ABOUT THE SPEAKER
Dylan Marron - Writer, performer
Dylan Marron takes complicated social issues and finds accessible ways to talk about them through interviews, short-form videos and satire.

Why you should listen

Dylan Marron is the host and producer of the Webby-winning podcast Conversations with People Who Hate Me, where he calls up folks who wrote him negative or hateful messages on the internet. Previously, Marron created Every Single Word, a video series that edits down popular films to only the words spoken by people of color as a way to tackle Hollywood's representation problem empirically. To address the anti-trans bathroom bills, he created and hosted Sitting in Bathrooms with Trans People to broadcast a missing element: mundane, funny conversations with trans folks in the very spot their presence was debated.

As he tells it: "The 2016 presidential election inspired me to satirize the popular unboxing genre where YouTubers open the latest electronic gadgets by instead unboxing intangible 'products' like Islamophobia, police brutality and masculinity. And because this work gained popularity on the internet, I received many negative messages which inspired me to start Conversations with People Who Hate Me, a podcast where I call up some of the folks who sent me those messages. In the end, I'm trying to turn the internet into a place where we can connect and learn, not divide."

More profile about the speaker
Dylan Marron | Speaker | TED.com
TED2018

Dylan Marron: Empathy is not endorsement

Filmed:
1,702,850 views

Digital creator Dylan Marron has racked up millions of views for projects like "Every Single Word" and "Sitting in Bathrooms With Trans People" -- but he's found that the flip side of success online is internet hate. Over time, he's developed an unexpected coping mechanism: calling the people who leave him insensitive comments and asking a simple question: "Why did you write that?" In a thoughtful talk about how we interact online, Marron explains how sometimes the most subversive thing you can do is actually speak with people you disagree with, not simply at them.
- Writer, performer
Dylan Marron takes complicated social issues and finds accessible ways to talk about them through interviews, short-form videos and satire. Full bio

Double-click the English transcript below to play the video.

