I’ve heard “don’t read the comments” so many times. But I’ve never had to take the advice because, well, I don’t usually get a lot of comments on my work. That’s the beautiful thing about writing things that no one reads: your words just belong to you, safely and securely.
I thought I had gotten past that perception. Recently, I decided to stop locking my words away from other people. And for about a year, I was able to without any pain. But then I wrote a post for a blog. And it was published somewhere else. And people linked to it on social media. And suddenly way more people read my work than I’m used to. At first, it was absolutely exhilarating. No, my article wasn’t exactly becoming super popular, but people were reading it. People were responding to it in a positive way. It made me so happy, I couldn’t even put my feelings to words. For most of this summer, I’ve been doubting myself. I haven’t really vocalized those doubts to anyone, but I’ve felt them. I think change does that to people; change fills people with doubt. I kept wondering “what do I even want from my life? What do I even want to do with my writing? What if I was wrong about everything? What if I have no idea?”
When I saw that my article had inspired people, even on a small scale, my doubt washed away. I remembered the importance of stories and the importance of truth. I remembered why I love words and why I could never abandon storytelling.
That all happened yesterday and I felt wonderful.
But this morning, when I went online, there were more comments. “Don’t read the comments” didn’t even cross my mind. My article wasn’t even controversial. I’m seventeen. I’m a little incoming freshman. I realize now that none of this matters. I realize now that if people feel like tearing someone to pieces, none of that matters.
I wanted to respond to the negative comment in a sassy way, telling the person that he probably didn’t even read my article and whatever else. But I wasn’t feeling sassy then. I was actually crying. And I’m not the kind of person who can easily say something didn’t affect me at all when it did affect me.
I’m going to be honest. I didn’t sit there and think about ways to insult this person. I didn’t sit there and think about how this person is a loser who has nothing better to do than insult someone’s article on a publication that he apparently doesn’t even like anyways.
I sat there and cried. I sat there and tried to think of a way to respond, but nothing felt authentic. If I were to tell the truth to him, I would have to say
You hurt me. For a brief minute, you absolutely destroyed me. You made me feel so worthless, so awful, so stupid for having faith in the human population. Is that what you wanted? Does that make you happy?
But I didn’t say that. I didn’t say anything. And suddenly, just when I found the courage to raise my voice, I felt silenced again.
It astonishes me. It completely baffles me. I could never wrap my head around why someone would insult someone for no reason, especially on the internet, especially to a stranger. I can’t help but think of all the people who have to deal with this so often. The people who feel the constant agony of logging onto social media but do it anyways. The people who are affected by this so deeply. Because, honestly, everyone says “don’t read the comments,” but how many people actually listen?
Because we’re all human. We all have stupid faith in the human population sometimes. We all want to inspire people. We all want to be inspired. We all want to believe in people. Sometimes we all are just waiting to hear “you’re not awful, you’re not worthless, you’re not alone.”
Forgive me for thinking that believing in people isn’t stupid. Forgive me for writing a story about what I felt. Forgive me for being honest and broken and vulnerable and human.
I realize now that I’m not sorry.
Do you read the comments? How do you deal with negative comments on your work?
P.S. You’re not worthless.