Monday, April 30, 2007

Negative Talk on the Internet

Hey, peeps! Long time, I know, but things have been hectic here - as I'm sure it's been with you! - and hopefully soon I'll have some exciting news to report.

Today we're going to talk about how we respond, if at all, to nastiness on the Internet.

The Internet is such a great thing. It enables me to do all my research from home if I want to. It enables me to make friends like you who come from all over the world. But the more connected you are, it seems, the greater opportunities there are for people to try to piss in your Wheaties. Just the other day, on a reading/writing forum, I heard another writer asking what to do: she'd guestblogged somewhere and was shocked that one person left a contentious comment. How should she respond? Should she respond at all?

For myself, I don't see how someone could be a professional writer for more than a year and not have encountered situations that weren't all praise. Since I write about controversial things - not necessarily here, but I do get around - it's really no surprise that not everyone agrees with me. Of course, each situation is its own individual thing and our ways of responding are our own individual things.

Let's throw out an example.

Brad Listi recently invited me to become one of the bloggers on his mega-blog The Nervous Breakdown. My first post, which appeared last Friday, was about Alec Baldwin, oral sex, and Winston Churchill. Anyone who's interested can read the text and comments by scrolling down a few posts here: The Nervous Breakdown. (When you see my tiny head to the left of Alec Baldwin's big head, you know you're in the right spot.) If you read the comments you'll see that most of the responses, even when they don't agree with me completely, are genial. No surprise, since for those of you who read this blog regularly, you know me to be a generally genial sort. But if you keep reading the comments, you'll come across one that begins "If a public official is getting oral sex when he's supposed to be working, yes, it is my business - and everyone else's" and ends "The real subtext here, though, is that people who have extramarital relationships never seem to see what's wrong with them when others have them, too." In between, there's actually some interesting stuff, but the open and closer come with such a contentious tone, it makes direct debate futile, at least to me.

If I did want to debate the first, I'd point out that elected officials can't be expected to be indentured slaves and that 20 minutes of oral sex is in fact a relatively small time out from public service when compared with, say, two weeks at the ranch. And if I wanted, I could express offense at the closer, since the implication is that all of us who believe that politicians' sex lives, unless of course a criminal act has been committed, are none of our business must by necessity be adulterers ourselves.

But what's the point? I'm, on my good days, clever. And I could probably verbally shoot this contentious person, whose name might as well be Anonymous since the name has no link, out of the water like a carnival game. But to what end?

I think you need to recognize when you can't win; when if you win, you'll actually lose. So what do you do in those unwinnable situations? You say, "Interesting take, Jane - thanks for adding to our dialogue!" And you try to recognize that it is indeed a privilege that people read your words, that they take the time to respond to you even if it's with heat, because at least it signifies that, somehow, what you say matters.

As I get older, which seems to be happening every day, I find myself less and less likely to want to win the war of cleverness with people who are clearly carting around their own mound of baggage. Sometimes, confrontation can't be avoided. I'll never shrink from racism or anti-Semitism. But a lot of the day-to-day stuff? It's so much easier to just smile and say, "Thanks for adding to our dialogue!" (Note: Those of you here who sometimes get a brief "Thanks!" from me for your comments should not construe this as me being dismissive. I would NEVER dismiss YOU!)

So what do you do when faced with verbal unpleasantness or attacks? And, btw, how the hell are you? While you're thinking, you might want to take a minute to follow this other link to the Teen Fiction Cafe, where my blog on April 29 was about what I do for entertainment. What do you do for entertainment?

As always, I appreciate your comments here. If you haven't figured it out by now, I'm deeply appreciative of the fact that with all your blogging choices on the Web these days, you choose to spend some of your time here with me.

Be well. Don't forget to write.

~Lauren Baratz-Logsted


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Monday, April 30, 2007 at 3:07:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Dharma Kelleher said...

Such a great post, Julie! It's relevent to professional writers and bloggers alike. I've learned that when people are ranting and spewing, the "Thanks for sharing" response is often the best.

Great insights!

Blogging out where the dharmiverse meets the blogosphere!

Monday, April 30, 2007 at 5:25:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just think though, by taking the high road like this, you kind of win in the long run. Great way to attack the negativity and I'm storing it for later as I'm sure it will come in handy.

Friday, May 4, 2007 at 8:52:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Sam said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Saturday, May 5, 2007 at 6:06:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Sam said...

(removed last post because of very silly typo, which also happens quite a lot on the internet...)

I don't think the internet or a blog is the right place to start an argument. You can't debate, you can't tell if the people responding to you are sincere or just stirring up muck (or if they're not one person masquarading as several 'puppets'. In other words, a war on the internet is one that nobody wins. (Unless you hand the prize to the shrillest.)
And nowhere does the expression 'He who laughs last laughs best' carry more weight.
So I tend to just acknowledge a nasty, negative comment with 'thank you for your opinion', and move on.

Saturday, May 5, 2007 at 6:09:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Lauren Baratz-Logsted said...

Thanks, Dharmashanti, T Sue, and Sam!

Sunday, May 6, 2007 at 9:14:00 PM EDT  

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