00:12
Hi.
0
476
1150
00:14
I've received hate online.
1
2848
3223
00:18
A lot of it.
2
6373
1166
00:19
And it comes
with the territory of my work.
3
7563
2640
00:22
I'm a digital creator,
4
10227
1555
00:23
I make things specifically
for the internet.
5
11806
2854
00:27
Like, a few years ago, I made
a video series called "Every Single Word"
6
15292
3795
00:31
where I edited down popular films
7
19111
2118
00:33
to only the words
spoken by people of color,
8
21253
2848
00:36
as a way to empirically and accessibly
talk about the issue of representation
9
24125
4344
00:40
in Hollywood.
10
28493
1150
00:42
Then, later, as transphobic bathroom bill
11
30076
3406
00:45
started gaining media attention
around the United States,
12
33506
3539
00:49
I hosted and produced an interview series
13
37069
2620
00:51
called "Sitting in Bathrooms
with Trans People"
14
39713
2769
00:54
where I did exactly that.
15
42506
1666
00:56
(Laughter)
16
44196
1167
00:57
And then --
17
45387
1191
00:58
Sure, I'll take applause.
18
46602
1467
01:00
(Applause)
19
48093
1905
01:02
Thank you.
20
50022
1150
01:03
And then, are you familiar
with those unboxing videos on YouTube
21
51924
3881
01:07
where YouTubers open up
the latest electronic gadgets?
22
55829
3567
01:11
Great, so I satirized those
in a weekly series,
23
59797
2994
01:14
where instead I unboxed
intangible ideologies
24
62815
3453
01:18
like police brutality, masculinity
and the mistreatment of Native Americans.
25
66292
5426
01:23
(Laughter)
26
71742
1250
01:25
My work --
27
73016
1182
01:26
Thanks.
28
74222
1151
01:27
One person applauding, God bless.
29
75397
1753
01:29
(Laughter)
30
77174
2420
01:31
Mom, hi.
31
79618
1167
01:33
(Laughter)
32
81332
2008
01:35
So, my work became popular.
33
83364
2792
01:38
Very popular.
34
86180
1152
01:39
I got millions of views,
a ton of great press
35
87356
3181
01:42
and a slew of new followers.
36
90561
1867
01:44
But the flip side of success
on the internet
37
92744
3039
01:47
is internet hate.
38
95807
1563
01:49
I was called everything.
39
97966
1572
01:51
From "beta" to "snowflake"
and, of course, the ever-popular "cuck."
40
99562
5793
01:57
Don't worry, I will break
these terms down for you.
41
105379
2655
02:00
(Laughter)
42
108058
1170
02:01
So, "beta," for those of you unfamiliar,
43
109252
2484
02:03
is shorthand online lingo for "beta male."
44
111760
3253
02:07
But let's be real, I wear pearl earrings
45
115434
2342
02:09
and my fashion aesthetic
is rich-white-woman-running-errands,
46
117800
3285
02:13
so I'm not angling to be an alpha.
47
121109
2087
02:15
(Applause)
48
123220
2563
02:17
Doesn't totally work.
49
125807
1334
02:20
(Laughter)
50
128128
1129
02:21
Now, "snowflake" is a put-down
for people who are sensitive
51
129281
3328
02:24
and believe themselves to be unique,
52
132633
2031
02:26
and I'm a millennial
and an only child, so, duh!
53
134688
3762
02:30
(Laughter)
54
138474
2508
02:33
But my favorite, favorite,
favorite is "cuck."
55
141006
3735
02:37
It's a slur, short for "cuckold,"
56
145196
2365
02:39
for men who have been
cheated on by their wives.
57
147585
2730
02:42
But friends, I am so gay,
58
150339
2231
02:44
that if I had a wife, I would
encourage her to cheat on me.
59
152594
3864
02:48
(Laughter)
60
156482
2206
02:50
Thank you.
61
158712
1150
02:52
Let's take a look at some
of this negativity in action.
62
160514
3835
02:57
Sometimes it's direct.
63
165093
1532
02:58
Like Marcos, who wrote,
64
166649
1421
03:00
"You're everything I hate
in a human being."
65
168094
2296
03:02
Thank you, Marcos.
66
170823
1200
03:04
Others are more concise.
67
172395
1881
03:06
Like Donovan, who wrote,
"gaywad fagggggg."
68
174300
3495
03:09
Now, I do need to point out,
Donovan is not wrong, OK?
69
177819
4663
03:14
In fact, he's right on both counts,
so credit where credit is due.
70
182506
4055
03:18
Thank you, Donovan.
71
186585
1152
03:19
Others write to me with questions,
like Brian, who asked,
72
187761
3231
03:23
"Were you born a bitch or did you
just learn to be one over time?"
73
191016
4117
03:27
But my favorite thing about this
74
195157
2341
03:29
is that once Brian was done typing,
his finger must have slipped
75
197522
3706
03:33
because then he sent me
the thumbs-up emoji.
76
201252
3487
03:36
(Laughter)
77
204763
1270
03:38
So, babe, thumbs up to you, too.
78
206057
2503
03:41
(Laughter)
79
209176
1904
03:43
It's fun to talk about these messages now.
80
211477
2973
03:46
Right?
81
214474
1151
03:47
And it's cathartic to laugh at them.
82
215649
2474
03:50
But I can tell you that it really
does not feel good to receive them.
83
218147
5266
03:56
At first, I would screenshot
their comments
84
224683
2547
03:59
and make fun of their typos,
85
227254
1680
04:00
but this soon felt elitist
and ultimately unhelpful.
86
228958
4014
04:05
So over time, I developed
an unexpected coping mechanism.
87
233427
3866
04:09
Because most of these messages I received
were through social media,
88
237807
3215
04:13
I could often click on the profile picture
of the person who sent them
89
241046
3520
04:16
and learn everything about them.
90
244590
2389
04:19
I could see pictures they were tagged in,
91
247003
1968
04:20
