Nathan Bransford, Author


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Don't Be a Jerk

Porträt des Francisco de Goya - Vicente López Y Portaña
The Internet has opened up many new avenues for people to express their opinions. It has empowered the crowd, it has emboldened the masses, it has allowed just about anyone with an Internet connection to fire up their computer and start telling the world what they think.

It also allows people to be a jerk.

We all know that people are willing to say things to others on the Internet they would never, ever say in real life. Especially anonymously. I mean, what is the other person going to do, punch them through the computer screen?

But here's the thing about being a jerk on the Internet. While jerks can say things on the Internet without fear of reprisals and without batting an eyelash, the other person on the end of a barb feels it just as real as if they had heard it in real life. In some ways it hurts even more, because it feels like someone is expressing their real, unvarnished opinions.

Call it the corollary of Internet jerkdom. Every jerk action can have a vastly disproportionate and wounding reaction.

How do you know if you're being a jerk? Let me help.
  • If you call someone a name on the Internet you're not getting something off your chest, you're being a jerk.
  • If you call a book a piece of trash on the Internet, you're not expressing an opinion, you're being a jerk. Someone wrote that book, and there are better ways to express yourself. 
  • If you mock and belittle someone who has done something wrong you're not helping them learn from their mistakes, you're being a jerk.
  • If you're knocking someone down to make yourself feel better you are absolutely being a jerk.
  • If you're knocking someone down period you're being a jerk.
We've all got to live together on this thing called the Internet, and last I heard they're not kicking people off the cyberspace island. Behind every faceless avatar and screenname is a living, breathing human who you can seriously damage with your words.

So don't be a jerk.






91 comments:

Barbara Kloss said...

Thank you.

I love the internet, but it emboldens us to say things online we'd never say to the person in real life (well, some might. Is there a jerk subcategory?)

I guess this saying applies to the internet, as well as people: "Your greatest strength is your greatest weakness"

Jasmine Blade said...

Cyber-bullying is the newest way for people to hurt each other. It's cowardly. And anonymous or not, you can't hide from your own karma.

Charlie said...

Very good post.

Anonymous said...

I wholeheartedly agree. In fact, I'd just debated this issue with some online reader friends a couple weeks ago. Some see no problem with being "honest" when they leave scathing reviews that tell an author they write like a five year old, or their work is shit. I, on the other hand, believe you can be honest without being cruel.

Sion Dayson said...

Thank you so much for this. I recently received a ridiculously mean comment on my blog and was wondering what to do: approve it because hey, free speech or put it in the trash bin because that's where it belonged.

This emboldens me. "Don't be a jerk". Yes, someone calling an author I interviewed names just doesn't need to be given any air space.

I love the Internet, but it also lets people hurt other people and hide behind a screen name. Thanks for this call to civility (wish we didn't need it!)

Kate said...

Thank you so much for this. I feel awkward every reading people be jerks toward other people and it can definitely turn the mood of the post/internet in general sour.

Mr. D said...

You want to hear/read people being jerks? Try a sports forum. Or a political forum. It doesn't get any worse than that.

Addie Zierman said...

Did you see that SNL sketch last week where they brought out the people who anonymously comment on youtube videos? Pretty awesome.

crow productions said...

It is a strange new world. I've experienced a so called friend on Facebook slandering me. It is unknown what his problem was with me. I think he just didn't like my opinion about something. I also see people saying things they should not say. Anyone can see what you think on the internet. There is no privacy. Jerkdom is running amok.

TeresaR said...

I think if everyone followed the ancient "do unto others" rule (older than the bible, older than Confucius, possibly), the world would be a much nicer place all the time...even the Internet world. ;)

Thank you for a well-written and poignant post!

Leo Godin said...

Mr. D,
As a recovering political forum jerk, I couldn't agree with you more.

Linda G. said...

Amen! Thank you for stating it so unequivocally.

Sara Raasch said...

I don't think people realize that this is a form of cyber-bullying -- cyber-bullying seems like something that affects just high school students. But it can also affect us 20-something, 30-something, 40+ something bloggers.

