I got my first anonymous hater today:
Wow. So artfully self-aggrandizing and self-effacing, yet so ANGRY, defensive. Root emotion: anger = FEAR. What are you so afraid of? Your smart readers must do so only to shake their heads. So sad. I’ll be looking for your caustic, derisive response.
The person who wrote this formspring query had emailed me previously – a much more level-headed criticism – but apparently didn’t like my response. Instead of moving herself on to read other blogs, she felt she’d take me down a peg.
Not to be a downer on formspring, but I thought I would post this to let people know that anonymity can often foster hateful language. Those of us who write online – and attach our own names to our writing – get this sort of thing now and then.
Anecdotally: I’ve always thought the root emotion of anger is hurt, not fear. But I’m open to other opinions!
OK, of course, I know what several of you smarties are thinking: “That doesn’t deserve a response!” And goddamn it, you’re probably right! And yet, this formspring flame is a timely one for me and is touching on something that’s been on my mind:
In the handful of months since I’ve opened comments on my blog, I have been receiving good comments fostering lively discussion – and, behind the scenes: private picking-at-me emails and, now, my first anonymous hate-mail (um, yay?).
This is truly incredible and I’d like to give you a minute to think about this.
People have been reaching out to talk to me since I’ve been blogging – six years. Before I opened comments I received DMs, IMs, emails, Facebook responses, snail mail letters, people stopping me in the street and phone calls from across the country. These communications have often been supportive, grateful, and complimentary; many asked for my advice or my perspective. Occasionally these communications directly challenged my assertions or writings (this is a sensitive-New-Age way of saying: people would argue with me). And always, always these experiences have been worthwhile to engage in. Every single one.
Things have changed.
Yes, I know who wrote the formspring snark*; if I chose, could email this person and say, “Hey dude, not cool”, or ignore this person or write them and their opinions off, or whatever (I do think a focused post about my ANGRY would be good – although of course, I pretty much happily trot the subject out often enough). But let me stay on point for now:
I have a lot of readers at this point, a number that has grown over the years. I have many lurkers – that is, people who read and never comment, never email, never let me know they’re there (or who perhaps eventually reveal they’ve been there, for years). I figure it makes sense that eventually I’d get a couple readers who read me and discover they don’t like me, yet – and this is the icky part – keep reading. I know this could be true, in part because I myself have hate-lurked on a blog, chewing myself up inside about someone whose life, for whatever reason, got on my tits because it was too preachy or too consumerist or too slutty or whatever. I’m not proud that I did this or that I had these feelings. I’ve moved on from reading specific publications because I realized it was toxic for me to stay; I was unable to engage the author in a productive, dialogue-inducing way and keep my mind open to who they are; I was both intolerant of and tormented by our differences. Until I self-corrected I would hate, obsess, chew over why the person or author was wrong or gross or whatever. I’ve never made a secret out of my own Hater tendencies, because they are a part of me.
What sucks for me is that I don’t publicize my blog as a prescriptive worldview nor a direct communication to specific parties. This is my journal.
So, for instance, my recent personal litany on what people so often say to me about having kids out of school was not a dogmatic denouncement of public or private schools for all parties; the social construction of education is one I am not well-versed in – yet – and I have not been asked to weigh in on by anyone, ever. (If you do wonder what I believe about the vast majority of standard education, and how my life fits into the world at large, I’d direct you to this jaw-droppingly amazing article by Eva Swindler; she’s an actual authority writing professional copy by the way). I am a human being and you are seeing me in all my humanness; I keep very little private from this journal.
Yeah, I’m aware my thought processes challenge people. Maybe, reader, you don’t feel particularly challenged, but I want to tell you I get told this all the time; in fact, I’ve often been told this is one of the best things about knowing me (other reasons: my compassion, my cooking, my breasts). Seriously, in the last week this is what I’ve heard about my writing from about a half dozen parties: “amazing writer”, “on another level”, “hard to follow”, “witty and fast”, “jumps around a lot”, “perfection” (ego-zing! on that last one). Even being handed the shit-sandwich from formspring I know, in theory anyway, that someone who makes character attacks and says I’m “so sad” is, in fact, likely very threatened by what I say, which means hey, maybe I’m saying something worth saying.
Yet, of course, if anyone out there sets me up as Enlightened (or, alternatively, SO SAD AND ANGRY), they are using my very human expression against me to insist I’m not fully human. This feels like infringement – in both cases.
Because I am not at some “level” of awesome (holy shit, do you even READ here?) or, alternatively, someone who is JUST a sad, frightened, judgy person (duh). I am just as insecure and brittle and flawed and shitty as the next person. Writing has been the sole tool I’ve used to know myself.
Oh my god, that reminds me: writing. When some people say “such-and-such has saved my life”? This is writing, for me. And not writing some nicey-pants stuff nor trying-to-say-the-least-(or most!)-offensive-thing. Or like, “I saw my kids playing by the pond today and I realized, this is Life, like seeing a newborn kitten in a sunset” stuff. I have been trying to say the Me, trying to express myself and I am getting pretty good at it. Expressing myself. My best ever writing is when I feel I have really told you who I am, what I think, how I behaved. And I know it’s not always pretty (although sometimes, it’s sublime). In fact, I love keeping my journal so much I will never stop as long as I’m able.
So getting another I think you should be careful with your language because you are saying things I don’t like email, then a few “I don’t always agree with everything you say” prefaces (from people who asked me to open comments, but have never used the comment function), then “you’re sad, caustic, derisive” – well, it just starts feeling a bit frustrating. And assy. Because, you know, fuck off. This is my diary. It really is. I am terribly sorry if at any point I gave the impression this is Life Lessons from Kelly Who-Gives-An-Arse Hogaboom (incidentally: this site is not my diary and would likely be the closest I’d come to claiming “professional” copy, although P.S., I don’t get paid for shit, ever). Because, you know, it isn’t.
So, yeah, comments. I know if I close comments things will shift back to where they are more comfortable for me; indeed, my closest loved ones have suggested this. But the majority of the comments here on my blog have been edifying and delightful. And I’m not sure I should do things to make myself more comfortable (although yes, I hear you – this really is my space to do whatever I want).
Oh and! Because seriously, everyone tells me I’m smart and intimidating and “rock-solid” and it seems nothing hurts me? (No seriously, I have been told this three times by three different women this week). Just to be clear: anonymous hate and snark directed at me, personally?
Yes, it hurts. Like, upon reading the words on the screen my chest constricted and I felt flushed and Terrible as a Person and like I wanted to Make It Go Away, for several minutes. I felt Wrong in everything I said and Hated and so pathetic and somehow it’s right I should be hated on, because I have a public blog and write about my life (of course, as a lady I really do “deserve it”), and I have opinions and show my ass and stuff.
Funny thing. Writing this all out helped. Huh.
* I’m not sure why people don’t know that first of all they use some of the same phraseology, grammatical errors, figures of speech, and the same tone; secondly, I can “see” people when they are online so thus when a query or comment pops up it isn’t as if I hadn’t seen their recent tweet, or IM status, or whatever; thirdly, that as popular as I am to read it is rare the EXACT ONE SUBJECT gets up the ass of two separate people in the same exact way, so if someone already emailed me then followed up with an anonymous formspring post, well. Yeah. I know it’s you.