posts they'd written, memes they'd shared,
92
248995
2135
04:23
and somehow, seeing that it was
a human on the other side of the screen
93
251154
3820
04:26
made me feel a little better.
94
254998
1643
04:28
Not to justify what they wrote, right?
95
256665
2809
04:31
But just to provide context.
96
259498
1867
04:34
Still, that didn't feel like enough.
97
262538
2817
04:37
So, I called some of them --
98
265379
3000
04:40
only the ones I felt safe talking to --
99
268403
2523
04:42
with a simple opening question:
100
270950
2603
04:45
"Why did you write that?"
101
273577
1534
04:47
The first person I spoke to was Josh.
102
275958
2516
04:50
He had written to tell me
that I was a moron,
103
278498
2345
04:52
I was a reason this country
was dividing itself,
104
280867
2464
04:55
and he added at the end
that being gay was a sin.
105
283355
3932
05:00
I was so nervous
for our first conversation.
106
288079
3278
05:03
This wasn't a comments section.
107
291381
1651
05:05
So I couldn't use tools
like muting or blocking.
108
293056
3172
05:08
Of course, I guess,
I could have hung up on him.
109
296252
3432
05:12
But I didn't want to.
110
300157
1547
05:13
Because I liked talking to him.
111
301728
2212
05:15
Because I liked him.
112
303964
1334
05:18
Here's a clip of one of our conversations.
113
306022
2800
05:21
(Audio) Dylan Marrion: Josh, you said
114
309458
1762
05:23
you're about to graduate
high school, right?
115
311244
2365
05:25
Josh: Mmm-hmm.
116
313633
1151
05:26
DM: How is high school for you?
117
314808
1507
05:28
Josh: Am I allowed to use
the H-E-double-hockey-stick word?
118
316339
2778
05:31
DM: Oh, yeah. You're allowed to.
119
319141
1690
05:32
Josh: It was hell.
120
320855
1341
05:34
DM: Really?
121
322220
1150
05:35
Josh: And it's still hell right now,
even though it's only two weeks left.
122
323394
3492
05:38
I'm a little bit bigger --
I don't like to use the word "fat,"
123
326910
2979
05:41
but I am a little bit bigger
than a lot of my classmates
124
329913
2639
05:44
and they seem to judge me
before they even got to know me.
125
332576
3938
05:48
DM: That's awful.
126
336538
1269
05:50
I mean, I also just want
to let you know, Josh,
127
338173
2396
05:52
I was bullied in high school, too.
128
340593
2658
05:57
So did our common ground
of being bullied in high school
129
345140
3326
06:00
erase what he wrote me?
130
348490
1533
06:02
No.
131
350585
1167
06:03
And did our single phone conversation
132
351776
3127
06:06
radically heal a politically
divided country
133
354927
2881
06:09
and cure systemic injustice?
134
357832
2301
06:12
No, absolutely not, right?
135
360157
2594
06:15
But did our conversation
humanize us to each other
136
363466
2865
06:18
more than profile pictures
and posts ever could?
137
366355
3181
06:21
Absolutely.
138
369927
1150
06:23
I didn't stop there.
139
371411
1546
06:24
Because some of the hate I received
was from "my side."
140
372981
3802
06:29
So when Matthew,
a queer liberal artist like me
141
377123
3923
06:33
publicly wrote that I represented
some of the worst aspects of liberalism,
142
381070
4756
06:37
I wanted to ask him this.
143
385850
1667
06:40
DM: You tagged me in this post.
144
388483
1782
06:42
Did you want me to see it?
145
390289
1806
06:44
Matthew (Laughing): I honestly
didn't think that you would.
146
392119
2789
06:46
DM: Have you ever been publicly dragged?
147
394932
2521
06:49
Matthew: I have been.
148
397870
1162
06:51
And I just said, "No, I don't care."
149
399056
2681
06:53
DM: And did you not care?
150
401761
1246
06:55
Matthew: But it was hard.
151
403031
1222
06:56
DM: Did you not care?
152
404277
1206
06:57
Matthew: Oh, I cared, yes.
153
405507
1733
07:00
DM: At the end of these conversations,
154
408652
1810
07:02
there's often a moment of reflection.
155
410486
2476
07:04
A reconsideration.
156
412986
1270
07:06
And that's exactly what happened
157
414280
1968
07:08
at the end of my call
with a guy named Doug
158
416272
2146
07:10
who had written that I was
a talentless propaganda hack.
159
418442
3572
07:14
(Audio) Did the conversation
we just had --
160
422831
2040
07:16
does it, like, make you feel differently
about how you write online?
161
424895
3349
07:20
Doug: Yeah! You know,
when I said this to you,
162
428268
2227
07:22
when I said you were a "talentless hack,"
163
430519
1953
07:24
I had never conversed
with you in my life, really.
164
432496
2337
07:26
I didn't really know anything
really about you.
165
434857
2214
07:29
And I think that a lot of times,
166
437095
1743
07:30
that's what the comment
sections really are,
167
438862
2061
07:32
it's really a way to get
your anger at the world out
168
440947
4119
07:37
on random profiles
of strangers, pretty much.
169
445090
3428
07:40
DM (Laughing): Yeah, right.
170
448542
1500
07:42
Doug: But it definitely
has made me rethink
171
450966
2634
07:45
the way that I interact
with people online.
172
453624
3588
07:50
DM: So I've collected these
conversations and many others
173
458934
2857
07:53
for my podcast "Conversations
with People Who Hate Me."
174
461815
3548
07:57
(Laughter)
175
465387
1150
07:59
Before I started this project,
176
467776
1849
08:01
I though that the real way
to bring about change
177
469649
