February 25, 2016

On kindness and the internet is a weird place

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?

{Christine}

17 comments:

  1. I read your article and the comments yesterday and I was really surprised. First off, what are they doing commenting that viciously on a site that isn't focused on WWII? And second, yikes, someone needs to calm down. We have a nice blogging community here in the (mostly) lady-runner world and I sometimes forget how rude folks can be online. It's fine to disagree or want to share information, but it's all in the phrasing. You handled it really well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The whole thing was so weird to me and seemed like a strange place for those attacks. Thanks for your sweet comment! :)

      Delete
  2. I agree with your friend's assessment that the comments section are the underbelly of America. This is why I've distanced myself from social media, specifically Facebook. My blood starts boiling at the idiocy and the comments are way too often inappropriate and just plain mean. I agree with Adam that you should shake it off, but man, I know how hard that is.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yea it definitely isn't easy to shake of criticism. I definitely get too worked up sometimes...working on that too! :)

      Delete
  3. I wish everyone was kind. But there are just some who use the internet as a way to be horrible and rude. I think its because you take away the personalization and it's not like your really talking to someone. I know people who are awful online but so kind in person, I call them online schizophrinics, LOL
    Occasionally I write articles for a local newspaper and ya there are always going to be haters, but who really cares about them. You write what you enjoy because the topic felt important to you and what others think doesn't really matter.
    One of my favorite quotes is from Eleanor Roosevelt. "Do in your heart what you feel to be right. You'll be criticized for it anyway." I totally live a lot of my life by that, because it so true.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What a wonderful quote and such an appropriate sentiment. I always appreciate your words, Kristy. You are a kind soul. <3

      Delete
  4. I hate how that feeling sticks with you. It is a bad feeling. It is one of the reasons I hardly ever post anything to FB anymore. I had a few interactions where people felt the need to say something I might have thought funny was so offending...etc... and it turned into ridiculous back and forth. I find it exhausting. I often see things that are questionable and just scroll on by. If I really don't understand or agree with something I try to say it in a nice way, but it is hard someones to interpret, I think a lot of folks with an assumed expression. It does stink folks can't be a bit gentler.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hate letting myself get down but it really does stick with you. Facebook is such a ripe place for people to be so negative too. I enjoy it for keeping up with friends and the running community and I usually avoid anything controversial like the plague!

      Delete
  5. I wish I had your ability to take the high road. You absolutely handled it well and I know mom is proud! I always have to result to the "if you can't say anything nice, don't say it at all" perspective... because the snark is strong in this one. Doh! No matter how I write a response to someone who has been rude to me, I can't seem to craft it without attitude. Ah well. Maybe someday I'll get there. ;) Good job, Christine!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If I hadn't viewed this as a professional thing, I probably would have been more snarky. But I kept telling myself that my current and future editors could read my responses so I put my corporate hat on....even if it killed me a little bit ;)

      Delete
  6. Recently, a mother of a child I saw in my clinic disagreed with my medical management. I refused to cater to her (incorrect) assessment and demands. She posted a very negative comment about me on my employer's Facebook page. It was awful. And I had to be the bigger person and not respond to it. Even tho I had the support of my medical director and I did do the right thing, it really felt awful. I cried all day. I wanted to quit. People are just so mean spirited these days, especially hiding behind the relative anonymity of the internet. It took me about 3 weeks to start to feel better about work.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh my gosh Wendy! That is terrible. I'm so sorry you had to go through something like that. That is true bullying. I hope you're feeling better and so glad that you have the support of your medical director.

      Delete
  7. Oh...so many things to talk about on this, it would be a blog post in itself. The internet is a very strange place. First of all, everyone is an expert and they're all anxious to share their "factual opinions." When that Indonesian airliner went down and there was story after story about how they couldn't find it, almost every article I read was full of comments from people who all thought they knew better than people who have built careers on search missions. As a teacher, I can't even read stories about education anymore because everyone thinks they know better than people in the field. The other side of it is that there is a lot of "published" stuff on the internet that actually IS hooey and probably deserves to be pointed out as such. It's to a point that whatever you toss out there is going to be ridiculed by somebody somewhere just because they need something to do. I'm sorry you had to deal with that. I just went through a very tense weekend where I was targeted by some mean girl nonsense from friends who are too old for it. They followed it up with some nasty Facebook stuff directed at me, so I understand your feelings. I didn't give them any response at all. I really want to write about it on my blog, but I know they're stalking it just waiting for me to give them ammunition to attack. Your husband is right about the comment not mattering. The guy was probably just looking to engage you in a debate. Next time, don't even respond. It isn't worth your time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ugh, that sucks. I'm sorry you are dealing with that, Jennifer. I hate drama like that.

      If I hadn't felt personally attacked, I probably would have just ignored the comments. But I felt like I wanted to defend myself :)

      Delete
  8. First off, congrats on the piece! I agree seeing a published by line never gets old. I still get super excited when I see my column published in the paper each time!

    I don't know why people feel the need to express negative comments. I think they forget that there really is a human being on the other side of the article. Good that you took the high road. -M

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I really do think people forget that there's a person on the other side. Definitely a very good point. You should share some of your articles from the paper - I would love to read your "other" written work :)

      Delete