It used to be that if someone wanted to write stuff that other people would read, they had to become a published author. They would write a book or an article and then it would be published and put out into the world on paper and if anyone had a problem with it, they’d have to sit down with pen and paper and write a letter to the editor and find a stamp and walk to the mailbox and then, if the editor felt it worthy, the letter might be published in the editorial section. Or the snail mail might be forwarded to the author of the book.
And, if you were a writer, you would mostly only be read by people who were at least smart enough to read. And if you were on TV, you would be fairly untouchable cause you were, you know, inside the magic talking box. No one would be able to tell you what they thought of you unless they saw you on the street.
Nowadays, everything is instant. And everyone is connected in a really unnatural way.
There are some very positive aspects of this. We find out about tragedies and ways to help. Someone you knew in college is stranded near you and you can come to her rescue? That’s awesome. A cat from Oklahoma needs a new home at the exact time you were looking to adopt a cat? Serendipity.
But there are times when the convergence of these two aspects of social media – instant comment and vast connection – is truly horrible.
I have reached a saturation point.
So, this thing happened to Jezebel writer Lindy West where she debated with a comedian about the integrity of rape jokes and then was inundated with comments calling for her to be raped. Or letting her know she was too unattractive to be raped. Sigh....
And I read it and I watched the debate (and I’m not gonna tell you where my opinions lie within this debate cause I’d lose my lady card and no one would invite me to Margarita Night ever again) but I was, momentarily, horrified by the comments Lindy got in response to her voicing her opinion in a respectful and often amusing way on a show where she was asked to voice her opinion.
And then it happened.
I hit my saturation point and the comments dripped out of my ears and pooled on the desk in front of me and then oozed onto the floor.
Because these people who are making these comments are not people who would ever have come in contact with Lindy ten years ago. At any other time in history, they would not have had the opportunity to misspell something nasty and then hit send with very little care or regard about…I dunno…anything.
These people have always existed. There have always been people who would have lots of offensive and grammatically incorrect things to say about a feminist voicing her opinion if they were ever actually exposed to one. But they’d do it in their own home…high on a desolate mountain…after removing their teeth and giving soda pops to their eight illegitimate children…and Lindy would never be the wiser. She would go about her life as a writer and they would go about their lives picking through garbage cans or whatever and never would they meet or correspond in any way.
And that’s as it should be.
In the same way that I advise my second grader to ignore little boys who taunt her on the playground, I am advising writers to either disable their comments or, if they don’t wanna do that, to ignore what they read.
“Easier said than done,” say my writer friends.
"Then don’t write on the internet," is my response. The game is rapidly changing and we are writing the rule book. Who wrote the one that says writers have to subject themselves to verbal abuse? Let's rewrite that one cause it's dumb.
However we choose to deal with it, one thing is certain. The comments need to stop becoming the story.
The comments simply HAVE to STOP becoming the story.
Because as surely as Timmy is encouraged on the playground every time Bunny yells, “Stop it!” idiots are encouraged by every single “Look what people are saying on twitter.”
I graduated second grade and I wouldn’t go back for a million dollars so let’s all collectively agree to just be adults.
The internet has put us back on the playground but now we aren’t just there with people from our neighborhood. Everyone is there. People your mom would never have let you play with are there and they are asking to play and they don’t play nice... and they probably have ringworm.
Stop saying yes.
You don't have to play.
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