Publishing on Wednesdays & Fridays

LSU ladies’ basketball and the ‘hate algorithm’

History was made in the Big D Sunday afternoon. With a storm front passing on the outside, the LSU Lady Tigers were blowing away the Iowa Hawkeyes on the inside of American Airlines Arena in Downtown Dallas.

The scene was the National Championship game. The score was 102-85 in favor of the ladies from the Bayou. The history making part is this team becomes the first basketball squad (men or women) in school history to win a national title. They also set the record for most points scored in a title game.

Remarkable. Historic. A moment of pride for a state that finds itself at the bottom of nearly every list you don’t want to bottom out on and at the top of every list you don’t want to lead.

But what should have been a day of celebration was sullied by the social media parasites’ obsession with a bit of good old fashioned trash talk. In short, an LSU player mimicked an Iowa player, and the internet lost its mind when the lady in purple pointed to her ring finger indicating there would soon be a big, fat golden trinket on the digit to forever memorialize the achievement.

These internet haters hurled pretty much every insult you could imagine at the LSU player but said nothing of the instigator. I’m not getting into race, but it is impossible not to notice the difference in skin color between the two women. It’s also impossible to forget Joe Burrow was praised for the same action numerous times throughout the 2019 football season. The Heisman winner was called brash and tough and a leader. The LSU player on Sunday (as well as her team) was dubbed a “thug.”

It irritated me. It still does. And for a moment, I didn’t realize why I was even aware of the outrage. Things like this are never editorialized by the game broadcasters. That part comes later. And I don’t watch “later” anymore. I stopped watching SportsCenter over a decade ago. Probably longer. And I never read sports articles anymore either.

So, as I grew to be a bit on the other side of irritated with the extremely slanted opinions of “experts,” I asked, “why am I even seeing this?”

You see, I, unfortunately, have a Twitter account because I’m trying to sell my novels. Every literary agent tells you to get your name out there as much as you can, and social media is the quickest and easiest way to do it.

I don’t like Twitter. Hate it. But it is what it is. A necessary, and hopefully temporary, evil I have to endure. But I follow no sports accounts. So, when dozens of tweets about the LSU game showed up in my feed, I knew that I had become victim to what I dub the “hate algorithm.”

In short, social media sites know what bothers you. And they put it in your feeds no matter if you want it there or not. It’s not a new tactic. Back in the days of print on paper, crime news sold more copies. On TV, death and destruction gets more viewers. On the internet, the “hate algorithm” ensures you will click on the piece that angers you. Clicks = money. Back and forth debate (more like childish insults) = money.

Hate and fear and treating your fellow humans like trash = money.

And money is all that matters in a world that is increasingly divided by the digital walls we’ve built around our online echo chambers.

I shouldn’t have clicked. And I shouldn’t have commented because there’s no way to change someone’s mind on the internet. The human connection is non-existent. I lost myself for a bit and was happy to go back and delete what I said. It wasn’t anything inappropriate, but participating at all left me feeling dirty.

Don’t feed the trolls y’all. That’s perhaps the greatest lesson any of us can learn in 2023. The world is full of trolls and all they care about is causing havoc and raising heart rates. We make them money every time we respond to a comment.

I wish I could delete my Twitter. I hate what the world has become.

Josh Beavers is a teacher and a writer. He has been recognized five times for excellence in opinion writing by the Louisiana Press Association.