You Suck!

That comment — or its functional equivalent — is the kind of thing I delete before it ever shows up on my blog. It’s been a long time since anyone’s left anything even remotely like it here. In fact, I don’t think I’ve used the comments moderation feature — the one that allows you to block comments from people who’ve never visited your blog before — for well over a year. There’s a post here about that last time.

But I wanted to mention today a comment I got a few days ago that was basically a “you suck” sort of missive. It came in response to the post I last wrote about the experience of not writing, and how I think my way through that problem. The comment started off innocuously — a little rambling, not making much sense, really, but then it wound up, sort of like a very small snake, and issued a little dribble of venon, directed at me, and women like me, to basically give up writing because our work is pointless and we should really just take care of our families and, presumably, leave the manly art of writing stories to, well… him.

I mean, honestly, does anyone think I’d stop writing because I’m a woman with a family? Sheesh. A woman who’s gone through labor with twins and then a single, enormous baby, isn’t going to let a little thing like having to drive her kids to school and maybe occasionally do some grocery shopping stop her from the thing she loves most (after the children and the husband, of course.) Still, it made me wonder — why would someone go to the trouble to say something like that to me, someone he doesn’t even know?

To unpack what might motivate someone to be so nasty, I’d begin by saying that anonymity does, in some cases, allow people free reign to express their darkest, bitterest selves, the self that sees anyone who’s even remotely interested in doing the thing they want to do as a competitor to mock and, hopefully, discourage. Anonymity seems to make some people feel as though they have license to ignore ordinary social norms — the ones, for example, that suggest a person like this guy should not give a person he doesn’t know (me) “advice” like that. Obviously, he shouldn’t give it to people he knows either, or he won’t know anyone for very long and he’ll have to stay in his tiny apartment and eat pizza out of a box for the rest of his life, while the people who know how to have real conversations about what it means to write well are all hanging out together somewhere that’s well lit, eating food that’s not cold and doesn’t come in a cardboard box. But that’s his problem, not mine. The thing is, though, this guy wasn’t anonymous — he left his e-mail address and it has a name attached to it.

And that is when I realized exactly what this was about: attention. It surprised me it took so long to understand that, given how often the children in my house do ill-advised things because some kind of attention is better than no attention at all. (It’s called negative attention. My children are growing out of it. Some adults never do.) Anyway, my theory is that this comment was intended to stir up a little controversy so this guy could vent in response to whatever people would naturally say to anyone who seems to feel that women with families shouldn’t waste their time writing.

It’s a little pathetic to see a grown man behave like that. The way for a writer to get attention is to write something interesting and beautiful, something true. The surest way to guarantee that you will have no audience is to be nasty. And that, dear, gentle, good-tempered, beautifully-mannered readers, is all I have to say about this guy, whose just desserts are that his name and his comment won’t ever show up here on bloglily.

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26 thoughts on “You Suck!

  1. This is such a good post to read. I recently got my first comment like the one you mentioned, and I dropped it out of the comment bin like the poisonous snake it was. Thankfully, most of my readers are wonderful and generous and kind, as are your readers. I just wanted to say how much I enjoy reading your blog and hope that in a very small way this will help take away the sting.

  2. I am sorry to hear you had a troll. And I think the absolutely best thing to do is delete, ignore and move on. I have an odd commenter at the moment, who writes me long beautiful essays in his comments, but since he is another writer who is encouraging me (and happens to be the father of a friend of mine), I’m leaving his comments in. He is odd, but well-intentioned and in the end, that’s all that matters.

  3. Well said!! Unfortunately I think some people get their kicks out of trying to bring others down in some way – I think your (non) response is an excellent way to let them know they’re not getting very far!

  4. I once worked with a guy who used to go around the office saying, “You suck, and I hate things that suck.” He was trying to be funny, I guess, but he wasn’t. He was doing exactly what you realized your negative commenter was doing: seeking attention. My father taught me to ignore people like this, give them the silent treatment and so on. Often it worked, but with this guy, it didn’t. I was once on the phone conducting an interview, and he rolled his chair at high speed into mine and crashed into me. While I was on the phone! When I hung up, I turned to this creep and told him he sucked. Every time he opened his mouth, I repeated it to him. Eventually, he stopped saying it altogether. Okay, so it worked, but it was draining to have to fall to his level. Worse, I felt horrible doing it. If I had a “Delete” button for this guy back then, I would have hit it in heartbeat.

