How I Made it to the Frontpage of Reddit by Triggering People's High School Traumas
A disturbing look into the mind of the average redditor
Yesterday I made a few off the cuff tweets that somehow made their way to the front page of reddit with almost 8k upvotes as we speak. Mind you, these aren’t 8k upvotes because they love my tweets so much. These are 8k people who all got triggered by my tweets and are doing the typical redditooor snarky thing. Thinking they’re all very clever when really all it does is show how unhappy they are with their lives.
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So what were the tweets that triggered thousands of people, caused 100’s of angry comments and even caused some to DM me calling me a nazi?
Really nothing special right? I mean you might disagree with what I said. Think I’m wrong or that I’m projecting, but none of these things should cause the major backlash I received over them. I don’t call out anyone, bully anyone, try to bring anyone down or provoke anyone. I simply made a statement about how this image is so powerful because it provokes a reaction in you whether you like it or not.
And provoke a reaction it did! I even had to put my account on private for 24+ hours because the amount of angry people flooding my timeline and DM’s was becoming annoying. My mentions were filled with 100’s of low awareness people seething and calling me names.
I do not write for these kinds of people. There is no point in them reading my tweets because they are mentally uncapable of learning from them. Their kneejerk response is to get very upset and call me an idiot (which is ironic because they go to extreme lengths to let everyone know just how not upset they are. The lady doth protest too much).
So my original intent in tweeting these tweets got lost in the noise of mediocrity. Which is a shame because as the backlash shows, these tweets hit home in a powerful way.
So let’s ignore the Redditoooors and see why this image is so powerful. Why exactly can a simple photo trigger so many people? What can you learn from this image about yourself?
The sins of youth
We humans are not rational. We operate through emotions and Pavlovian triggers. Our worldview is very subjective and most of it is shaped in our youth. The way you deal with problems when you’re 6 is how you deal with your problems when you’re 30.
What do I mean with this? Lets use a simple example. Several 6 year olds trip over a toy and fall to the floor. Each of them responds differently. One kid runs to his mommy crying. Other kid gets mad at her toy and kicks it away. Third kid shrugs it off and keeps playing.
30 years later these same kids trip over a shoe laying in their hallway. They’re grown adults now. Got plenty of life experience and in no way are they the same person they were when they were 6 years old. Yet they respond in similar ways. The first goes to his girlfriend to complain and look for pity. The second one kicks away her shoe in anger. The third one laughs it off and continues what he was doing.
When we are kids and we are faced with a problem for the first time, we look for a way to solve it. All 3 of these kids had a first encounter when they were small where they needed a response. They all chose a different response. Their responses worked for all 3 of them. One kid went to his mommy crying and felt better after she comforted him. Second kid got angry and “took revenge” and felt better afterwards. Third kid shrugged it off and felt better afterwards.
Three different responses but all of them with a positive feedback loop. So these 3 different responses got reinforced in the kids. 30 years later they still use the same responses to situations because once we find a solution to a problem, we stop looking.
None of this is conscious. Kid one doesn’t even realize he’s being a cry-baby. Kid two doesn’t realize she’s developing anger issues. Kid three doesn’t realize he’s probably got the best response out of these three.
The responses these kids developed over something silly when they were young will end up having a major impact on their entire lives. All because their responses are subconscious and automatic. They never stop to think about whether what they’re doing is the right thing, because ey it works right?
Only when a response doesn’t work anymore do people get into trouble. When kid two gets a temper tantrum at work and she loses her job or when kid 3 gets bullied and keeps shrugging it off until one day he comes home with a black eye and a broken nose. Moments like those are the only times when people do self reflection and alter course…
At least that’s what they should be doing (some do fortunately) but most will just get upset and blame outside factors. “It’s not my fault, they are stupid for firing me”. “It’s not my fault those bullies are just evil”.
This is called cognitive dissonance. The brain doesn’t want to change the way it sees the world or how it reacts to it, so it gets dissonant and tries to rewrite events in such a way that they fit with your brain’s narrative.
The truth will often make us angry because we don’t want to see it. We don’t want to change who we are or how we live our lives. We just want what we do to work. One of the most important things to us, is our self image. We view ourselves a certain way and we base most of our actions on how we see ourselves. Anyone questioning our self image can expect an angry backlash from us (unless we are willing to face our flaws and grow)
So what does all of this tie in together? And what does it have to do with a picture of two high school students kissing?
High school traumas
High school is a difficult time for most kids. They’re becoming self aware. Exploring who they are, what their place in society is and what their interests are. If that’s not bad enough they also suddenly get raging hormones and have to learn how to deal with their sexuality.