That's what these "trolls" are. Cyber-bullies. Cowardly cyber-bullies.

Elaine AM Smith said...

Well said. Bullying can happen over any distance.
It's funny how reading some thoughts are helpful and instructive but others about as constructive as the insights of the three year-old who hasn't learned tact or diplomacy.

Gale Martin said...

I am sorry to say that last year a literary agent acted like a major jerk. This person said he/she would read the manuscript of anyone who made a video of a certain rap poem. I made a video and sent it to him/her--it was sheer fun. I am a writer, not a videographer, not a rapper. Not only did he/she renege on the offer to review the manuscript, he/she made fun of me on Twitter, to all her followers, saying my video "sucketh" but never even responding to me good, bad, or indifferent. Now, he/she never said it had to be a certain grade video. It took me hours and hours and hours to do. It wasn't high quality--but it was funny. I lost all respect for that person after that incident.

Julie Daines said...

Thank you so much for saying this. Way too often people don't take a single second to contemplate how their words will affect the lives of others. But words can be very damaging.

It doesn't cost anything to be nice. Some people think that by being a jerk they are being clever or cool. But the truth is, most people just think, "what a jerk."

I wish there was a way to raise the common denominator on the internet instead of people always appealing to the lowest.

Liz Fichera said...

Amen! Some days I think the jerks outnumber everybody else.

Lisa Desrochers said...

Yup! Not only do the nasty internet comments hurt more because it's the persons "unvarnished opinion," but because it just got broadcast worldwide. I like how John Scalzi puts it on his blog: "Don't be a douch."

Ashen said...

Jerks are having an abreaction, probably preventing worse actions, the people feeling attacked have a choice. Why host impotent sperms?

K. M. Walton said...

Mean people suck. It's that simple. The only place I "enjoy" a mean person is in a book.

Caroline said...

Great post, Nathan.

I think we should add a category to the jerk hall of fame: if you think you're being constructive but you're really just being snarky, then you're a jerk.

Perhaps I have too much time on my hands, but I always re-read whatever I post online, especially if it contains critique. I also add "Best of Luck" or something similar so that people know that I am genuinely trying to help them.

Not only is the Internet anonymous, you can't see someone's real intentions. What you mean to be helpful can be interpreted as downright mean by others. And that's not cool.

Gina Black said...

As human beings sharing this planet, we need to make sure our actions and commentary have a positive effect. This can be done while still being honest. "Thou shalt not be a jerk" is possibly the second commandment for internet use. (The first being: Thou shalt not forward stupid jokes to thy friends.)

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

You are the original nice guy, Mr. Bransford, which makes your words just that much more meaningful. Because you live it! #thanksfortheexample :)

Josephine Myles said...

I wholeheartedly agree. I had to leave a certain forum because of a jerk, and have never returned.

And also, I know Goodreads is a place for reader responses, but some users really don't seem to care if they express themselves in a way that makes them appear to be a jerk. I've decided not to read any more reviews of my own work on there.

Manners - they make the world a much more pleasant place :)

Cyndy Aleo said...

And yet... not necessarily true.

I'm going to force the tech world into the literary one for a minute, Nathan, because there was a brilliant quote from Mike Arrington last week that was passed around Twitter like a plate of special brownies at a Phish show:

"Direct, brutal, no frills, awesome, wonderful, honesty. Versus being smile fucked by someone who’s hypocritically polite. I’ll take the honesty any day for the win. (from the post http://uncrunched.com/2011/10/01/brutal-honesty/

I had one of the most brutal rejections I'd ever seen on a query. I mean downright nasty. No proverbial "shit sandwich" with a few nice things sprinkled in. No "not for me." It was downright angry, and it came two months ago and it still makes me want to vomit it was so ugly and blunt.

