Last night, after a long day of work/mothering/nose-wiping, I was sitting at the ‘ol laptop reading the most vile and troll-y comments on some article about something hosted somewhere on the internets and my blood pressure was rising steady, steady, filling up my ears like our stove-top espresso maker and then suddenly, epiphany: why am I reading this shit? My sweet sister Hillary, also a journalist, sagely pointed out that reading comments on any given article is equivalent to sitting in a public restroom and reading all the graffiti on the stall. What. What indeed, have I been doing, and why?
Blogging exempted, the written word is not generally intended to be a correspondence as it is a proclamation, and, therefore, is by its very nature not a 2-way discussion. Mind blown. I knew I had a problem as early as a year or so ago when I was indulging in a very infrequent (perhaps too infrequent) pasttime: reading an actual print newspaper. Probably while waiting in an airport somewhere. And as I finished the piece, my eyes automatically traveled down the page to see what ape_69_mofo thought about what I’d just taken in, in case his sage and worthy opinion might sway my own…what the WHAT.
Occupational hazard up in here, y’all. But I solemnly swear, from this day forward, that I will not – I repeat, NOT – be reading comments on any article that is not my own. And hell, maybe I won’t even read those comments, either. Part of the joy of writing, and the mystery of it, is that you’re creating something to present to the world, and it’s not a collaborative effort that deserves to be shaped by random feedback from strangers. Can you imagine if artists worked that way? Or architects? Or dentists? Imperfect analogies, but do you see what I mean? (And obviously this doesn’t apply to blogging, which by its very nature is ordered toward discussion. Different animal.)