    I hope you’ve added Mr. Icky to the spam list or blocked him. Life’s too short to bother dealing with sucky people like that. cheerio, m

  5. I just finished reading a book on writing by Heather Sellers. Her chapter 14 was DARE TO SUCK!
    It was a way to encourage us to get past the fear and just do it!

  6. I am so sorry you had to read such a hateful and limited minded comment but maybe this little gift will make you feel better. This is for your raspberry jam post and oh how I love raspberries.
    Email me and I will send you a link to a fab gift. I just found your site but I will come back often and visit.
    Susan

  7. Welcome Susan! I’m glad you liked that post about raspberry jam. A fab gift??!! Great. I’ll be in touch.

    Hello Sara and welcome to you — that reminds me of that Anne Lamott thing about writing bad first drafts. Often you just have to go for it and not keep telling yourself how bad your work is. I mean, maybe it is, but you can fix that — what you can’t fix is something you’ve never written at all.

    Oh Mari, what a creep! You handled that really well, but you’re absolutely right about how there’s a cost to dealing about these kinds of things. I thought a lot about whether to ignore this comment or write about it, but in the end, it seemed like the timing was good to give some thought to this internet version of road rage. I’ve been seeing it more than usual on some of the blogs I visit, and it interests me.

    Ingrid, The pirate might be just what is called for! But then, he is handy for many things, is he not?

    Hello Ms. Bookbath — you’re absolutely right. The good thing is that this doesn’t really bring me down. I mean, it makes me sit up straighter and remember that the world is not always perfect, and that we operate in a big community here on the internet, and some neighborhoods and neighbors are not so great. Still, when someone suggests I should give up something because I’m a woman, well, that just cracks me up.

    Charlotte, That seems like exactly the right thing to do. Not everyone works the same way on blogs, and I think you are good to see that he wants to be thorough and make a connection, which is lovely, really.

    lilalia, Thank you for saying that. In fact, it does make a difference — a big one! I’m with you on the use of the delete button. I’m also aware that there are other ways of dealing with this, and some people are fine with this kind of thing. I long ago decided I am not — and I am up front about that and think it’s fine to set the boundaries you wish to set on what is, essentially, your territory.

  8. Anne Lamott’s lines on “shitty first drafts” was just about the most freeing thing I’ve ever read! That craft is all in the revising, a priceless reminder.

    Lily, you were so wise to delete & move on. Reminds me of the rabblerousers over at Writer, Rejected…

  9. So sorry to hear about the nasty commenter. When folks are bitter like that I think it finds its way into their writing, too.
    Your blog is such a friendly place — a companion as I send my own stories out into the world. Your focus on improving, on the page and not on what others say, is exactly right. I have no doubt at all that your stories and your novel, too, will find their way into print. I’ll send you good wishes in the meanwhile that the acceptances come soon.

    –A.

  10. You had just the perfect response to that creature: delete him out of here! I am constantly astonished by the things anonymous people are willing to say to others–and I think you’re exactly right about him. I’m sure he was just hoping to stir up a big debate on your lovely blog, and have people taking sides. But what a silly thing to debate: whether women should write or take care of their families! Like there’s any choice to that one. We all do both. Somehow. Thank goodness for the delete button–and for your wisdom in using it. But also thank you for sharing this story. We all run into this from time to time, and it stings.

  11. The internet is a breeding ground for trolls. I get a comment like this every now and then and it makes me feel awful! I recently wrote a post on The Hostile Internet which covers my frustration on reading such drivel. But you are totally right…it’s done for attention. They must not get any attention in real life so they have to get virtual attention in a virtual world. Sad, isn’t it?

  12. BlogLily,

    My theory is that writers sometimes bring out the weird in others, particularly when said writers are good writers, and even more so if the writer in question has had some measure of success. You are a great writer and the quality of your writing is being noticed. Weird jealousies will emerge.

    This is something I’ve experienced. It turns out that some people don’t think that pastors should write either, and recently I made the mistake of telling a few people about some very encouraging conversations I’ve been having with a publisher. A few of my good friends have gotten very weird on me.

    I don’t know what its all about. Weird.

    Ben

  13. I showed up here via Simply Wait which has been on my blogroll almost from the beginning. So, with that minimalist introduction, I thrust myself into your blog.

    I was getting some comments from an individual who disagreed with some of my points, and addressed his/her points ad hominem, as they say. So, after being cursed and consigned to the devil, it dawned on me that I could intercept such messages before they actually appeared on my blog, and do with them what I would. So, I bowdlerized them (is tha the right word?). The expletives were deleted, and all references to the wrongness of my views were reversed. I love that editing feature.

