One of my secret delights of www.pablochiste.com is learning that someone left a comment on one of my posts. Usually the commenter is someone I know, so they are supportive and if they do criticize my stances or my writing it is usually quite gentle. My ego is truly grateful for every response as it’s nice to know someone is reading these musings rather than just clicking on the site and then getting bored after the first sentence and deciding to spend their internet time on an adult website.
But my favorite type of comment is when someone trashes what I write or calls me a bunch of nasty names. This allows me to feel more important as I angered a bitter person who has no idea who I am. It’s the virtual version of accidentally cutting off a jerk on the road.
The harsh criticism is a nice humbling tool to remind you of your place in the universe. The anonymous nature of the internet allows people to be as insanely critical as can be imagined. The exact opposite forum is taking a writing class in an honest to goodness classroom. I remember sitting in a couple creative writing workshops where students’ writings were discussed in an open forum. No one wanted to step on anyone’s toes and so some of the worst stories you could ever imagine were complimented. “I really liked the way you used the word groovy when describing the protagonist’s shoes.” These classes are like fortune cookies in that there is never a negative message.
There is one exception I can think of, but it involved pre-internet anonymous messaging. I was taking a film class. We would screen our short films and everyone was to write on a scrap of paper what we thought of each student’s film. We would discuss each student’s movie aloud and then the auteur would have a bunch of ripped up pieces of paper to read at their own leisure. Usually, the comments were no sharper than the passive critiques made to the student’s face. But this one friend confided that he had received a note that said,”You’re shit.” He was pissed off about it, but I found the note hilarious.
So much so that the next time it was that kid’s turn to share a movie I wrote two comments on two different sheets of paper. One was kind and supportive. The other one I wrote with my left hand and said, “You’re still shit. You waste our time with another movie I’ll kick your ass.”
The papers were passed forward. After we all discussed the merits of his movie, the kid went back to his seat and the next subject of criticism went to the front of the class. I watched him as he read through the papers. I began laughing as he looked around the entire classroom and then walked up to the teacher’s perch. He whispered something to the teacher and handed the teacher one of the notes. The teacher laughed as he read it and stopped everything to remind the class to take the criticism’s more seriously and not to insult your fellow student.
After class I told my friend I wrote that note as a joke. We never found out who wrote the first note. He is probably lurking on a message board as we speak.