Why I Love/Fear Online Media

I dread it when someone leaves a comment on an article I wrote.

I fear some Internet troll has taken too much time out of their day to nit-pick a blog I published, an interview of a band that went up, or some random item I posted on Twitter or Facebook gets taken out of context. Then without thinking it through or reading what I wrote, they will quickly work to take me down or discredit me. 

It's not that I think I'm a big deal. I'm more than aware I'm not. This stems from a legitimate fear that began when I was covering local bands in Milwaukee. Some young noise pop band of some sort didn't like the way something was phrased or how their quote turned out. Maybe some obscure band released an album that I didn't like and said as much in a review. They would then have their friends leave comments on the article's webpage, post something sarcastic and clever on their site, or simply just write an angry email to the editor telling them I was wrong.

I've even had a death threat or two sent to the Inbox of my MySpace profile. The band would think it was funny. All it did was frustrate me. You really want original music to be championed in a city that is filled with cover bands and they're biting the hand that's reaching out to help. 

That was about a decade ago. I haven't really encountered such juvenile tactics since writing in Phoenix, but I fear it's coming. Some article I write or blog I post (which happens regularly on Tuesdays and Fridays now, if you haven't noticed) will set someone who is immature or isn't in their right mind off.

I am welcome to debate, discussion, and disagreement about anything I've written, but most people don't think what they're typing through before reacting. Want proof? Go to that Facebook friend's page who keeps posting all those political articles. Chances are that stunning piece of journalism they shared about how some politician took another politician down a notch with a soundbite was meant to enrage its intended audience. In reaction to it, people will write any vile, mean, and disgusting thing they can think of. I shudder to think how scarred for life Sacha and Malia would be if they read just one the asinine things a member of the NRA with a Facebook account wrote about their dad.

Need further convincing? I've been listening to interviews with journalist Jon Ronson, who just released his book So You've Been Publicly Shamed. People who make jokes online (some stupid and inappropriate, mind you) are taken to task on Twitter. Take for instance the story of Justine Sacco. Does it seem like the punishment fits the crime for someone having a coarse sense of humor?

It's always in the back of my mind as I post links of my work on Facebook and Twitter that someone will take something out of context and try to use it against me in public. Social media is such a necessary evil. It's allowed material I've written to be shared with thousands of people who might not read my work otherwise, but it takes just one person to take it too far in the other direction.

I fearfully await your reaction to this writing.