ON PUTTING YOURSELF OUT THERE (ONLINE)

12.17.2012


I'm not sure where to start this post, as it's coming from a place of indignation and frustration (indignant frustration?) and I don't want it to read as a rant. The other week I published another piece on The Huffington Post (you can read the first here) that was meant to be a tongue-in-cheek look at a year in my life without sex. People - or, rather, the subspecies Internet Commenteri - seemed to take it a bit differently. It got so bad that one thread compared me to Bill Clinton during the Lewinsky scandal. "His whole story is a lie," chimed in one reader (referring to my decision to define sex more narrowly as penetrative sex, for the purposes of a tagline - so sue me.) Others described my writing as, "self-absorbed" and "pointless"; "I couldn't even finish the article for yawning," said another.

There were just over sixty comments total and just about fifteen click-throughs to my blog. These people did not read my piece and then seek out my other essay on the site, nor did they make any attempt to better understand who I am as a writer - or human being - by contacting me via email or Twitter. It is 2012. It is not difficult to get in touch with someone and more than that, it is almost repulsively easy to get in touch with someone like me - someone with active accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, YouTube and Flickr. My email address is in multiple places online. You can Google me. All of this takes just slightly more effort than being already logged in to your HuffPo account at work, feeling bored and lashing out at a stranger. A lot of the comments were weirdly aggressive and inflammatory - why would I dignify such vitriol with a response? Why did these people even bother to read the entire article? Why didn't they stop after the first paragraph when thinking, "this isn't my cup of tea"?

I showed the piece to some friends, some of whom liked it, some of whom were a little indifferent. Duly noted - moving on. It may not be my best piece, but it was an idea I had and I wanted to push myself to put it out there. I did. And then a bunch of people hated me. "Comment trolls" are a common digi-plague (you can read a Salon.com article about them here); I think the nicest thing I've ever heard about online forums for discussion is, "they make me lose faith in humanity." I know not to take the attacks personally, but it's hard not to be at least flabbergasted when the attacks are so personal. There's an immediate leap from, "I dislike this article," to, "I fucking hate the piece of shit who put this in front of my face." Newsflash, troll: you put it in front of your own face!

Getting ranty, I know...so here's the video (NSFW [language/sexual content]){Mom, that means don't watch this} I made to supplement the post, or at least better clarify the tone I meant to take when writing. What about you? Have you had to deal with comment trolls? Is my indignant frustration justified (say yes or I'll eat your face!)?

UPDATE: I feel I should mention that I did receive positive feedback via social media, Twitter in particular, and I really appreciate that! This post was to simply voice to my bewilderment at a phenomenon of sorts...not to focus on the negative. Thanks to all of you who were encouraging!

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