June 9, 2011

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

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.”

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