Buried, lost, drowned under the expected deluge of IMO’s, SMH’s and, of course, the inevitable anger. Anger on its behalf by righteous defenders; anger at its stance, its omissions, its tone and very often, but most bewilderingly, anger at its very existence, indignant that it is taking up valuable space in the infinite recesses of cyber-space. It all too often ends in the chat room brawl- not an intellectual debate, an exchange of thoughts or a chance, in the cool white rooms of the internet, to hear the other side without the blood stirring spit and smug face of your opponent to rouse you. Instead it’s usually around 200 posts of ‘suck this fanboiiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeee!’ Often I wonder whether anyone would even notice if the article made it to print at all.
I’ll put in right here before anyone starts readying their responsorial fingers, that I believe, and beyond my humble belief there is plenty of evidence, that critical thought is crucial to our advancement as individuals and as a society. I’m just wondering how critical thought descended into suck this fanboiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeee. Here’s a question (or ten): how many of you have already started to formulate your response to my ramblings in your heads, not yet two paragraphs in? How many of you started by the time you had read the title? Have you spell checked me? Rearranged my syntax? Ground your teeth at my use of ….. don’t you just hate that? It literally drives me insane. And don’t you hate how literally anything that anyone does these days is done so fucking literally? Does my tone grate, have I missed the most important point- most likely something to do with apostrophes- is your temperature rising, your fingers itching, your mind racing through your ever ready selection of eight-letter put-downs, are you already gone?
I loved the idea of a comments section when they first started popping up. Finally I could voice my opinion and without fear of growing hoarse, as usually occurred when shouting at Jeremy Kyle. Normally no one listens to me – this might not have changed, but I write in eternal hope. My mother gave it a valiant effort before finally conceding, ‘but you have an opinion on everything.’ She’s never visited a comments section. I haven’t bothered reading Twilight because I dislike sappy romances, I didn’t realise the author suffered from adverb disease. Nor did it ever occur to me that it was singlehandedly sending the feminist movement back to the dark ages. I didn’t know that articles about celebrity cellulite were responsible for the collapse of the moral integrity of the human race, though I am curious about the metaphysical ramifications of how something that no one knew about and no one cared about, could generate 300 odd comments.
I’m not trying to be snide; I’m trying to be genuine, while simultaneously feeling faintly nauseous and deeply apprehensive about how this will be received. As a writer I am often paralysed by those thoughts, constantly asking myself, ‘what do they want?’ The bigger question is now becoming, why bother at all? My contribution or lack thereof may not trouble you, but I may not be the only person asking this. When Stephen Fry considered (for the first time) leaving twitter, citing ‘too much aggression and unkindness around’, his followers showed support by viciously attacking the man who had dared to spit out the vitriolic sentiment that Stephen’s tweets were ‘ a bit boring’. Fry ended up apologising on their behalf to the naysayer, but his relationship with the interpretations of his output remains rocky. I would say understandably IMHO, but opinions can be dangerous.
Deadly as expressing an opinion might be, the greater peril seems to lie in putting out actual work. You know something you crafted, nurtured, laboured on for months, if not years. Imagine what James Joyce after seven years dedicated graft might have thought if he’d read the comments about Ulysees on Amazon (overrated, long winded bore, 83 people were kind enough to tell me). Every artist, good and 83 comments worth of dreadful, has to relinquish control over their work when they publish, yet the degree to which the public latch a hold of everything as though they have the right not only to possess but to destroy, is disturbing. There is no respect or acknowledgment of the effort, the hope, the time invested, merely a sneering note on the misuse of the pluperfect. There is also the sense that with every purchase, some fraction of your soul has been bought. No one warns you beforehand that you are floating yourself on the internet exchange- not unless you read the comments section.
I used to think if my work made one person happy then it was worth putting out there, until I realised that it was equally likely to make ten people very angry. Not neglecting the death threats or worse- bickering with users named PUDSYTAKESITUPTHEARSE in a public domain. I’m sure most of you have been moved by the desire to put something out there, not to feed the wolves, born only to die a brutal death but to simply be: A tiny, shining fragment of what you are. I acknowledge that I’m writing from a deeply personal place, and whatever I say it certainly won’t be perfect. I’m interested in anyone who actually wants to add to a curious thought, but if you aren’t, I would prefer you move on quietly without wiping your feet on my whimsy.