Tips from A Mediocre Writer: Don’t Read the Comments
I’m about a year and a half into the world of online writing and if there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that people can be very, very mean. Not the meaningless “you suck harder than your mom” kind of mean that you hear from 13-year-old boys on X-Box Live from time to time, but the soul-crushing, ego-killing, personalized meanness that only dirty fighters and anonymous internet users can provide.
I’ve never really handled criticism well which, as a writer, sets me up for a very long and miserable career, but I can’t help the fact that negative comments make the tiny violin player on my shoulder start playing almost every time. I didn’t put him there. Don’t blame me. Up until this point, I only ever received written comments on school essays or projects. Even after I started writing for HelloGiggles, I was never really exposed to the negativity that typically flows out of the volcanic realms of the interwebs. Most of my articles were about happy or nostalgic subjects, like blanket forts or kittens on Christmas, which drove a lot of the online trolls into hiding. (Find me one bad thing to say about those topics. You can’t. This was my foolproof defense.)
Recently, though, I’ve been writing more and stepping into deeper, more controversial waters. First, let me just say, you’d be astounded at what things people will find fault with. I wrote a story about a disastrous volunteer experience in New Orleans (that ultimately ended up being one of the most inspiring trips I’ve ever been on) and received an onslaught of “rich little white girl talking about white guilt” comments which, to be honest, is a pretty inaccurate sentence all around. I’m more transparent than white and if I were rich, I would not have spent a large portion of this summer trying to figure out ways to avoid taking out more student loans. I’m also pretty pear shaped, body-wise, which doesn’t really qualify as little.
Ultimately, everything comes down to this: wanting to be liked, by your classmates, teachers, parents, friends, Ryan Gosling, is a natural feeling, but if you really love yourself the way that I hope you all do, stay away from the comments. You want to look. You want to see whether or not anyone appreciated that Jeopardy! joke that you slipped into the second paragraph or if that image you photoshopped of a cat on a cactus received any “LOL”s but more often than not, opening the comments section is like jumping into a pit of fire and crocodiles spitting poisonous spiders. It’s dangerous, emotionally and physically. One negative comments can bring the rest of your day down, even if it’s not a particularly true one.
I see you, critic. Your hands are hovering over the keyboard. “If you’re getting so many bad comments, maybe they have a point,” you want to say. Back away from the computer. I’ve realized that, and have come up with a magic rule to counteract your suggestion. When you’re churning out a series of potentially controversial articles (aka, any one that provides an opinion), tell yourself you will look in the comments section of two of them. You’ll see angry emoticons and spiteful paragraphs about how awful you are as a human being, that’s a promise. But you may also see a pattern in the comments, something like “Everything this person writes is offensive to so-and-so” or “This person really has to reference cats in every post, huh?” and if so, you may be able to take something positive out of it. After this point, swear off the comments section for good because the truth of the matter is, not everyone is going to like what you write. Not everyone is going to like who you are. Mark Twain was a good writer. During his time, he said a number of hilarious and insightful things. And yet, here’s a blog post by someone hating on him. Someone out there is programmed to hate you. Don’t take it personally.
Truth is, if I thought anyone was going to listen to this advice, I wouldn’t have included so many “please”s but everyone will fall into the comment section’s gravitational curiosity pull. Sometimes, I still do. You’re all just reckless kids and I’m that overprotective parent that doesn’t want you to make mistakes and get hurt but hey, maybe you need that to learn. Still, I would hope I could save you the trouble.
Here are some resources to prevent you from reading the comments if that whole spiel wasn’t convincing enough:
- Twitter account to remind you to not read the comments
- Ars Technica post about the negative effects of comments on your self-perception
Does anyone have an opinion on the comments section? I promise I’ll read them. (I’m under the assumption that anyone reading these blog posts likes me enough to have come here in the first place and will therefore not hurt my feelings. Feel free to not prove me wrong.)