Yesterday I read a post from a fellow author that re-emphasized something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately—the harm/benefit ratio of the internet. She had written a post on Facebook and then re-posted it to her personal blog about her journey as a writer. She began, as most of us do, lost and unknowing then learned a tremendous amount about the mechanics of good writing from working with a small press, and is now self-publishing. I believe she’s found the perfect outlet because her books are a unique mash-up of genres that would likely be beyond the imagination of most publishers.
In her post she talked about continuing to work hard learning her craft—something we should all do—and asked for recommendations of good sources. One woman replied by saying she had picked up the first book in this author’s series because the premise sounded intriguing, but couldn’t finish it because of “made-up words” and “improper usage”. The example she gave was a word common in vernacular language, although technically not a “proper word”. My immediate response was that if that had bothered her so much, she probably hadn’t been able to finish a single book written in the past thirty years.
What troubled me more was that this response was posted on the author’s personal blog. This reader (or non-reader) either follows the blog (why??) or made the effort to search it out in order to leave a negative comment. And I believe her action is part of an overwhelming current trend.
Freedom of speech is guaranteed in our Constitution, and as a writer I fully believe in the value and necessity of personal expression. However, simply because one can say something in public doesn’t mean they should, and all comments are not equally valid. For example, consider the absurd and inflammatory statements made on Twitter by so-called celebrities and politicians. Then consider the equally absurd and inflammatory responses from the general public. Cyberbullying has ruined countless young lives, and Internet trolls gleefully attack complete strangers just because they can.
I love certain aspects of the Internet. Without it I would never have connected with any of you. I wouldn’t be able to buy my favorite brand of chai latte or pizza dough mix because my local grocery stores no longer carry them. I wouldn’t even be able to sell my books. However, the availability and anonymity of the Internet has also freed people of all previous social restraint. Good manners and shame are things of the past, and we may never get them back.
Sorry for the rant, but I’m old and I think about these things.