This really isn’t book-related … well, it sort of is. I’ll admit that reviews scare me a little. As a reporter, it took me about five minutes to learn that not everyone will like what you write and some people can be very vocal about their disapproval. It’s part of the territory and you kind of know that going in.
I’m not really afraid of having my work reviewed in and of itself. I know I’m far from perfect and some criticism is OK … even good. But what scares me a little is just how mean people can be when they can hide behind the anonymity of the Internet.
I was reading an article on CNN last week about a waiter who identified one of the tables he was serving as “three fat girls.” I cannot think of any context when that would be appropriate. The guy was fired and the restaurant publicly apologized to the women. What shocked me about the article was the hateful way some commenters stated that these women were indeed fat and the waiter did nothing wrong.
Some of these comments were brutal and I was just flabbergasted that people could be so mean. I can’t imagine that anyone would be OK with the waiter posting “three gay guys” or “three black chicks” because that smacks of discrimination. But let someone be fat and you’d think they committed a crime.
I’ve seen the same kinds of comments about Christians. If an article even hints at Christianity, Internet trolls come out of the woodwork to blast Christians as self-righteous bigots and to mock our belief in Jesus Christ. The level of hatred is just plain appalling. Everyone has a right to their beliefs, including Christians.
And I’ve seen difference of opinions degenerate to the point where some commenters feel it necessary to refer to a person with a different opionion as a moron or loser. And, back to my original point, I’ve seen discussions on Goodreads or reviews on Amazon that have called authors awful names just because the reader didn’t like a book. I’ve definitely read my share of wretched books, some by famous authors, but I can’t ever remember leaving such hateful feedback.
I have to wonder if people would use those same slurs if the other person was sitting across the table from them. When I worked at the newspaper, we allowed comments on our news stories, and I found that the ones delivered anonymously were often much nastier than those delivered via our Facebook page when the person had to leave his/her name.
The Internet makes it way too easy for us to forget that we’re talking to or talking about another human being with feelings. Someone who has his/her own insecurities and weak points, someone who really hurts when such barbs are hurled their way.
Is it really too much to ask that we all make an effort to treat one another with respect? Sadly, I think that ship has sailed, but here’s to hoping that I’m wrong.