This is a busy week, and I’m trying to crawl back on the bandwagon of all my responsibilities that kind of fell by the wayside between AwesomeCon and the run up to it. Also, I’m about to embark on one of those topics where I could legitimately write a few thousand words and still probably not be finished with my soapbox. So, you know, fair warning and all that.
I stumbled on a couple of posts this week, about how horrible John Green is because he panders to teenagers in his writing (and I’m going to scuttle away from that particular topic because I’m somewhere between baffled and angry at the entire argument there) and in the midst of that there were a whole lot of posts cropping up in my online life about the horrors of having an opinion. About how every single word that ‘comes out of your mouth’ whether you’re speaking it or typing it on a screen has to be metered and held up against the potential downside of some faceless person out there in the ether taking exception to it and dedicating their life to making your life miserable.
Yeah. My instinctual response to that involves a lot of cursing and some helpful “suggestions” for these would-be bullies, and it’s probably better if I keep that to myself for now.
That’s not to say this sort of mentality isn’t a concern for me. It absolutely is. I do weigh everything I say, in every context, sure. More because I know myself, and I know how bad I am at walking away from arguments, and how just because I don’t take them personally doesn’t mean the other person doesn’t and I need to remember that and decide if thing a is worth the argument.
An anecdote about this, because I feel like sharing. Last year sometime we had a little trouble on my kid’s bus route. Basically the bus has to pull around a circle that’s not technically a cul-de-sac (even the busses that don’t pick kids up there) and this is a place where cars park as overflow and sometimes that makes things a little hard on the bus drivers. I get that. I also get being a bus driver has got to be just a shitty job. I go to great lengths to not be responsible for other people’s children so in general I’ve got nothing but respect for people who sign up for that stuff.
Anyway, on this particular day the bus driver had trouble with the bend, and she stopped to complain about the cars and about how they weren’t suppose to park there (they totally are) and I was the parent standing there and… Long story short–too late, I know–I argued with this woman for like twenty minutes before my brain just stopped and went “Jules, what the hell are you doing?”
I’m bad at walking away from an argument when I feel like I’m right.
So I’m going to give you, dear reader, some unsolicited advice. You’re welcome. Also, in keeping with me getting on my soapbox, there’s a bit of language. You’ve been warned.
It goes without saying (but I’m going to say it anyway) these are my opinions, and they should probably be taken with a grain of salt at best.
1) Never say anything online you wouldn’t say to a person’s face.
Alright, so I get this one is kind of difficult because, well…I have opinions about writers and books that I would never say to their creator’s face because I’d feel horrible but if I’m giving a review and I leave that out I’m lying. So really, I guess, rule one should be “think before you open your mouth and use your discretion if you can.”
2) Every breathing person in the universe deserves to be treated like a person.
Even if they really really don’t. I know, this sucks. Dude-bro is totally a neo-nazi skin-head d-bag and there’s nothing about that you respect. I’m right there with you. But sometimes the way we treat people needs to be about what we deserve, not what they deserve. You don’t have to agree with them. You don’t have to legitimize their neo-nazi viewpoint. They’re still a human being, and you deserve to be the sort of person who finds value in that.
2b) Give other people the space and respect you want for yourself.
2c) Remember you’re allowed to take that space/respect, even if they don’t like it.
3) Take a deep breath and walk away.
So and So you generally like made X comment and now you just want to smack them. How could they. Don’t they realize how horrible that is?
Well, no. Probably not. We’re all human, and we all have at least one time, if we’re being honest, where we’ve opened our mouths and said something really stupid. If you’re me there are probably more like fifty or sixty of them. And I know I’m counseling patience, but before you get upset with me about how I’m trying to stifle you, just give me a second to explain.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t write your giant, long-winded angry response. You should. Absolutely. Give ’em both barrels. You have opinions and as long as you think you can not be a jerk about expressing them then go for it. Heck, even if you can’t, and you’re going to be a jerk, go for it. But before you post it, maybe take a minute to breathe and think and give yourself a second to calm down before you send it. See if when you’re not spitting mad there’s any of that you want to reword.
4) Keep something for yourself.
Being online turns into an echo chamber sometimes and whatever edge of that you’re on, whether your reinforcing the echo or trying to buck it, when it starts to negatively impact your mental health walk away. Seriously. If you email me I’ll write you a certificate. “X has permission to be excused from caring about Y and Z until next month/year/whenever.” If tumblr makes you happy, then stick to the parts that do that and hold your ground. Make people respect that. The same with Instagram or Facebook or…I don’t know. I’m sure there are spaces out there I haven’t even toed onto yet.
5) Fear is a shitty motivator. Don’t use it.
You deserve better than to spend your life being afraid someone’s not going to like you for being you. Do I need to say that again? YOU DESERVE BETTER. I cannot tell you how many writers and artists I know online who tell me the whole reviewer/consumer climate online makes them terrified. They’re going to say something and then they’re going to be ganged up on and it’ll ruin their career.
I get ferocious about this, because it’s people I know and like (sometimes even people I don’t like) who’re allowing themselves to be bullied before they’re even being bullied.
On a personal note, just no. I’ve worked too long and too hard to be who I am to start tailoring that for people because they’ll be jerks. Bring it. You and your street team are going to gang up on me? I wasn’t afraid of that shit in seventh grade, when I was small and shy and still capable of being afraid people wouldn’t like me. I’m a grown ass woman. If you’re gonna bully me you better have your ducks in a row and be prepared for how utterly I don’t care. I’m sorry. I have no fucks to give for people who get their jollies being crappy to other people. I don’t dislike you, I’m not going to ruin you back. Because those things imply that you’re worth my time and energy. You’re not. I wish you all the best in your sad little quest. Have a nice life.
So, dear reader. Here’s what I’m saying. The universe deserves to see you as the brilliant, special person you are. Like the things you like, and be unapologetic about it. Be proud of who you are, and brave enough to acknowledge your rough bits. Wear what you want. Be who you want. Give other people the space to do the same. And if anybody ever tries to bully you for that, you can send them to me.
Okay. I’m putting the soapbox away. Come back on Tuesday and we’ll talk about picking projects when you’re running out of spoons.