Lessons from a nasty blog commenter

A nasty commenter really got me riled up today.

I was reading his comments on my blog piece on our country’s tourism policy–or the lack of a cohesive, effective one–and I got offended and upset over his below-the-belt, derogatory remarks (including calling me “sweetheart”). I am usually a pretty patient and tolerant person, but I found this person’s comments to be personal, and so I reacted as strongly as my sense of civility would allow me. I wanted him to know that I wasn’t ignoring his comments or “backing down” from his attacks, and I wanted him to know that I wasn’t some lightweight doormat that he could bully while hiding behind his cryptic username. Looking back a few hours later, I realize that I may have over-reacted to his statements, or even reacted the wrong way altogether, but in some twisted way I liked it because it made my blood rush and I felt ALIVE.

That’s when I realized: I miss writing about things that matter to me so much that it hurts when people react the way that this @#$! did. I miss caring about something so deeply enough that I would treat the subject as personally as I could. That doesn’t mean shunning objectivity in my writing, but tackling a piece so passionately that I would inevitably give off a real piece of myself in my words. I hadn’t done much of that lately. I realize that I’ve been writing pieces that were safe, sanitized, straddling in the middle–in other words, lifeless and boring.

Que effin’ horror.

What have I done to myself and my work??

This realization comes in consonance with a realization that came to me over the long break (in which I ate and slept as I pleased, slept some more, didn’t mind my emails, and read the latest issue of Esquire Philippines): If some of us can edit, design, and build magazines, books, and other cool things from scratch, then we can definitely edit, design, and build the details of our lives. There will be some givens and limitations, just as a magazine editor will give you a word or space limit, but we actually have more control over the outcomes of our lives and careers than we care to admit.

I, for one, would like the details of my life to be filled with things, issues, ideas, and people that really matter to me. Not just those squeaky-clean stories that make us yawn and say, “Okay, nice… Hmmm, next!”, but those ideas and narratives that make us form definite ideas about something or someone. I remember something that I used to tell myself and my peers during our student council days in the Ateneo: “They may love us or hate us, but at least they’ll give a damn.” It’s exactly how I feel about the words that I’d like to weave. Readers may love me or hate me for what I say and write, but I’d like them to care enough, to give a damn enough, to form definite opinions. I may think, for instance, that that nasty commenter is a total @$$ for writing the things that he did, but I can also thank him for taking precious time to read my piece and post comment after comment–even if they had been insulting and hurtful. What matters is that I made him care enough to read; I made him care enough to take stand. (And if he has managed to make an @$$ if himself in the process, then that’s this problem.)

But, see, for that to happen, I first need to be fearless and to learn to put myself on the line once more. I need to risk; I need to give a bit more of myself until it hurts (at least, that’s what I think); and I need to be true to my own voice. I can’t keep hiding behind some other person or name and play it safe–at least not all the time. To do so would be to erode my own integrity and, in my book, “sell out.” And then what I would I have to offer the world?

I believe that I was put here for a reason–and my gifts and my words are part of that equation. If all I’m going to do is waste precious space (and people’s time) with the kind of writing that doesn’t make a dent in the world, then I might as well choose another career.

But, see, I was born to do this. And if it means getting more @$$es to care enough about what I write to throw nasty, derogatory remarks my way, then so be it. At least they’d care enough to read and comment–and then I’d feel alive all over again.

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