Wandering around the web this afternoon, I seemed to trip over more links than usual that led to pages where someone was angry about something. Angry enough to vent their spleen at any and all passing eyeballs. This wasn’t just in comments sections, or on message boards either. There were entire blog posts, sometimes multiple posts, dedicated to screaming about how the blogger had been done wrong™ by some person/entity/amorphous group of Haters and how those aforementioned should be exposed as the charlatans they are/banned forthwith from the internet/fed to a dragon even if they are not crunchy and would not taste good with ketchup.
So far, so Internet Butthurt Report Form, right? (click pic to embiggen)
Thing is, many of those blog posts were on the websites of people who are also using their blog to publicize their work. “Someone was mean to me, look how much of a big meanie-pants they were! Oh, also, buy my book, for I am not in possession of pants of meanness or vindictiveness, oh no!”
Some of the sites I tripped over claimed to be “fighting back” against “online bullying”, but were themselves filled with posts from people intent on tearing others down “Such and such was also mean to me. Now they’ve been mean to FOUR of us. We are now crowd-sourcing our anecdata and we SHALL prevail!”
The worst thing is that, without exception, those posts were all on the sites of authors, or author collectives. If there’s one group that should know the power of words, it’s writers. If there’s one group that should be aware of how to use that power wisely, it’s (spoiler alert!) also writers.
Apart from the fact that having bile squirted in your eyeballs isn’t a pleasant experience (unless you’re into that), this trend of taking to the web to air grievances is disturbing on a number of levels.
First and foremost, it is entirely possible that no-one in the world besides yourself even knows or remotely cares about what it is that has gotten your dander up. Ranting about something draws attention to it. You may receive virtual pity pats in the comments, but you’re equally likely to have someone pop up with the “other side” of the story. At which point you will either have to (a) delete their comment, hoping no-one saw it or (b) drown them out with further invective. We all know that the one who shouts loudest has the truth on their side, right?
It’s pretty obvious that the intent on most of these pages is to tell one side of a story, in terms as emotive as possible. To “rally troops” in support of the poster and to tear the other guy down by making him/her/them look bad on the internet.
I’m a cynic, and disinclined to take any internet tale of woe at face value.
I will question the wisdom of such defensiveness no matter where it’s coming from.
An author upset about a review, a self-pubbed writer incandescent that their Publish America book does not count as a publishing credit when querying an agent, an “agent” that charges fees upfront for representation who is furious that a client has been told that this is a suspicious practice, groups of writers convinced that a mysterious cabal of Goodreads reviewers is preventing them from achieving the success they deserve…on and on they go.
The deeper you go down the rabbit hole the more questions arise.
Is it wise to bandy allegations about like that on the virtual frontier?
If you regularly claim that people are out to get you on your blog (and you’re not Edward Snowden), don’t you run the risk of either being seen as a very special snowflake who takes umbrage at the drop of a trilby (it’s never really a fedora) or as someone who is unable to maintain professional decorum in their interactions with others? Do you want to be seen as either of these things?
All of us have met at least one person who tells tales of how terrible all their previous employers were, how unfair, how badly they were treated. More often than not, sustained exposure to that person makes it apparent that those previous employers may not have been the ones with the problem. If my first encounter with you involves reading through an all caps primal howl about the unfairness of life, the universe and reviewers, I’ll probably want to avoid your work. You’ll forever be “that guy” to me, regardless of your gender.
Wouldn’t it be simpler to print out a copy of the Internet Butthurt Report form, fill it and then burn it in a cathartic ritual with some sage to exorcise any lingering awfulness? To write an unsent letter/email, to write that blog post of fury and yet somehow refrain from clicking on the publish button?
Wouldn’t it be smarter to keep your yap shut and let whatever tempest has invaded your personal teacup just puff itself out?
Why don’t people do that?
It baffles me.
I know, I know….
Complaining about people complaining on the internet.
The futility, the irony.