Thursday, August 15, 2013

be careful what you wish for.

***I couldn't bring myself to post something without pictures, so be aware these pictures have nothing to do with the subject matter.***

The other night on the phone my mom made a comment about the last blog that I wrote.

"I liked the blog about Jacob's best week ever," she said kindly. 

Then she laughed.  "But, what's with no one commenting?  You asked a question and nothing! No comments!" 

I laughed back at her, trying to hide my mild disappointment over the fact that regardless of blogging for almost four years now, I have yet to sustain a consistent following of "commenters."

While posing philosophical and somewhat personal questions is totally in line with my sometimes random personality, I never really wanted to do that on my blog - it all felt a little forced.  But it was the only way I could think of to get the engagement I so desire.  I hoped to lure readers in with pretty pictures, engage them with a question at the end and voila!, I'd turn this blog into more than just an outlet for me, but a place where conversation might flow like red wine.  

But that hasn't happened either, evident time and time again:

"If a fire was about to burn your house down, what would you take with you?"

Silence.  

"What are YOU up to this weekend?"

Crickets.   

"Tell me what your best week ever would look like?"

More silence.
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Then there's my "real job" where as an occasional writer for CNN.com, there is never a shortage of comments on any story, most of which address the specific news story.

A couple of weeks ago, one of the site's page editors approached me after hearing about my "reputation" as a professional wedding guest and asked if I'd write about cost-saving techniques for anyone attending a wedding this summer.   

The story was fun to write, and a lighthearted, easy read; let me be clear, I'm not winning any Pulitzer Prizes or breaking any journalism barriers with the piece, but I was proud of it.  It resonated with readers, too, and gained a lot of web traffic for CNN.com.

With web traffic inevitably comes comments - a reality that is both exciting and terrifying.  One on hand, "Yah! Finally the engagement I was seeking?!"  On the other hand, "This story is so innocuous, what could anyone possibly have to say about saving money when attending a wedding?"

As it turns out, people had plenty to say.

Some of the comments were certainly flattering and downright hilarious:

Stephanie Gallman, will you marry me? 

Her personality shines through her writing.

You strike me as a person that actually might use the phrase "YOLO" and mean it (my personal favorite, though I'm not sure it was a compliment).

Most of the comments, though, were unexpectedly hateful.  

SHE is a fool is she had to attend 74 weddings. I don't even have 74 FB friends. stop trying to be center of attention.

I find women who brag about how many weddings they attend nauseating. Its the mid-life equivalent of the grade school popularity content. Yes, we are all duly impressed by how many friends you have. Good job.

In every picture she looks like a POS.

Ms. Gallman needs to 1) Get a life, 2) Get a less expensive hobby, 3) Grow up, since using her wedding attendance experience as proxy living is unhealthy.

How do crappy, meaningless articles like this get written?? 

There are more.  Many more.

As if wanting to prove that all of these awful words about me were true, I read every. single. one.  I even pathetically responded to some of them.  A stupid rookie writer move, really, especially because of what I already know:

I know that anyone incensed this much by any article, much less this one, speaks far more about them than it does me. 

I know better than to read any of the comments, much less all of them; the comment section is always where the Internet trolls prey, hiding behind cartoon avatars and fake names, bullying people for no reason.

I know that my family and friends (the people who love me) are what's most important - and to get caught up in anything else is vain and a colossal waste of time and energy.

But as I learned all too well -- when people attack you on a personal level - it doesn't really matter what you know.  It just hurts.

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I guess I should be more careful what I wish for. I'd never beg for a blog comment again if it meant I didn't have to read someone who doesn't know me call me a "POS, attention seeker who needs to get a life."

When did everyone become so cavalier to attack each other online?  Why not just think mean, hateful things about me to yourself or bad-mouth me to your friends behind my back?  Can't we go back to that? 

Some of my favorite bloggers, Glennon, Kelle, and Ashley have addressed some of the criticism/meanness/bullying they've faced as writers.  Though they've written far more graciously than I probably ever could, their feelings seem to be consistent with mine and all seem to share a confusion over why anyone would waste their time writing hateful things about others.

I'm all about constructive criticism, and I understand that as a writer, the only message I can control is the one I'm sending - how it's interpreted once it hits the screen is completely out of my hands - and it's scary.