But you know what? What that agent said was the truth. Maybe some agents were being TOO nice. I'll admit, I got out of line the day tact was being given out, but out of all the crit I've gotten, THAT was the bit that stuck with me. And two months later, after having that pinball around in my head along with the "OMG, you suck"s that go with it, maybe I figured out a few things that were missing and really needed to be fixed. Maybe I figured out how I COULD fix it. And all the pussyfooting around wasn't going to get me to the same place that the downright blunt "this is fail" did.

I've never been a big fan of Mike Arrington, and I've admitted it on more than one occasion. But the one thing anyone in tech always knew was where you stood with him. If he hated your guts, you knew it. I'd much rather know if someone hates my guts (or my writing) than have them say "not a good fit for the agency" while secretly snickering to other agents about how much my ms sucked.

Laura Lowell said...

Here, here...Jasmine and Susan said it nicely. The bummer is that the people who commented and probably read your blog aren't the people who need reminding.

Nathan Bransford said...

Cyndy-

I prefer honesty to platitudes too, but I also think honesty can coexist very happily with non-jerkdom. The truth doesn't have to be accompanied with a punch to the face.

Cathy Yardley said...

Love this. And working off of Cyndy's comment, I think that there's a difference between telling someone "I don't like this particular thing" and "you suck as a person because of this thing." Trolls cross the line, hating simply for the ability to hurt someone anonymously. Reminds me of Breaking Bad's DBAA: Don't Be An Asshole.

Bryan Russell said...

@ Cyndy Aleo

The problem is that the vast majority of people react in the opposite fashion. It's the harshness of the delivery that tends to blind people to the content.

I don't want brutal honesty. I just want honesty.

Sarah Davis Brandon said...

Snark often dips its toes into utter meanness. I stopped following agents on twitter because I decided there were better ways to "learn" how to do things correctly than to learn at the expense of mocking others.
Were there funny moments where I giggled? Yes. But when it was said and done, I didn't feel very good about reading it. I thing the agent snark is best left inside the office and not for thousands of followers to see.

Leah Raeder said...

I fall somewhere between Caroline and Cyndy. On the one hand, I think people should be unafraid to express honest, constructive criticism, without having to self-censor or leaven it with good luck wishes. We are adults; we don't need to be constantly be reminded that we're precious and worthwhile. Criticism is not therapy.

On the other hand, "brutal" honesty is usually more brutality than honesty. Cyndy's critique could have been couched in less personally judgmental terms and not have caused such psychological trauma while still getting its points across. A professional critic can separate the art from the artist, and focus critique on the work.

People should be able to express opinions civilly and stand by them without feeling the need to dilute their criticism with empty niceties. But this makes a good faith assumption that critics can separate art from artist, and conversely, that artists can take criticism of their art for what it is, and not as criticism of themselves.

RetroKali said...

Not everything that is in your head should come out your mouth. I have unintentionally written things that later seemed to misconstrue my initial meaning. So yeah, straight up cowardly jerkiness isn't cool but it is also good to triple think what you post before you post it.

Becca French said...

Great post. My teacher told me one time, "Don't try to win over the haters, you are not the jerk whisperer." I can't decide if it's comforting that most people wouldn't be such jerks in person or if it's discouraging that apparently they still think it. Either way, learning not to care seems to be the best way to go. If they're entitled to their opinion, I can still have mine.

Ali Trotta said...

Great post. Thank you so much for sharing this. There's definitely a tendency for people to be huge jerks on the internet. Lack of accountability and face-to-face interactions make some people brazen in bad ways.

Thanks for posting this!

abc said...

I may have been a jerk sometimes. Usually when I'm reacting to other people I perceive as being jerk. But 2 wrongs don't make a right.

Thanks again, coach Bransford. This is awesome! Awesomsauce, even.

kerrimaniscalco said...

I LOVE THIS!

There is definitely a difference between sharing an honest opinion and being a jerk. I think far too often people fool themselves into thinking they are doing someone a favor by being brutally honest.

Usually they're just being brutal. And there is a BIG difference with helping someone up constructively, or kicking them down.

Everything in life is so subjective, and we all need to learn to value our opinions, but respect others as well.

