Growl, Snarl, Snap!
We like to pretend it’s not a big deal. That we’re prepared to roll with the punches. We have a good idea what to expect and we’re up to the task. We’re not overly concerned about gremlins coming along to feed on our pages, sample our cupcakes, attend our art show, or choke on our words. We know they’re out there and we’re ready.
We get it.
From the moment we reach the summit and stake our flag, we know to dig-in and brace ourselves, holding steady as our private little worlds go public.
Plenty to Say And Places to Say it–But Why So @#$%! Mean?
And yet far too often of late I find myself tripping over a mean-spirited review or comment that instantly causes my insides to crumble and my brain to clench, even when said assault isn’t directed my way. I can’t help but feel the angst breed from words that go beyond opinion and directly into assault mode. Words our mothers forbid us to use under threat of house arrest. Because they’re mean, just plain mean.
Review or Faceless Assailant?
We’re entitled to our opinions. Thoughts composed from our reactions and convictions count. We’re experienced something and we’re entitled to talk about it, damn it! Yak yakking loud and long, even after the lights go out and everyone’s gone home
And yet, at what point does opinion take on the ambiance of something else? Something decidedly mean-spirited–one syllable removed from outright cruelty. Does the reasoning behind this hyper-meanie-mode have anything to do with how easy it’s become to launch a hit-and-run from behind the security of a faceless gravitar spinning through cyberspace?
Well, yeah, I hear you. Opinions aren’t always a kind or pretty thing, particularly when we’re aiming for unbiased honesty, thus uber sensitive types might need to toughen-up or avoid reading reviews altogether. But when we’re talking reviews–good, bad, or outright heinous–there is something to be said about common courtesy and fair play.
For instance, these three sentences constitute an opinion and not a review:
“I hated everything about this book. I hated the story. I hated the characters.”
When posted on a public forum it’s a meanie flyby assault dropped with intent to harm. Taking a few moments to detail the Hate within the Hatred is the required component necessary to quality this as a legit and purposeful review.
This statement is Absolutely, Positively not a review:
“I couldn’t get past the first two pages.”
And so begs the question of what has actually been reviewed? Five hundred words of a 80,000 word novel?
Call me crazy, but if I start reading something–whether slender volume, cinder-block sized tome, or article in People magazine–and it doesn’t click the preferred receptors in my reading brain, I close the cover and select something else from my teetering pile. Common sense and old-fashioned courtesy assuring I have nothing legit to offer by way of opinion because I haven’t read it!
It Seems Both Simple and Humane
Regardless of whether another person’t work evokes hatred or love within our internal opinion box, there’s something to be said for respecting the fruit of another’s labors.
We all have opinions and they count for something. And when it comes to honest gut reaction, truth is not an option, even when it’s painful. But there’s a flip-side in the game of playing fair. Don’t just tell us that In Your Opinion something is wonderful or dreadful, tell us why. If you won’t recommend the eclairs from Lula’s Sweet Shop, tell us it’s because the filling tastes like chalk or the pastry is soggy, because “They’re crap,” doesn’t cut it.
If the book was unreadable because the typos set your eyeballs to near-combustion, the story was predictable, or the ending falls flat, that’s the thing we appreciate knowing, but “I hated the protagonists name,” not so much.
Keep In Mind
There’s a beating heart behind every creation.
YES, please do share your thoughts and tell it like it is. But give us some concrete reasons for why you liked or disliked the object in question. Stand by your comments and opinions, but, come on, kids, lets try and remember to play nice. Drive-by shooting are the actions of criminals and thugs. You’re so much better [and kinder] than that.
Care to pull up a keyboard and share your thoughts?
What’da’ya think? Is being honest the same thing as being mean? Have you been guilty of, or affected by. a dump-and-run?