Yesterday, I had an article published. It was a book roundup on World War II books, of the human interest variety. It was published on a woman-oriented site called SheKnows.com. After I got over my initial excitement of having another article published (seeing your name in a by-line never gets old!), I noticed the article was receiving some comments. Most of the comments appeared to come from men, and older men at that. I replied to the first one, which denigrated my knowledge of U-Boats, and moved on. The funny thing is, I never pretended to be a U-Boat expert in my article. I summarized a book about one that was discovered off the coast of New Jersey using information from the book.
Later in the day, Mom texted me and mentioned the negative comments. I looked at the article again and noticed more had showed up. One basically called me ignorant. I'm paraphrasing here, but that was how I interpreted it. It stung. I got pissed and immediately pulled up the article, preparing to respond. I told my husband about it and he laughed. "Who cares," he said. "That guy doesn't matter." He had a very valid point but my blood was simmering hot and I wanted to address it.
I retyped my response about 10 different times. Some of my responses were fire-breathing, some were too gentle, and I ultimately took the high road. I kept thinking to myself that if my Mom or Grandmother saw my comment, I wanted them to be proud of me. So I thanked him for his feedback and provided my approach to the article and how I selected my list of WWII books, in a kind but firm manner.
The negativity stayed with me. I felt anxious and a touch grouchy all evening. My husband kept telling me to shake it off, but I couldn't. I shared my frustrations in a post on my personal FB page and a friend had a brilliant response. She said "Comments sections are the underbelly of America. Unfortunately it's becoming the norm." And she's right. Every time I read a news article or any sort of article on the internet, there are always comments from people who suck the life out of anything with their negativity. Even something as simple as a list of 11 WWII books that captured my heart and interest. Who would have thought that would be controversial? Not me!
So friends, my lesson after this experience is simple. Be kind. Be thoughtful when you are behind your keyboard. If you disagree with something you read or see, state your disagreement in terms of the subject rather than attacking the author. I would like to think I have always been respectful when I disagreed with something I read whether it be a blog post, news article, or something else, but now I will be extra diligent. It's so much easier to be nice than to be mean...or simply to say nothing at all! I learned a valuable lesson from this experience.
How would you characterize the comments section on articles? How would you have responded if you were in my shoes?