D.G. Hudson said...

Bravo, Nathan, best definitions of a jerk that I've seen.

It pays to use diplomacy, we're all on the world stage when we're on the web. Keep your head about you (when others do not), as Kipling said, and you'll be glad you did.

Perhaps those who use the 'anon' or use 'avatars' (like me) have had some of that backlash from the jerks of the world.

Jerks lurk, strike, and then hide. It's their nature.

Good advice, Nathan, and succinct.

Rick Daley said...

I'm in a tough spot because I'm a smart-ass. I'm naturally easy going and try very hard not to offend, but have crossed lines on occasions (albeit unintentionally).

I hate confrontation and don't like it when people are mad at me, so even though I may fail from time to time, I do put forth an honest effort.

WORD VERIFICATION: potoss. The throwing of poor people, for sport.

Taylor Napolsky said...

People are way too sensitive.

Joshua Peacock said...

Timely and wise words Mr. Bransford!

Tucker said...

What a jerk that Francisco Goya was, eh?

Heather Hawke said...

I don't want to be part of the crowd who watches and doesn't interfere when some kid gets sucker punched. I don't want to bully the bully either. I try to remember what my mother said - criticize the action not the person. Also, no pile ons.

Anonymous said...

And being a jerk also ruins the credibility of the Internet. Let's face it, those of us who've been around the Interwebs since middle school, have built up a layer of thick skin and we don't take the jerks seriously anymore. But, the problem is we don't take a lot of things on the Interwebs very seriously because of the jerks.

Thanks for posting about this. You should get a hug when you get home tonight!!

Michelle Muto said...

Perfect. Simply perfect. I'm sharing this post with everyone I know, in every profession.

Anne R. Allen said...

Well put, Nathan. It won't change the jerks, but I think we need to call them what they are. I understand there are actually jerks-for-hire on amazon who will give your rival's books one-star reviews. Since the jerks don't read the books, they post personal attacks on the authors. But surf around and you'll find the same wording in dozens of one-stars in the same category.

I completely disagree with Cyndi--angry critiquers aren't giving you an "honest" assessment of your work. They're giving you an honest picture of their own emotional state. Their words usually have nothing to do with you or your work. Angry agents/interns should work out their anger off the job, not take it out on newbie writers. That's unprofessional. And jerkified.

Isabella Amaris said...

Nice post, Nathan. There really is such huge difference between being honest (only) and being honest AND cruel. It's so easy to equate politeness with being fake or dishonest, but that's only half the story, isn't it? Where does it say honesty = cruelty/brutality? In that old jerkdom dictionary, that's where:)

I firmly believe that the content of what someone is saying (honest/dishonest) is almost equally as important as the spirit in which it is said (civilly/cruelly), and it's sad when content is couched so brutally that its message becomes lost in translation, tainted by unnecessary negativity ...

Isabella Amaris said...

p.s.

@Becca French - "Don't try to win over the haters, you are not the jerk whisperer." - I love what your teacher said!:) I wish someone had told me that a long time ago:) It's so going to be one of my personal mottos from now on. Cheers.

Megan said...

It really is WAY too easy to be terribly mean online. I mean, why would you say something online that you'd be too ashamed to say out loud?

Making people feel bad should never make you feel better about yourself.

Reagan Philips said...

Hmm...I think this blogpost fits very nicely with my blog's quote for the week...

Character is much easier kept than recovered.

~ Thomas Paine

I think it's a nice way of saying, "don't be a jerk".

Good post.

J.J. Bennett said...

I think the important thing is to understand that anyone who comments or doesn't comment for that matter is a real live human. So please act accordingly...

Sometimes it's easy to get hurt by comments whether they be true or not. But sometimes I feel the lack of comments is just as hurtful.

Hillsy said...

Maybe this falls into the realm of jerkdom – but I do want to kinda take up issue with the last of them: “Knocking someone down period”. I think there are exceptions.

