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February 23rd, 2012

Postcard from the Slope: Internet Quicksand

It was great to get away from OTBKB and the quicksand of the Internet for a few months. I spent so many hours hunched over this hot computer, I really needed a  break. I didn't even know how much I needed a break.

I needed a break.

The Internet feels like a new place just a few months later. 140 character tweets are really the currency of  the social media world right now. Yet, blogging doesn't seem to have any less relevance. Scouting about, I discovered a world of blogs on xoJane and elsewhere.

And a world of comments. This week on xoJane, a blogger named Daisy is getting hammered for an interview she did with Tucker Max followed by a post she wrote called You Guys Hurt My Stupid F*cking Feelings, followed by an even sillier post she wrote called 14 Ways to Make Guys Love You (From the Girl Who Lives and Breathes It).

There were aspects of the You Guys Hurt My F*cking Feelings post that I related to. Back in my days of endless blogging, I would get hurt by comments on OTBKB and at the Brooklyn Paper. I forced myself to get a tough skin and to avoid comments. I see that Daisy is just now learning that important lesson.

I’ll be honest: There are times I don’t read the comments. It’s not worth the stress/anger/anguish. But mostly, I try to read them because I think you deserve that. And that it’s sort of part of an unspoken “deal” we have on this site.

That is: You took the time to read my piece (although not everyone does, which is also obvious), so I should check out what you have to say. I’ve been doing that for 10 months. But I think going forward? I might be do less of it.

Despite that insight, she decided to write a really snarky, sarcastic post that left a lot of her readers feeling insulted, which can happen when you take the opinion of a few commenters to be the opinion of your entire readership. That's a mistake because it's usually the people who disagree with you who make comments. Those who like what you're doing don't bother to say anything. If you decide to fight back it makes for some very defensive and not altogether pleasant writing.

So, I dunno if you guys, like, totally heard, or what, but word on the street is: I’m only in it to impress dudes. I know, right? Apparently I’m so concerned about doing this that I don’t even care if I totally throw other chicks under the bus. I don’t know why this is a big deal, or whatever, because, um, hel-lo! Boys are the best! They have, like, money and stuff to pay for my drinks. And penises! And obviously all of my daddy issues mean that I’m basically nothing unless men pay attention to ME ME ME ME ME.

One gets the feeling that the writer is either having a very public meltdown or she's further milking the site for all the attention she craves. Here's an example of one of the many comments she got from outraged readers:

I replied earlier but wanted to reply directly to you as well. No one is taking you seriously at this point, Daisy. It might be all in good fun for you, but it wasn't fun for me. As a reader and xojane commenter (who did not comment on the two articles preceding this one), this made me feel...trying to find the right word...kind of unwelcome. Even though I didn't comment on your other pieces and thought some comments were harsh, there were constructively critical comments that I did agree with and I read this piece feeling like I was swimming in passive-aggressive hostility.

And perhaps because I'm reading this as an editor too...I just want to red pen the last three pieces you've written and tell you to be an adult. It's fine to provoke dialogue, but making your readers feel like shit is another thing entirely.

xoJane is an interesting place. The enormously popular site's tagline  is "Where women go when they are feeling selfish and their selfishness is applauded." Obviously that tag line is just dripping with irony or quotation marks. But the site truly is a haven for over-sharing and over-telling.  There's a column called It Happened to Me, which  features stories like My Father Tried to Kill My Whole Family, My Father Disinherited Me (a beautiful and heartbreaking piece written by my friend Elizabeth Nelson), I Had My Third Nipple Removed, I Am in a Sexless Marriage and so on.

xoJane is actually a fascinating place to spend some time. That said,  it does remind me how dangerous a place the Internet can be. The on-going cycle of over-sharing as a means for attention can be pretty scary. And it reminds me of why I needed to take a break from my own blog back in September. Thick skin is the name of the game but so is careful and constructive writing with something compelling to say.

Posted in Civics and Urban Life, Postcard from the Slope | 1 Comment »