3190
08:04
was to shut down opposing viewpoints
178
472863
2897
08:07
through epically worded
video essays and comments and posts,
179
475784
4119
08:11
but I soon learned
those were only cheered on
180
479927
2507
08:14
by the people who already agreed with me.
181
482458
2547
08:17
Sometimes -- bless you.
182
485355
1436
08:18
Sometimes, the most subversive
thing you could do --
183
486815
3048
08:21
yeah, clap for him.
184
489887
1341
08:23
(Laughter)
185
491252
2733
08:27
Sometimes, the most subversive
thing you could do
186
495069
2730
08:29
was to actually speak
with the people you disagreed with,
187
497823
3516
08:33
and not simply at them.
188
501363
1533
08:35
Now in every one of my calls,
189
503777
1475
08:37
I always ask my guests
to tell me about themselves.
190
505276
3660
08:40
And it's their answer to this question
that allows me to empathize with them.
191
508960
4396
08:45
And empathy, it turns out,
192
513950
1554
08:47
is a key ingredient in getting
these conversations off the ground,
193
515528
3540
08:51
but it can feel very vulnerable
194
519092
2341
08:53
to be empathizing with someone
you profoundly disagree with.
195
521457
3691
08:57
So I established
a helpful mantra for myself.
196
525839
2857
09:01
Empathy is not endorsement.
197
529300
2372
09:04
Empathizing with someone
you profoundly disagree with
198
532735
2755
09:07
does not suddenly compromise
your own deeply held beliefs
199
535514
3627
09:11
and endorse theirs.
200
539165
1158
09:12
Empathizing with someone who, for example,
believes that being gay is a sin
201
540347
4325
09:16
doesn't mean that I'm suddenly
going to drop everything,
202
544696
2667
09:19
pack my bags and grab
my one-way ticket to hell, right?
203
547387
3033
09:22
It just means that I'm acknowledging
204
550775
1993
09:24
the humanity of someone who was raised
to think very differently from me.
205
552792
3894
09:29
I also want to be super clear
about something.
206
557617
2468
09:32
This is not a prescription for activism.
207
560109
2667
09:35
I understand that
some people don't feel safe
208
563498
2390
09:37
talking to their detractors
209
565912
1348
09:39
and others feel so marginalized
210
567284
1999
09:41
that they justifiably don't feel
that they have any empathy to give.
211
569307
3822
09:45
I totally get that.
212
573153
1380
09:46
This is just what I feel
well-suited to do.
213
574557
2785
09:49
You know, I've reached out
to a lot of people for this podcast.
214
577787
2983
09:52
And some have politely declined,
215
580794
1886
09:54
others have read my message
and ignored it,
216
582704
2008
09:56
some have blocked me automatically
when I sent the invitation
217
584736
3396
10:00
and one guy actually agreed to do it
218
588156
1786
10:01
and then, five minutes into the call,
219
589966
1762
10:03
hung up on me.
220
591752
1150
10:05
I'm also aware that this talk
will appear on the internet.
221
593522
3590
10:09
And with the internet comes
comment sections,
222
597556
2109
10:11
and with comment sections
inevitably comes hate.
223
599689
3263
10:15
So as you are watching this talk,
224
603358
1983
10:17
you can feel free to call me
whatever you'd like.
225
605365
2450
10:19
You can call me a "gaywad,"
a "snowflake," a "cuck," a "beta,"
226
607839
5064
10:24
or "everything wrong with liberalism."
227
612927
2261
10:27
But just know that if you do,
I may ask you to talk.
228
615590
3490
10:31
And if you refuse
or block me automatically
229
619717
3428
10:35
or agree and hang up on me,
230
623169
2265
10:37
then maybe, babe, the snowflake is you.
231
625458
3000
10:40
Thank you so much.
232
628778
1198
10:42
(Applause)
233
630000
2056
10:44
(Cheering)
234
632080
1356
10:45
(Applause)
235
633460
5905

▲Back to top

ABOUT THE SPEAKER
Dylan Marron - Writer, performer
Dylan Marron takes complicated social issues and finds accessible ways to talk about them through interviews, short-form videos and satire.

Why you should listen

Dylan Marron is the host and producer of the Webby-winning podcast Conversations with People Who Hate Me, where he calls up folks who wrote him negative or hateful messages on the internet. Previously, Marron created Every Single Word, a video series that edits down popular films to only the words spoken by people of color as a way to tackle Hollywood's representation problem empirically. To address the anti-trans bathroom bills, he created and hosted Sitting in Bathrooms with Trans People to broadcast a missing element: mundane, funny conversations with trans folks in the very spot their presence was debated.

As he tells it: "The 2016 presidential election inspired me to satirize the popular unboxing genre where YouTubers open the latest electronic gadgets by instead unboxing intangible 'products' like Islamophobia, police brutality and masculinity. And because this work gained popularity on the internet, I received many negative messages which inspired me to start Conversations with People Who Hate Me, a podcast where I call up some of the folks who sent me those messages. In the end, I'm trying to turn the internet into a place where we can connect and learn, not divide."

More profile about the speaker
Dylan Marron | Speaker | TED.com