It may be a semantic issue, so to get things straight from the off: I take “Knocking someone down” to mean taking apart someone’s argument/opinion/preference with the aim of making them look foolish and/or discourage comebacks. Now, in the main I totally agree, but there are instances when those arguments/opinions/preferences are designed purely to antagonise, or bully, or insult in the first place. I’ll give an example:

In “All watched over by machines of loving grace” (an adam curtis documentary) he talks a bit about a network/commune system that sprung up in the 60’s I think in West Coast America (I’m not 100% on the details). Basically these were heirachy free, equality heavy societies where no-one was allowed to intercede in any dispute between two people. In other words every argument was valid and valued.

The theory was without peer pressure, everyone would solve their disputes in a civilised manner, without creating factions. What actually happened was that bullying was given utterly free reign, because the weaker members of the commune were unable to pull together to fight back. The communes were torn apart by the very power-games they’d hoped to prevent in the first place.

Rolling this round to Jerkism (Jerkdom? Jerkality?) If someone’s being an jerk, by not challenging them, or rallying together and “Knocking them down”, you’re in danger of isolating the recipients of the initial jerkness. Now I’m not proposing that groups of vigilante commenters wander around the various boards, looking the character assassinate anyone jerking off a bit, but I’d say there’s a validity to sometimes slapping someone down if they’re being sufficiently antagonistic, cruel or obnoxious to someone else.

Perhaps it’s a telling point that the commune’s in Curtis’ documentary were supposed to be a self-regulating network where people represented each individual node – not dissimilar to the Internet itself.

Anonymous said...

Does this go for reviews, too? Like the jerks who leave one star on amazon because they thought a book was too expensive, or because they thought it should have been longer.

There are always going to be jerks. And we're always going to have to deal with them. It's better to learn this when you're young.

February Grace said...

it's been my experience from meeting people in person I've first 'met' online that jerks on the internet are also jerks when they turn off the computer.

They're just jerks amplified in a lot of cases by the ability to hide behind the screen.

People are just much too mean in general these days. That's why I live like a hermit most of the time and would all the time if I could swing it.

Mira said...

Great post! Timely for me, because I've been thinking about how I can be a jerk sometimes.

On the internet, I can do this. I like debate, and it's really easy to slip into scoring points in a debate by making it personal. It's especially easy to do this on the internet, because you can't see people's expressions, so it turns into a sort of game, which can be very hurtful.

I stopped doing this, but I have to be vigilant; I am extraordinarily careful when I disagree with someone on the net, because it's just too fun for me to try to win an argument. I have to be careful.

I've been thinking lately, too, about how mean I can be when I talk about the publishing industry. I think I need to cut that out. Just because I think an industry is exploitive (and no, I don't think it's mean to say that,that's just saying a hard truth) does not give me leave to "mock or belittle" it, as you put it so well, Nathan. It's potentially hurtful, and I need to find another way to say things.

But I do need to say things! That's the hard part. It's not okay to sit in silence and not express my truth either. No always, but when I judge that it's important, I need to be able to speak truth, but I also need to find a way that doesn't also carry an emotional punch, as you put it so well, Nathan.

And in the spirit of confession, I can sometimes slip into this in real life with strangers, too - like when I'm driving, or mad about something. I did this just yesterday. Someone blocked me in by double parking, and I couldn't leave for an appointment. I got scared I'd miss it and that made me really mad. When the person came out to move their car, I was extremely nasty to them. After I cooled down, I felt terrible - I could have made the same points without being so mean.

Anyway, I appreciate the post, Nathan, a reminder to keep challenging myself to be honest in a way that feels clean.

Anonymous said...

although I appreciate your general embrace of forebearance (?), it presumes one / we all live in a perfect world. recently, I wrote something that could be described as jerky, and while I see the value of what is a nice sentiment, your idea presupposes said object of derision isn't worthy of (or, an participant in creating) their calling out. most people don't attack for the sake of it: they are responding to a slight, and guess what - sometimes people are slighted, and have (IMO) every reason to respond.

mostly, I assume, and experience people as adhering to some general notion of "good." but those same people will sometimes sh**t in your face, exclude you, refuse to reply, or otherwise diminish you (yes, objects of scorn can be evil, withholding jerks), in which case, if you have a relationship with them, and there is something at stake, what is your option?

so your suggestion, while well taken, suggests a sort of mind-numbing (and soul-crushing) sort of passivity (and saintliness) that I'm not capable of. that makes me, ipso facto, a "jerk"?

