As an executive officer of several public companies back in the day, I used to marvel at the stones on some of the retail investors who frequented the Yahoo Finance message boards. Some of their opinions were well-considered, but the vast majority were of the senseless rant and rave variety. And some of the comments were downright evil: personal attacks and all that.

Today, it’s much worse. The anonymity of social media has emboldened trolls to inflict as much pain as they can possibly get away with. Everybody has an opinion about everything, whether they’re semi-knowledgeable on the subject or not. And if the judgmental hordes decide they don’t like the way you say something, it can really impact your brand, corporate or personal.

When you work 70 or 80 hours a week putting your heart and soul into a career for a decade or two, only to suffer vitriolic abuse 24-7 at the hands of a virtual mob of losers who’ve never done a thing with their lives, it’s pretty messed up. I know how that might come across, but it’s true, more or less.

I’m actually of two minds on this. On the one hand, successful executives and performers make the big bucks; they can afford to grow some thick skin. That said, do the anonymous masses ever stop to think that those they’re so critical of are real flesh and blood people who suffer and bleed just like they do?

In “Extraordinary,” musician Liz Phair shines a light on that strange juxtaposition between the isolation of stardom and the mundaneness of everyday life. On the one hand, she says, “I am extraordinary, if you’d ever get to know me,” and on the flip side, says, “So I still take the trash out; does that make me too normal for you?”

Finally, she whips out the big guns and takes aim at those who would judge her:

See me jump through hoops for you
You stand there watching me performing
What exactly do you do?
Have you ever thought it’s you that’s boring?
Who the hell are you?

Harsh but well-said, nonetheless. And when you consider the vehemence with which millions of small-minded Twitter trolls attack everyone from Sarah Palin and Carly Fiorina to Travis Kalanick and Colin Kaepernick, I don’t care which side of the issues you come down on, that behavior is disgusting and the result dehumanizing, to say the least.

Imagine if those pathetic trolls could spend a day in the life of someone who worked tirelessly to become successful at a craft, only to get ripped apart daily on Facebook. I bet the first words out of their mouths would be, “Who the hell are you to judge me?” Maybe then they’d get it.

  • Tom

    Well said. A long time ago I attended the ordination of a friend to the clergy. One of the things I remember is the ordaining minister saying “For they are only human” when alluding to their human frailty in spite of being a person of God.

    • Steve Tobak

      Yup, my big brother’s an ordained minister and one thing’s for sure: he’s human alright.

  • Anurodh Sharma

    Maybe is the right ending Steve…..maybe never!!!