High school is a period in which everyone feels insecure. Fitting in and being popular are very important. It is a place of navel gazing where everyone is constantly trying to see where they stand in the human hierarchy and where the opinion of others is super important.
In hindsight we know all of this is silly, but during high school we all feel the pressure. We’re placed in a lot of uncomfortable positions and we develop coping mechanisms to deal with them.
In hindsight we know all of this is silly, at least objectively we do. But humans aren’t really objective. They’re emotional. High school is a time of many emotions and most of us never process them. We never learnt healthy ways of processing things as kids so high school doesn’t get processed.
For many high school was not a good time. They weren’t a popular kid. They didn’t get the girl. Nobody looked up to them. Perhaps they even got bullied or excluded from the group (the worst thing that can happen to any 15 year old).
That’s a lot of repressed trauma/issues. So when I posted that photo of the stereotypical popular couple, it stinged for a lot of people. The couple on the photo represent the archetypical popular kids. They’re good looking, athletic, popular, probably from wealthy families, etc. They’re the kids everyone wishes they were. They seemingly had it all, and worst of all, it didn’t even seem to cost them any effort.
Which is why I tweeted that this photo invokes primal reactions in people. They are the couple everyone wishes they were in high school They represent the summun of popularity and success in high school. Those who fell short this ideal cannot help but feel the sting of envy. Even if they are way past their high school years.
Simply because they never dealt with their teenage emotions. Their self image took serious blows during their high school period and left wounds which never properly healed. My tweets resonated with their pain and it caused them to become very upset. I mean just look at the projection in some of these tweets:
Look at the anger in this one, whomever wrote this was a big nerd in high school and never got over it.
So much cope in this one. This person really needs the high school popular kids to actually be losers. Their self image is so low that bringing others down is the only way to feel better about themselves.
I’ll admit this one was actually quite funny. This guy probably wasn’t one of the popular kids, but he wasn’t an outcast either.
A moment of honesty
I’ll be honest with you. My high school period wasn’t that great either. I wasn’t an outcast or anything but I wasn’t the popular kid either. I didn’t get to be with my crush. I faced plenty of insecurities as a teen and on top of that I got seriously ill shortly before I turned 17. I counted down the days until I could go to college and my college years were 10x better than my high school years.
And my story is far from unique. Think back to your own high school period. Chances are your life as an elementary school kid and your life as a college student were both better than your time in high school. Putting a bunch of insecure, hormonal kids together with minimal parental/adult supervision doesn’t give great results for most kids.
But I’ve since learned how to be honest with myself and how to deal with my emotions. I’ve outgrown who I was when I was in high school and I can look back at that period without any negative feelings. In fact I now look at it with positive feelings. Sure plenty of typical teenage angst, but there were also great times with friends and plenty of things I learned and ways in which I grew.
These redditors on the other hand have never come to terms with who they were in high school. They’re too ego invested in their self-image (of being super awesome cool redditors) and when someone points out that they weren’t all that cool back in high school, the old emotions pop back up. It causes them to question themselves.
What makes it even worse is the juxta position I used. I used a photo of a couple of teens who seemingly don’t have any of the issues the rest of us faced. They’re the cool popular kids who don’t have the same insecurities us mere mortals had. They did get to be with their crush and where we struggled, they made it seem effortless.
Now a few people who read those tweets took the opportunity to self-reflect and grow. Unfortunately that’s not what the mass majority did. The mass majority just got angry at me for piercing their hearts with the truth when they depend on lies for their self-esteem. They felt attacked by me, so they retaliated. Which is sad because that means they’ll never face the pain they felt when they were teens and they will never process it.
They are the kid who gets angry, kicks the toy, and then goes running to mommy crying. They can’t handle reality so they will fight tooth and nail to keep their delusions alive.
Back to school
We all have things that trigger us. Past experiences that we never really processed properly. When seemingly random things make us feel angry, sad or afraid, it is because we haven’t tackled them. 12 Years ago I would probably also have gotten angry at my tweets, but because I’ve since long processed all my teenage angst and can now laugh about it, that I no longer have to get upset.
When you feel that anger or sadness or fear bubble up, stop yourself. Do not lash out. Instead use this opportunity to reflect. Why are you feeling that strong emotion? What happened to cause that sensation inside you? What is the best course of action you can take to process this?
Often the difference between lashing out and reflecting is enough for you to grow as a person. We have an incredible self-healing capacity and if you are willing to spend time and effort into facing your demons, you will find you can beat all of them.
But if you want a some help with that process and speed things up a little, get my book Summoned or Not in which I go way deeper into how your brain works and how you can rewire it. Get a deeper understanding of yourself and use one of the paths I describe to face your inner foes.
Till next time,
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