When they say don’t read the comments . . .

. . . you should totally listen and not read the comments.

Or maybe you need to be a bit of a less sensitive person than I am in order to do so and not walk away feeling a little bit beat up.

I thought the comments over at Book Riot were pretty great. Even though the person causing a bit of a ruckus there was putting on a show, it didn’t necessarily turn personal for a couple of days. That’s when the community manager stepped in and put a stop to it (and despite what another commenter noted there, the good Dr. did lay out some hate speech, directed at a number of groups. The action for him to be banned and those comments to be deleted were absolutely the right steps to take).

But then the piece went up at The Huffington Post and the comments there were quite a bit different. Many were personal — I don’t suggest clicking through because it’s not as interesting or enlightening as those over at Book Riot. There were comments suggesting that YA fiction is crap, that librarians don’t know how to do anything but shelve books, and other gems that you can check off your bingo card.

And man, did they hurt.

I don’t get worked up about blog posts and people disagreeing with what I have to say. Healthy debate is just that: healthy debate. Attacks that feel more personal, though. They’re different.

Nothing was that bad. Nothing was that unexpected.

But when you write for the internet regularly and regularly write for a space that is decidedly welcoming, friendly, and intelligent — even in the midst of healthy debate — you can forget other corners of the internet exist.

I’ve mentioned it once or twice or regularly, but it bears repeating: blogging and sharing any of your work on the web is not easy. It might seem like it is, but it’s not. And it’s certainly not something I take lightly. This particular post is one I’ve been working variations of for three weeks or so, and getting it just right meant a hell of a lot to me. So knowing it was well-received at Book Riot, then picked up by the Huffington Post, was a huge honor (it was also tweeted out by NPR Books and shared over at The Dish). Like. I had a piece of my writing run at the Huffington Post. It was on their main page. It was the lead piece in their Books section. 

It’s really damn cool.

It’s also really damn scary because your words are all that are standing. It is a real feeling of being alone and in the spot light (remember when you blog you don’t have editors or publishers or an agent or anyone, really, to back you up or remind you you’re not crazy). So it really is you there and that’s it. Even being as proud and honored and excited as I was, though, those damn comments sucked, even though they were the minority. It’s part of our psyche, attaching to the negative much more than attaching to the positive things (and despite what one commenter said, my background includes adolescent developmental psychology).

I’m not sure what I’m going with here, if I’m going anywhere. Maybe it’s this: thanks for being the awesome, kind, supportive readers and community that you are. Every person who shared my piece and offered me a nice word — be it publicly or privately — I so appreciated it.

Yes, I cried this weekend. Then I watched this awesome video of Lindy West talking about her own work on the internet and how she spent a lot of time crying over comments, too (it was sent to me by a friend).

And then I felt less bad.  Also felt less alone or weirdly fixated on a few small nasty things.

I’ll never stop writing what I know needs to be said. And I’ll never stop sharing those things other people write that need to be said, too. It might take a little while to get full steam again, but I’ll find that space again.

This morning, edits for my book popped up in my inbox, and I couldn’t help smiling a little bit. The people who thought I was promoting rape or child porn or pushing things into the hands of fragile teen minds who should be protected by people like me, rather than protected from them — they’re going to hate this entire book. I’ve got a whole chapter about talking with teens about rape, a whole chapter about talking with teens about bullying, as well as bits about the importance of talking about these things openly and honestly with teenagers. And you know? That hate almost feels a little more empowering. 

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  1. says

    I enjoyed the piece, which I read on my phone in a reader sans link to the comments, so thanks for the reminder of why I do that. Writing anything for the general public takes a lot of courage, and I'm not sure it ever stops hurting when you see a negative response. Congratulations on writing something that made people have an emotional response — I hope and believe that others also had an intellectual one. It's just that the people who are thinking are so often not the people who are commenting.

  2. says

    I was just reading today something that said 1000 compliments + 1 hateful comment = 1 hateful comments. I'm guessing you know something about that this week.

  3. says

    So how many comments was it before someone blamed Obama?

    Hey, I'm like you and keep looking at comments on mainstream posts as if everyone will treat the subject with interest and decorum, and I keep learning over again that far too many people will use the comments to spew hate and negativity for no other reason than that they can. It's hard enough seeing it when I like the article, so I can't imagine how bad it is when you wrote it. Sorry you have to go through that. But it's not you, it's how comments are. And it was a damn good piece of work.

  4. says

    I teach high school English. I just completed my MLIS. And I keep a classroom library of my YA collection for independent reading. Some of my best classroom discussion comes from what my students read independently. YA literature is so important, and I'm grateful it has a passionate, well-informed librarian in its corner in you. Thank you for continuing to put yourself out there so readers, writers, teachers, teens, librarians, etc. can stay passionate and well-informed too.

  5. says

    Kelly, you're one of the bravest people I know. I loved the Book Riot piece! Keep 'em coming, I say. And yay you, getting picked up by the Huffington Post (even if it turned out to not be all smiles and roses, it's still an accomplishment to celebrate).

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