I was in high school when Mean Girls came out. I can remember seeing it in theaters and I can't even count the number of times I've watched it since. I quote it on a regular basis, blowing off chores by saying "whatever I'm getting cheese fries." It's a classic.
It's a classic, but lately I've been thinking – I think we missed the point.
The point of Mean Girls was to point out the ridiculousness of catty, bratty, immature bully behaviors. The point was to show that you didn't need to be blonde haired or blue eyed to act this way. Those quotable quips and memorable scenes showed that anyone can be a mean girl.
And the movie made it look sort of fun, didn't it?
I've been a mean girl before. I've talked about people, judged them on their outfits or stories that other people have told me. I've disliked people because people I know didn't like them, and I participated in catty conversations about people for no other reason than I was there. I've had friendships that revolved solely around gossiping about other people.
I did those things, and people will think things of me that I can't change – but I can try to be a positive presence and influence now that I've realized that it's not cool to be a mean girl.
You might be thinking – well, duh Rosemary, it's not cool to be a mean girl. But take a second and look at our society. Sometimes it's hard to see just how far you've gone down the wrong path. We're living in a world where we put so much of ourselves out in public through social media that it becomes easy to judge people we don't even know, people we might never meet or people we deal with on a regular basis. It's easy to get swept up in judging a person's life – it might not have any direct impact on you or it might seem fun to joke about certain people who drive you crazy with your friends. What's the end game though?
We put different titles on it – we call ourselves shady, salty, or funny. We say things that people encourage, with their laughter or agreement. We go on Twitter and quickly type out 140 characters about people who used to be our friends then go about our days. We forget that the people we direct this behavior on are real people, going through the same struggles that we go through. They're having the same bad days, the same tension headaches, the same bouts of self esteem issues. It's a pointless, harmful cycle.
It's not just harmless to the people who are being judged, but it's harmful to those doling out judgments like they actually mean anything. Like there's actually any point. Like it will make your day magically better somehow because you made a sassy comment about someone's selfie. Like it will make people think you’re cool because of your catty behavior towards someone else. Judging people on the misadventures of their youth, their personal style or the weaknesses they've chosen to share through their internet personas – it gets to a point where you're no longer being hilariously salty, you're just being a jerk. And when you judge people on their anxieties, their weight or their appearance – you’re go past jerk. You’re being an asshole.
I've been on both sides of it. I've been a jerk to people who didn't deserve it and I've been bullied by people who don't even know me. The more I get my life together, the more I let both experiences inspire me to be a better, more positive person.
When you're younger, it can be hard to stand up for what's right. Sometimes you just want to laugh along when people are talking about the weird kid in your homeroom that's really into comics because it's easier then speaking up. I hate to say it, but it's still hard as an adult.
Talking about people comes easily – and standing up to that can take some bravery. But believe me when I say, you'll feel better standing up and removing yourself from petty conversations. You've got better things to do than judge people on the internet.
(And now a shameless plug: I've been nominated for "most supportive" in the Baltimore Sun's media awards, "The Mobbies." If you read this blog and it's helped you, please take a second and vote here, I'll love you forever.)