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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Internet Frees People to Be Rude

     Before I get started, a quick confession: Is this article self-indulgent? Yes, it probably is. I realize I am complaining about people being mean to me, which on the surface, sounds childish. Will it help? Probably not. My purpose in writing this is just to make people think. If you've been the victim of such attacks, you're not the only one out there, and others know how much it sucks. If you are the attacker, I hope you will realize, though I know you probably won't, that what you type does hurt someone, even if you don't know them.

     I had seen the way people on the internet will write whatever pops into their head, with no consideration for the feelings of others. However, I had never experienced it in any volume firsthand until I wrote a review for the television show The Mentalist last week. The comment sections on both websites where I posted the article were flooded with personal attacks on me.

     Were my feelings hurt? Of course! As I'm sure many of yours have been, if you have ever written anything and experienced the same thing. We slave for hours a week for almost no pay and no recognition as a labor of love, and then are shot down with cruel, ill-thought-out attacks.
     In my case, I was told I had no education (I am a couple of classes away from a Master's degree), am full of hate (the word most people use to describe me, even if they don't like me, is "nice"), and I shouldn't judge a show by one episode. But aren't those same people judging me by one review, instead of the 290 I have written in 2010 alone?

     Critics are people who criticize. By definition, we are evaluating others' work. Sometimes, if those people read our articles, their feelings might be hurt. As such, I know I try to be fair. I try to support negative comments with reasons for my opinions, and also put in positives. Sometimes a mean sentence or two may slip in, but I do my best to avoid that, and if I don't, it's usually a plea to the network to pull a bad show instead of the many good ones that don't make it.

     Perhaps my review of The Mentalist did not live up to my usual standards. It was a quick review about a show I don't often watch, and thus lacked detail. I did put in positives, but the commenters certainly didn't notice them, or pretended not to. It was not one of the reviews of which I am most proud, but as it got much, much more attention than usual, I feel inclined to defend it. I stand by the opinion I put forth. Upon rereading, I don't think there's anything I wrote that I would have left out, but I definitely would have done a more thorough job if I knew it would be subjected to such intense scrutiny.

      As to the criticisms that I shouldn't write what I don't know about, I didn't. Perhaps I don't know a particular series that well. But I watch more than enough hours of television to formulate opinions of what is good versus what is bad. I even go to lengths to make sure I am being fair to the genre, even if it's not one I particularly care about. In the instance I keep coming back to, I wrote almost an entire paragraph outlining my shortcomings of knowledge on the particular show, so readers would know where I stood.

      Bottom line, don't be mean. Just because you don't know the people you are writing to or about, don't trash them. The internet can be a great forum for thoughtful debate, or it can be a junior-high-level hate forum. It's especially easy to be cruel because you don't have to actually put yourself out there by name to be responded or stood up to. Bullies come out much more quickly when they don't face retribution.

     Please, please, please, be nice to each other. And to me. :)


For frequent mini-reviews and occasional tv news, follow Jerome on Twitter.


Article first published as Internet Frees People to Be Rude on Blogcritics.

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