of favour with the twitter mob again for unrelated reasons. This time she expressed how she suffers from poor mental health and it didn’t take long for me to spot unkind remarks and attempts at hypocrisy shaming because of her NHS tweet in the past.
Firstly, and I would have thought this was obvious to anyone with a basic grasp of mental ill health, that it doesn’t discriminate; that (although there are often socio-economic factors in people’s quality of life) mental illness can affect anyone regardless of how educated, understanding, prejudiced, articulate, or sympathetic they are, what their politics are or where their moral compass points. Basically, the two are not mutually exclusive. You don’t get to only “play the mental health card” if you’ve passed the Twitter Good Guy test.
Secondly, Twitter can be a diary for some, and examples of ‘hypocrisy’ crop up all the time, whether yearly, daily, or every five minutes if your head’s really chocker. I personally thank god for the delete function on a daily basis. And just as humans are capable of deleting opinions and prejudices in our own heads and replacing them with better or worse ones over time, sometimes we will present thoughts online which don’t seem to match up too.
We are all hypocrites. I know I’m a hypocrite. I must be: it’s part of the human condition. To deny it would be ridiculous. And that means I’ve got no right to call anyone else one.
So I’ve been thinking, I reckon it’s time we stopped hypocrisy shaming. Not only because people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones (I’ve seen people lose their shit over disgusting Hillsborough related tweets but will openly mock the Munich plane crash) but also because if you want people to adopt and maintain a healthy attitude towards anything – whether it’s trans issues, mental health, bullying, other prejudices – then the massive pointing finger of a hypocrisy witch hunt isn’t the best way to do it.
The best way to do it, if anyone’s arsed, would actually be to encourage or reward the ‘desired’ behaviour, not to call out the disparity between the desired behaviour and previous undesired behaviour. If you’re not prepared to do that even with a Like or a Retweet here and there (because let’s face it, it’s none of our individual responsibility to make other people into better people even though it would benefit us all), then how hard is it to say nothing at all? I mean sure, the temptation’s always there. I can’t scroll past a dodgy fry up without adding my 2p’s worth and I had some pretty explosive opinions on lip gloss last week. But people’s personal growth, or new-found positive opinions shouldn’t always be so easily dismissed because of some mistaken belief or opinion they previously held (unless it’s Piers Morgan the opportunist ship-jumping rat – even a stopped clock is right twice a day).
I mean, that’s if you actually want people to exist in a more tolerant, healthy, accepting and cooperative society. If, on the other hand, you just want to highlight someone’s flaws and mistakes in a public arena under the guise of being a better person than they are and enjoy hypocrisy shaming… then what does that make you?