Love Thy Neighbor; Hate Thy Browns’ Fan

Everyone remembers being a kid and being taught to have school spirit — wear your colors, cheer for your team. Getting older, the human spirit does not exactly lose its fire — quite the opposite actually. Instead of cheering for the Fighting Falcons, however, we direct our passions into our music, our sports, our arts and so much more. Inevitably, these interests infect every part of our lives, including the friends we choose.

A consequence of this, for good or ill, is that sometimes we turn our interests into a competition — one that can get particularly heated.

Many people find identity in what they enjoy, take certain football fans or music lovers for example. In turn, belonging to a group of other people who like the same things grants a sense of community. Unfortunately, people of one community tend to ridicule other groups of people as a makeshift form of bonding.

No matter what group you reference, this sense of disdain toward perceived opposites or opponents is fairly prevalent within its membership. It’s normal to see people of the local music scene in Facebook fights or see that certain bands won’t play a show with another band because of bad blood. Rock and Roll lovers will bash people who like country music, claiming them to be uncultured. At least that’s what the local Facebook feed has looked like ever since the Luke Bryan concert at Heinz Field.

Sports rivalries are home to the most relentless and acerbic comments, and a lot of the time harmless banter mutates into hateful bashing at the drop of a hat. I’m not sure saying someone makes poor life choices for their love of the Browns — which is definitely one of the more mild insults we’ve heard, seeing as it is not filled with a colorful assortment of curses and slurs — is necessary for a simple game rivalry.

On campus, the theme is the same. People complain about anything from Humans vs. Zombies to Greek Life, slinging an impressive range of spite their way for how little the groups actually interfere with their day-to-day lives. It seems people are obsessed with identifying their group or culture as better than those that surround them.

So does complaining or harassing other groups really bond you to the community you believe you belong to? Or does it just give people a sense of superiority to demean what they perceive as unscrupulous or simply odd? Or is it simply a small attempt to justify our own fleeting existence in a world full of people trying to do the same?

The whole phenomenon echoes certain darker tendencies ebbing through human nature, like when people slaughter each other because of the emblem they hang over their home or the color of their hair. Of course, it is hardly an identical situation, but our consistent desire to find lines that separate us — even as old lines start to blur — is frighteningly consistent throughout our history.

What if instead of just being cruel we actually just stayed neutral on topics that didn’t concern us and had friendly competition when it was necessary? Wouldn’t that satisfy our need for community and kinship? The us vs. them narrative we hold so dear is perpetrated to our own detriment. It is doubtful that many psychologists would disagree, loathing is not beneficial to your health. It is a small distraction we engage in partially because of our nature and partially because of our culture, but the brilliant thing about the human mind is it can surpass its own wiring or conditioning. Though it is not exactly simple, it has this power.

Besides, in a culture so concerned with what is new, isn’t this fruitless anger we hold so close a bit out of fashion by now? I mean, that is so 1096.