I was 18 in 1981 when I learned a hard lesson that serves me well to this day. That’s the year I began contributing editorial cartoons to my hometown newspaper, a gig that lasted 13 years. The lesson I learned is that when your work is published, a lot of people will disagree with it, they’ll be pretty harsh in telling you so, and you can’t take it personally.
I kept the thick skin I developed as a cartoonist and it’s a good thing, too. Because whether you’re drawing editorial cartoons or publishing an employee magazine or writing a blog, a lot of people will tell you that you suck.
The Internet takes that fact and puts it on steroids. It was bad enough back in my newspaper days when folks who hated my cartoons sat down, wrote hate-filled letters to the editor, signed their names (the editor wouldn’t run anonymous letters) and mailed them. Sometimes they’d pick up the phone and call or even drop by the newspaper office to tell me how much I sucked.
On the Web, anybody can write anything and they can hide behind the computer screen. Anonymity emboldens people and leads them to say things they might not say in person. Or maybe they would, in which case I fear for civilized society.
After I wrote my previous blog post on the Facebook bra-color campaign, someone on an Internet discussion board posted a link to it along with his response. I won’t dignify it by reprinting it here — besides, this is mostly a G- or PG-rated blog and this guy’s rant is filled with obscenities — but he ended by calling me a “sad waste of space oxygen thief.”
I’m not bothered that someone I don’t know feels that I’m robbing the universe of oxygen. I’m bothered that there is someone out there whose tinderbox of a soul was ignited by a blog post that, let’s face it, was read by a few hundred people.
I’m far from being the only one who is the target of such wrath. One of my friends sent me this link to a bit by stand-up comedian Russell Brand in which he responds to hate-mailers. And the funny website The Oatmeal compiled the “Retarded Emails Hall of Fame” in response to angry readers. (Warning: Both of these links contain coarse language.)
Kind of gives new meaning to “It’s a mad world.”