A strange thing happened today.
Those of you who have read this blog with any regularity will recall my True Detective review in which I offered a fan theory about the fate of Ross Geller’s son, Ben. It was a strange blog post, in that it ended up being a theory about a show I haven’t watched in years. The other strange thing about that blog post is that it got a lot of attention, showing up referenced or summarized on Entertainment Weekly, Hello Giggles, Cosmo, Redbook, Refinery29, and a series of other websites.
I’ve written about the reactions to my Ross Geller fan theory a few times, most notably in a post entitled “Commenters Gonna Comment”, in which I pondered the angry and hostile comments that readers leave on inconsequential pieces of pop culture writing.
Something occurred to me a few weeks ago. While Hello Giggles and The Daily Dot and many other blogs and sites had discussed this “Ross lost custody of Ben” fan theory, it had never been mentioned on The Frisky. The reason this struck me as odd is that I actually linked to The Frisky in the blog post, as they had previously labeled Ross Geller a “Men’s Rights Activist,” which fit nicely within my theory. It also lead me to wonder whether anyone at The Frisky monitors their referral traffic, and if they share that traffic with their bloggers and contributors.
The Part Where it Gets Weird
Here’s where it gets weird: I decided this week to reach out to the author of the aforementioned blog post about Ross Geller and “Men’s Rights.” In my effort (I sent two tweets in a row) to reach out to the author of the original blog post on The Frisky, I found myself suddenly labeled a troll and a Men’s Rights Activist. The blogger in question (whose Twitter I will link to but who, out of respect for privacy concerns, will remain unnamed in this blog post) suggested that my only intention was to seek re-tweets, spinning my tweets as a cautionary tale, telling people not to do what I did when reaching out to “journalists.”
(Yes, this “journalist” accused me of seeking a re-tweet from her for my blog post that had been featured on 30-plus other websites, each of which has a larger following than her Twitter account, and then mocked and shamed me for it.)
Her concern seemed to be along the lines of who cares that my blog post on The Frisky got an additional one thousand views because of this guy’s fan theory about Ross? Who does he think he is? Which all struck me as rather odd, but okay. I get that people can misinterpret things—and especially intentions—on the internet, so I apologized.
In retrospect, I agree with the “journalist” in question: this is a cautionary tale. For me, the lesson is that that Twitter can be an ugly, bizarre place where anyone can be offended by anything. Free of contexts like tone of voice and body language, it’s easy to misinterpret what someone is saying and what their intentions are. And that some caution is perhaps needed in how one approaches a stranger to say “hey, you might like this link.”
This experience also reminded me that some people on the internet just like being negative. For many, the internet is a place to pick fights, all the time, with anyone.
Some people should not be tweeted at. Some people don’t want to be contacted, flattered, apologized to, or asked what offended them. Some people just want to call you names. Some people just want to label their opponents in order to win the conversation.
Or no, that’s not fair. They don’t want to win the conversation. Some people want there to be zero conversation. And they deserve sympathy, but sometimes the best thing is to simply leave them alone, remembering you can’t win in arguments with strangers on social media or in comment sections (unless you’re Ken M.)
Of course, this isn’t the only time I’ve offended someone online recently.
The Things They Commented
You can offend someone by saying Tim Burton made a bad Batman movie. You can offend someone by saying James Bond was brainwashed. You can offend someone by saying Serial is bad. This is the risk of writing for the internet.
In recent months, here is some of the feedback I’ve gotten on this blog:
“You are the worst kind of idiot” – Anonymous, regarding my Tim Burton blog post.
“Yeeeeeaaah…, you have a huge imagination, i”ll give you that. But the answer is obvious, it’s not a codename, and you’re a fucking retard for thinking that it is…”
– Anonymous, regarding my Skyfall blog post.
“I have read your blog about Skyfall proving Bond is a codename and I beleive you take this seriously. You are obsessed with everything having, or potentially getting a reboot. It’s OK, us geeks obsess on such things at times, but using your intelligence and analytical abilities to promote this stuff to less gifted people is shameful. Coming up with plot ideas for imminent Bond films that would only work (not that they could within the franchise) with far more development than you have put in, is a waste of your time. I see things like this and wish that people would use their talents to either come up with their own fiction, or for other things.” – dantmk, WordPress commenter, regarding my Skyfall blog post.
“fuck you” – Anonymous, regarding my Skyfall blog post.
“Fuck off” – Anonymous, regarding my Tim Burton blog post.
So that’s that. The internet is a strange, sad place.
But I’m okay with these kinds reactions to my work, as I’ve come to the conclusion that these are the kinds of things that troubled people say and do on the internet. Some people just have baggage, troubles, struggles, agendas, and these troubles manifest themselves in bizarre comments on silly blog posts about James Bond or Bruce Wayne, or in responses to tweets about Ross Geller. An old expression taught me that what Susie says of Sally says more of Susie than of Sally. Likewise, what commenters say on my blog says more of commenters than of my blog. What Anonymous says of James Bond fan theories says more of Anonymous than of James Bond fan theories.
“You can’t ever find a place that’s nice and peaceful, because there isn’t any.”
And I would prefer that these comments show up on my blog, rather than someone else’s. This internet hate is going to show up in one comment section or another, so why not mine? I enjoy both the readers of this blog and the haters who stumble across it. I’m certain that there are people out there who would be more hurt, more upset, more pained by fuck you comments than me.
There will always be negative commenters. It reminds me of a certain novel…
“That’s the whole trouble. You can’t ever find a place that’s nice and peaceful, because there isn’t any. You may think there is, but once you get there, when you’re not looking, somebody’ll sneak up and write “Fuck you” right under your nose. Try it sometime. I think, even, if I ever die, and they stick me in a cemetery, and I have a tombstone and all, it’ll say “Holden Caulfield” on it, and then what year I was born and what year I died, and then right under that it’ll say “Fuck you.” I’m positive, in fact.” – Holden Caulfield in JD Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye.
Haters gonna hate, commenters gonna comment, tweeters gonna tweet, vandals gonna vandalize. So it goes.
But let’s end on an entirely positive note.
A positive note
I don’t only receive negative reactions to my work. To my surprise, I received an email from someone yesterday telling me that a) he agreed about Season Two of True Detective, b) he agreed about Season 2 of The Wire (!!!!!!), and c) he looked forward to reading my forthcoming novel and would like to be emailed when it’s released. I tell you this not to only #humblebrag but to remind both you (and myself) that there is always more positive than negative in this world.
As Rust says to Marty at the end of True Detective’s first season: “Ask me, the light’s winning.”
And don’t worry folks: my forthcoming e-novel (the one about space and robots) will still be released in November.
For more on bullying, please see Made Fun Of, For Liking Superheroes, a blog post in which I discuss bullying (both cyber-bullying and otherwise) and how to react to it.
UPDATE: In fairness to the Frisky, it should be pointed out that the “journalist” referenced above no longer works for them. I have retained the link to the Frisky in the original blog post as I think it’s a good website, even if it has employed a disturbed and hateful “journalist” in the past.