I have a problem with this idea of being stoic, and silent in the face of anything bad. it seems to require a cabinet filled with tranquilizers, and a helluva lot of botox. to smile, smile, smile, and pretend is a sure fire way to depression. sometimes getting mad is the solution.

so where in your (blanket, one size fits all) solution is there room for dissent? or, any response?

and, yes, I'm aware: this probably makes me sound like a jerk myself.

Anonymous said...

Good post, Nathan.

It's been my experience that those writers who claim to prefer "brutal honesty" are looking for justification to be a jerk. Seriously, if you're a writer then you ought to be able to express your opinions without being mean or hurting someone.

On the other hand, I've come across quite a few writers who don't know when they are being personally attacked and when someone is stating an opinion which has nothing to do with the writer. Curiously, when one actually does attack them, they are oblivious to it.

Addison Moore said...

This is why I love you. You tell 'em! Good work, Nathan!

Marilyn Peake said...

This is one of your most awesome posts ever, Nathan! You are the king of non-jerkdom, and I don't think I've ever read a better article than this one about the damage that can be done by Internet rudeness. Kudos to you!

Emily Anderson said...

I'm always worried when I post anything that I'll get rude replies. Gratefully, they haven't happened on my blog yet, but I have had people attack me in threads (and my reviews). It's too easy to get pulled into a escalating argument online. I usually walk away, better to let someone win one than stoop to their level.

What I struggle with is finding a balance of honesty and kindness in my reviews. Giving a book 1 or 2 stars alone is cruel, but it's honest. I try to stick to the facts on what I write up, to think about things I would say to a critique partner. But sometimes you have an emotional reaction to a book and it's hard to keep that out of a review. I have on occasion succumbed to emotional reviews. *cough* Breaking Dawn *cough*

A lot of my friends on goodreads mock books and authors and it makes me sad. I've quit reading their reviews. One of them was upset by an author's blog post condoning kindness and posted her own rant about censorship. I think it's unnecessary to be cruel. If I ever get published, I'll want to avoid goodreads and amazon reviews. They're poisonous to writer confidence.

E.R. King said...

Well said, Nathan. It's refreshing to have someone post about bad behavior on the Internet. Too many people get away with too many things when said behind the curtain of a computer screen. Bravo!

ChristianRB82 said...

Wholeheartedly agree with the spirit of the post, particularly regarding trolls on forums, Amazon etc.

However, if your online writings inherently involve some degree of criticism or review of others' work, you're entitled to do so, provided you're responsible and professional about it.

I do a lot of theatre reviews on my blog, and a number of them are inevitably negative, not because I'm 'out to get' the shows, but because they're not very good.

I try to support my points and make them specific, keep my criticism to the show (never the artists), and never rip into an amateur or community show (they're just doing it for fun, after all). If a piece is still in its formative stages, I also try to give it that understanding.

But any piece of theatre in the professional arena that's survived the workshopping process and run the gauntlet long enough to charge $100-150 or more per ticket is going to be held to a certain standard, and that's not unreasonable, or jerk-like.

If it is, then arts writers everywhere might as well quit, and I guarantee you that would be infinitely worse for the industry.

janesadek said...

What gets me are the people who want to go around labeling others and then preaching at them. I have a wide diversity of friends on facebook and they don't always play well with one another. If somebody steps on my toes, I just move my feet. No need to start a word fight that needs a referee. We all had mothers and this is still America. You don't have to agree with people, but they do have the right to speak their opinion. If it's racist, anti-feminist or whatever, no one really needs you to label it and preach the sermon. We get it. We're just more polite.