I'm happy to have conversations where we all agree to disagree, I'm comfortable being wrong and being called out about it, and I hope that perhaps one day my writing will inspire such discussion, but being mean just for the sake of being mean, well, in the words of my favorite Internet sensation Sweet Brown, "Ain't nobody got time for that."




Be kind, Stay strong, Choose love, my friends.  

13 comments:

  1. hello (from a long-time reader and slacker commenter),
    just fyi, i love your blog, have been reading for a while and think you are great at what you do! i also get disappointed that people don't comment on my blog (after blogging forever). i know many people read it, but don't officially follow, and most definitely do not comment. but i would rather have no comments forever than to read mean and ugly things about me from someone who knows nothing about my life other than what is in the pictures i post. keep on truckin', stephanie! xoxo

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  2. Steph, i've just started reading your blog, and i love it. it always gets me to think, and it always makes me feel good - even today's post. You said it correctly, none of those comments are about you - that's about them. But use it to make you stronger. You're a great writer, and have a gift to give people who want to find it.
    keep writing and making me smile.

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  3. I've enjoyed reading your blog! It's definitely brightened my days - has great pictures, anecdotes, and very relatable stories. Keep 'em coming- don't let those mean commenters get you down! @memill43

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  4. I'm a WAY amateur blogger, and I can relate so much.

    Recently, I was THRILLED when one of my pieces was picked up by Lifehacker--a MAJOR site with VERY engaged readers. I was overjoyed when I looked at the piece and saw that the post had garnered some 130+ comments...but in perusing the comments, my little post about when I've used my emergency fund (one of the most innocuous topics on the planet) generated unbelievably harsh reactions. Suddenly a single paragraph on one decision I made in my life, written through a vacuum of a single perspective on it (when I used my emergency fund) led people to assume ridiculous, unfounded things about my character, my life, my family, my husband, my job---everything.

    I tried to explain or clarify things in reply to those comments, which just led to more outright IRE about me. Since then, I haven't gone back to the site.

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  5. "How do crappy, meaningless articles like this get written??"

    The thing in front of you is called a computer. The computer has a magical device called a keyboard that consists of rows of "buttons" with "letters" on them. When you depress (mash) one of these buttons the corresponding letter appears on the screen which is attached to the computer. When combined in a certain way, these letters make words. Similarly, when combined the words make articles.

    That, my friend, is how crappy, meaningless articles like this one get written.

    For the record, I've read every one of your CNN Stories and almost all of your blog posts and I find them all delightful.

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  6. I don't know if you ever watched the West Wing, but there is an episode where Josh starts posting on a website called Lemon Lyman. If you can find it on YouTube, CJ refers to the insane posters as the cast of 'One flew over the Cuckoo's Nest'. It's hilarious. I always think of that when I see really hurtful comments on the web. It still hurts to read them, but perhaps it may lessen the sting to think of these people in dark rooms, hunched in front of their computers wearing muumuus and chain smoking parliaments. With maybe a few hundred cats.

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  7. Hi Stephanie, I never think to comment because I assume the questions are meant to provoke thought and I wasn't necessarily needed to respond with an answer - but that's what happens when I assume, a lot of times - I get things wrong! Ok your last blog, on your best week ever, was MEGA important to me in my life - ! It got me thinking about not just what an ideal week would be like for me, but what steps I need to take to make that shit happen! Then...actually write them down, make a plan and do it! I've decided that my "best week ever" will be around my next birthday in march, will involve travel(can be before or after, but at least plans will have been made), a great day of celebration with my good friends (no kids) a great day of celebration with my daughter solo. It will involve me having financial security to an extent that there is enough savings in the bank to withstand something major going on in my life. That week I will run a marathon in under 4:30 - I will also go to yoga. I will have solidly re-established some friendships that have fallen by the wayside after a year of transition - i will be the friend that my friends deserve. That is my best week ever ! I have my plan, thanks to you, let's talk again in March! you rock! You know, you should think about a BOOK!

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  8. I am a serial commenter on this blog; there, I admitted it. But I gotta tell you, I'm more apt to comment on some random blog or antidote as opposed to being asked a question. I don't know why, maybe I'm frightened by the pressure - what if my best week ever doesn't add up? What if the items to take from the house in a fire are lame, like diapers and my diamond earrings? I promise to answer all questions going forward. If you're going to take the time to inquire, I'm going to take the time to answer. Blog on Gallman, blog on.

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