Your face sucks. (And other things you shouldn’t say on the Internet.)

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A few weeks ago, I read a thought-provoking article on Elephant Journal posted by Waylon Lewis on behalf of his friend’s mother, who wished to remain anonymous for legal reasons. It was the story of a woman whose son, she believed, was being unjustly accused of rape by a woman he briefly dated. The mother writes how, as a former member of the feminist community, she was responsible in part for creating a “culture of ‘women don’t lie.’” A culture that she felt made it possible for a woman with a number of risk factors to wreck her son’s life on a whim.  Her pain was palpable.


I read the comments.

From missives suggesting that only liberals lie[1] (*cough weaponsofmassdestruction? *cough) to mind-reading[2] to those whose authors may have been stood up for prom like 20 years ago[3], comments ranged from fear-mongering to bitter to plain ole paranoid[4].

Biting remarks on the Internet are commonplace. See every popular YouTube video ever or a Miley Cyrus in Natarajasana article for evidence.  But criticizing says more about the commenter than the subject on which they are commenting.  With liberties taken from Emerson, I’ve translated this theory into handy yoga speak.  Something like, “Your shadow speaks so loudly, I can’t hear what you’re saying.”

Moreover, often these comments are not signed with an email address, personal website, or any other identifying information that might suggest a modicum of courage behind the drive-by attacks.  Do the social mores that prevent normal people from walking up to a stranger and telling her that she should never procreate stop at the Internet?

Several months ago I read a piece on Marie Claire by a staffer writing her views on obesity. While her opinions might’ve been insensitive, many throughout the 27,000+ comments she received were thinly-veiled death threats.  Jesus, people, death threats?  Shouldn’t we reserve that sort of anger for more egregious crimes?  My vote: People Who Call Me When I’m Watching Gossip Girl.

Back to this Elephant Journal piece.  After reading the anonymous ramblings, I felt inclined to add my two cents.  See the thing is, while I think unconstructive criticizing is uncool on YouTube, I have kind of grown to accept it.  Elephant Journal is different.  Maybe my naïveté is on account of that whole “mindful community” thing.  I assume that the people drawn to EJ at least endeavor to an ounce of self-reflection.

So I commented.  You can see it here.

Innocuous, right?

I got TEN thumbs down.  At least.  I now have a negative “user reputation score.”  There goes my Santa Monica Co-Op aspirations.  Thanks, guys.

In the mythical wonderland called Vanessa Rules All Things, I’ve imagined a place where there are always comments that add value, (i.e. marked by one or more of the following:  supportive, constructive, or humorous).  But since that magical world is probably a few more years away, I’ve pulled together some thoughts in the interim.  Thinking about posting on a site? Here’s a little test you can give yourself before you push that “send” button:

  1. If your mom or boyfriend or anyone that you actually cared about said something that you disagreed with, would you say what you’re about to say to their face?   If the answer is no and you still want to post, please include your name, address, and place of work so it’s at least fair game.
  2. If you’re going to bitch about something, at least be funny.  Actually, this just goes for everything always.  Except for maybe tragic world news.  (Puns don’t count.)
  3. Anecdotal experience is not universal proof. You might think that all dogs bite because of that experience in 3rd grade, but turns out there’re millions and billions of dogs out there who don’t even bite people with Om tattoos.  Pausing to know the difference makes for more rational sentiment.
  4. Spellcheck, maybe?  It’s free!
  5. Still feel like ranting?  I get that. Sometimes I do too.  That’s what personal blogs are for.

So when it comes to comments, you don’t have to agree with everyone.  That’d be fake.  And boring.  But you can at least be cool about it.

[1] “If Leftists could lie so big about something as basic as male female relationships…what else might the Left be lying about?”

[2] “I know what you are thinking deep down, something like ‘sure a few innocent men may go to prison, but we gals have to stick together.”

[3] “The vast majority of women are perfectly capable of believing anything that will allow them to manipulate people.”

[4] “I am never alone with any woman unless I have video and audio equipment I control running. Period. She may not know about it, but it WILL be there.”


About Vanessa Fiola (Recovering Yogi)

Vanessa Fiola is a business consultant, artist, writer, and—after years spent teaching yoga—a co-founder of You can find her micro-blogging at @vanessafiola or through her personal website, wants to hear your 5 things.


63 Responses to “Your face sucks. (And other things you shouldn’t say on the Internet.)”

  1. vanessafiola says:

    Sindar, it may be more productive to write for EJ yourself, and post the kinds of articles that you consider devoid of "sloppy thinking." You know, that Gandhi "Be the change," kind of thing.

  2. Bravo, Vanessa! Well said and with a dose of humor. Nasty, anonymous comments are similar to those who risk lives by cutting you off in their car but would never think to cut in line at the check-out line. In fact, that same person might even let you in front of them if you only have a couple items and they have a cart full.

    Everyone is entitled to their opinion but it can be stated with compassion and respect… and shouldn't count if you're not willing to put your name on it. Cheers!

  3. Kris Nelson says:

    True that, Jos.

    I can't believe you got five thumbs down for giving intelligent, compassionate, and truthful feedback…

    I'm going to start a blog… Recovering Human…

  4. YesuDas says:

    I think we should disable the thumbs for a while; people are using them to express disagreement, rather than to promote civility.

  5. YesuDas says:

    "The first casualty of war is truth."

  6. YesuDas says:

    There will always, always be haters. Love 'em.

  7. Kris Nelson says:

    Well done.


  8. I LOVE LOVE LOVE your Jesus drawing. You are a genius. I'm so glad I met you when you were a still a yoga groupie. It's like you CAME from the trenches. You're also the smartest wittiest writer I know…and I know a lot of writers and stuff.

  9. vanessafiola says:

    Hahaha, KarmaKrystals! You mean, like, you knew me when I was a crystal healer? Or when I thought it was a mortal sin to play music in yoga? Those were the days.

    On another note, considering how wicked funny you are, and how much I dig your writing, that's a high compliment.

  10. I never even notice those thumbs, quite frankly.

  11. […] risks, write more passionately, and reach into places you didn’t know existed. Ideas and images and language with brilliant plumage will parade on the page before your eyes. Then one day, after a particularly […]

  12. […] Print Spread the word!ShareTweetIn our relatively brief life, we’ve gotten plenty of umm, colorful comments on our stories, along with the pieces we periodically publish on Elephant […]

  13. SgtMom says:

    As someone who could have written this article myself – I understand the bitterness and anger of those posters.

    My son was falsely accused, forced into an Alford plea, and had his life ruined. F.O.R.E.V.E.R.

    He will pay til the day he dies.

    I too will someday write about his story – once he is out of the clutches of this very un just "just us" system.

    I understood the pain and anger of those posting. The men and boys who feel their mothers have betrayed them, and continue to betray them.

    I check back from time to time hoping to find the outcome of this case. If her son slipped the noose, I doubt I'll ever hear about it. If he did not, she will not be allowed to EVER speak about his innocence. My son nearly went back to prison because I refused to believe in his guilt. Yes. They CAN do that.

    It's a shame. This could have been a learning experience.

    I have attracted a cyber stalker from postng about my son's case, not to mention he will be punished it it comes out I'm still insisting his innocence, or I'd gladly post my full name.