Val said...

In the end, the only opinion that matters is person buying your book with their hard earned cash. If a writer's work can't pass muster with the reader, then does it really matter what fellow writers think? We are in competition with one another for goodness sake and of course from time to time the green eyed monster will rear its head and tear a colleague a new one. Let's be honest here, the only people who care enough to review a book are other writers, so read them at your peril! I'll leave you with a quote from a VERY successful author about a few other VERY successful authors and this should prove it has nothing to do with the anonymity of the internet but everything to do with the insecurity and ego of creative people.

"Both Rowling and Meyer, they’re speaking directly to young people. ... The real difference is that Jo Rowling is a terrific writer and Stephenie Meyer can’t write worth a darn. She’s not very good."

"Somebody who’s a terrific writer who’s been very, very successful is Jodi Picoult. You’ve got Dean Koontz, who can write like hell. And then sometimes he’s just awful. It varies. James Patterson is a terrible writer but he’s very very successful."

-Stephen King


*Note, his last line in this little diatribe says it all. Ah, capitalism among the literati. We are not above wanting to make the money, none of us. See? The reader is the boss and no one else really matters, even if it is Stephen King.

Anonymous said...

Sion Dayson-- it's true free speech is the law of the land, but there's no law obliging you to provide the venue! Let them get their own blogs.

Heather Marsten said...

I agree, there is a way to be nicely honest. I figure to treat others as I would want to be treated.

Have a blessed day.
Heather

Lauren said...

Well said, Nathan! Thank you for this.

Carol Riggs said...

Yup! You said it well. Let's all go forth and NOT be jerks. :)

ginny martyn said...

*Sigh* I hate that I needed to hear this today.

CG Blake said...

Nathan,
Great post. I think in part people act like jerks due to being emboldened by the cloak of anonymity and in part due to a general decline in civility. There are still nice people on this blog, though.

Fiona Li said...

Wow. I love how you clarified what being a jerk is. This post does make an excellent point.

sarasligar said...

I'm always amazed at how nasty some people can be online. I've never understood how people can be so mean - and while, yes, some people may not intend it, most, I'm afraid, do. It's one thing to disagree agreeably, and quite another to be hurtful.

mapelba said...

People have to be jerks online obviously feel they have no real power in the real world. They love the reactions and the hurt feelings. The old you-have-to-tear-others-down-to-feel-big belief system.

Criticism is fine. Not liking something is fine. But I've seen comments that wished violence on others or that have compared individuals to forms of meat. This goes beyond simply I-didn't-like-your-story.

I don't engage with these people. I know their lives are small and empty, and no matter what they say to me, I will always be happier than they'll ever manage.

J.R. Williams said...

This so needed to be said! Thanks for posting!

momslifeponderings said...

Amen! There's something about being behind a computer screen or behind the wheel (as in agressive driving) that makes some think they can do and say things without any consequences. Thanks - great post!

Mansion Street Lit. Mgmt. said...

Thank you. Was discussing this with my consultant today. Have noticed an uptick in mean-spirited book reviews among well respected book magazines. Makes me wonder where they are outsourcing to.

Terin Tashi Miller said...

Well said! And I love the portrait of Don Francisco de Goya.

Amie Borst said...

there's another word for jerk: BULLY!
maybe the internet should have a zero tolerance policy! :)

wendy said...

I've been on the receiving end of some jerkness, but I hope I've not been a perpetrator. Can't claim perfecion when on the internet or anywhere else.

Perhaps if when we feel angst towards another, trying to understand that person and their actions can help to diffuse the anger. In fact, I spectulate that an understanding attitude towards others might be the highest form of love on this planet. There's romantic love that might seem to be the pinnacle, but it's more more about unrealistic expectations and ego, I think.

Understanding is the key.

James Pinnick said...

Nathan,

I just started reading your blog! Nice job! I look forward to your future posts!