    Of course, the blogger left no web page address and a fake email address. Those drop-in bangers usually do not want dialogue, just a place to whine.

    Write on.

  14. Isn’t it great that we can just hit the delete button on people like that? That’s the wonderful antidote to the rudeness that anonymity breeds. I’m sorry you had to experience it, though! I loved your post about not writing, by the way :)

  15. Oh Gentle Reader, Yes I think that’s the answer. And I’m glad you liked that post. Now, of course, it’s time to get back to it!

    Hello TwoBlueDay, and welcome! That’s a very funny response. The ad hominum attack is the lowest form of argument (I mean, we could probably come up with even lower, but right now, on a Friday morning, that seems to me to be the worst).

    Ben, Maybe people are afraid you’ll talk about their flaws! I don’t know why a low-paid, low-success, low-status thing like writing stories would bring out the weird in people, as you say, but it seems to, doesn’t it? And I want to know more about these “encouraging conversations” and that book in the making! I’ll have to go and snoop around your blog to see if there’s any clue.

    Maleesha — it is a little weird. Rules of courtesy make life so much more pleasant — for everyone. So what makes a person disregard them? It’s interesting, and probably that person would be a terrific character in a book. Not so great on a blog, which is why the delete key is there.

    You know, Sandi, it’s also interesting how comments like this are intended to push a button. The trouble is that the “you should stay at home with your children button” is broken over at my house. On the other hand, “your haircut’s too short” works really, really well. (But don’t tell anyone, okay?)

    And I send you exactly the same wishes, dear Annette!

    Dear OP — I like knowing you’ve been lifted. But then there is the problem of getting together in the real world, for more uplifting… I will work on that. I think you’re due for something super fun, in light of my recent inability to keep my calendar straight. xoxox, L

  16. OK, guys. I just wrote a post based on a New York Times magazine article coming out this Sunday on blog trolls and what a horrifying pervasive culture it is. ( I am really not “trawling” for visits; I just think all bloggers should be aware of this.)

    For one thing, Lily, I strongly believe, and this has happened to me, if you visit a site that is dominated by such “anonymous” trolls with no blogs of their own, they will trace you back to your blog and target you. This is a fact. And I know you and I have visited such a site.

    The other thing, if you don’t delete it, and ignore it, they just escalate. They are professionals. They know just what to say to get riled up attention and they thrive on it.

    This goes way beyond just attention-seeking. These people are hate-mongers. They have whole websites that share tactics. They know what buttons to push and they share their successes like hunters share their prized kill.

    Read my post and/or go straight to the article. It’s horrifying but it also makes sense and knowing about it protects bloggers from vulnerability. It’s like knowing about pedophiles.

  17. Hi Bloglily, so sorry to hear you had a nasty commenter. It is easiest to just delete them away, but for me when it’s happened it is just a little bit upsetting. I figure it is generally just one very unhappy person who feels better about himself (in this case) by making someone else feel worse. He definitely needs to seek out a different (and less hurtful) form of attention somewhere else!!

  18. Hey Danielle, I think you are absolutely right — you just ignore this stuff.

    Thank you for the heads up W, NR. I’ve seen that article, and think it’s interesting and food for thought. And now, on to other subjects, right?!

  19. Oh no, another troll! I think you have to feel pity for these people, because they are clearly full of hate and resentment and whoever had fun that way? You did exactly the right thing with it, just like you did the last time one such tried to get a kick out of poor behavior. My advice to them: never take on the mothers; we’ve squashed far more threatening revolutions…..

  20. I just stumbled upon your blog via . . . uh . . . some other blog? I’m an East Bay girl myself, though nowhere as gifted as you are with the words.

    I feel fortunate that I’ve never had to delete an entire comment on my blog. For all my personal posts I would say people have been nothing but kind. (Though on one particular topic, the comments have gotten rather heated, but nothing too out of hand).

    You did the right thing. If you take deprive the fire of oxygen it dies right down.

  21. Hello and welcome Ms. Lazy Buddhist. How wonderful to hear from a fellow east bay person. Depriving the fire of oxygen seems to do the trick.

    Hey LK — I’m glad you’re back in the virtual world. I’ve missed you. Here’s to the big suck!

    Dear litlove, squish. Be particularly careful of the mothers who wear pointy heels on occasion.

  22. This was an excellent post for me to read as I am just starting out. Gives me a whole new perspective on the world of blogging and how spiteful people can be. But also how much we can grow from offhanded remarks like this.

    I loved this post. Thank you for this. Great for me to learn from. Looking forward to reading more of them.

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