Author-The Last Seven Pages

www.jamespinnick.com

Michelle Levy said...

ugh! the one star reviews on goodreads, amazon, and barnesandnoble kill me! i mean, some of those jerks haven't even read the darn books and they write the meanest things.

look, everyone's entitled to their opinion, and all that, but personal attacks are just hurtful and cowardly. and as much as we all know better than to take it to heart, a little part of us dies each time we read something as negative and mean-spirited as we all know anonymous commenters can be.

and don't even get me started on youtube.

bullying is bullying is bullying.

em frappier said...

Thanks for this. The anonymous jerks are bad. The ones you know are worse. I believe everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I also believe in kindness and constructive criticism.

Christine Murray said...

Well said! I couldn't agree more. The internet allows people to be nasty without having to think about the consequences. On the plus side, there's a lot of lovely people online who build people up rather than pull them down.

Matthew MacNish said...

There are two kinds of people: those who raise themselves up by tearing others down, and those who raise themselves up by lifting others up.

On of them is a jerk. Don't be a jerk.

Anonymous said...

I've met a lot of jerks in my time, which is why I disagree with this post. There are plenty of people who are jerks everyday, right to your face. Sometimes asteism, sometimes its backhanded but most often it's unintentional. I've little doubt that everybody including you has been a jerk many times and aren't even aware of it.

You're argument is based upon the idea that people wouldn't be this way in real life, but that's a false assumption. Maybe it would happen less in real life, but we'd be comparing apples to oranges.

What face to face relationships do we have that function like a blog. From topic to the number of people we reach.

It'd would be an interesting experiment. Have someone interact the the same number of people one on one that they do on their blog. I'd be surprised if there was a significant difference in their perception of "jerks."

The internet has not made people different. We're the same assholes we always were. This is why writers need a thick skin.

Sarah said...

Yes indeedy.
May I share a personal experience of advanced online jerkiness?
My brother is the film editor Joe Walker. He recently edited the crowd-sourced film A Day In The Life, turning thousands of hours of film sent in via You Tube from all around the world (and in dozens of different languages) into a coherent, witty narrative of life on this planet on a single day. It's a superb, life-affirming film (do rush out and see it), and was obviously an astonishingly complex editing project even if the results were not your cup of tea. The film was publicised on YouTube under such titles as 'Joe Walker talks about Life in a Day' etc.
However, it appears that this planet has more than one person called Joe Walker. (Who would have thought it?)
Fans of one of the other Joe Walkers in existence were apparently outraged that my brother was not their idol, and several - it seemed to me like many, but I can't bear to re-read the threads - actually questioned his right to 'call himself' Joe Walker and generally behaved like enraged baboons with a keyboard.
It may partly be herd mentality, as it seems one flamer attracts more - unless, of course, it's a single nutter, obsessing about something under a number of different names.

jillypumpkin said...

so true! awesome!

Jessica33 said...

I think evryone should learn some internet ettiquite. In my online college courses the professors tell us to not put words in all caps because it looks like you are yelling and we shouldn't use sarcasim because it doesn't read like a joke. There are ways to write a blog or whatever without sounding like a jerk and maybe these people don't know they do sound that way. If they are doing it intentionally then they are going to have a hard time getting a job and having friends. Employers look at everything on the web about you before they hire you. So be careful of what you say. Who knows who will be reading it?

Anonymous said...

Grow a thicker skin, already.

Repeat after me, boys and girls:

"Sticks and stones can break my bones
but words can never hurt me."

Don't be such a wuss, Nathan. You got a pair or don't you?

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

It takes a thicker skin to be kind in public than to take potshots anonymously. Live what you preach.

Daniel McNeet said...

Nathan,

Good post. I agree, "Live what you preach." You can be positive and engage in constructive criticism. Help others. Do not denigrate. Make a contribution to the betterment of society.
One of the many good things about the United States is: Everyone is entitled to their opinion; no matter how ill-founded in fact it may be.

MisterBastard said...

But... but... jerks are good! Every writer needs a few jerks hanging around. Without jerks, how would one create an interesting antagonist?

Nice people don't sell books. Jerks do.

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