For this issue’s ATSL, The Blue and White endeavored to grapple with the most pressing question concerning the Columbia community (or, perhaps, just Bwog readers): should you read the comments? While we obviously think you should, Features Editor and magazine contributor Tatini Mal-Sarkar, CC ’17, tells you why, and staff writer Mabel Taylor, BC ’18, tells you why not.
Affirmative by Tatini Mal-Sarkar
It’s 3am, and you’ve just written your last (you hope!) draft of Harry Potter/Lord of the Rings/Flo from Progressive fanfic. You pause as you pretend to reread the passionate prose and consider the quality of the work you’ve just completed. Ah, you sigh in relief. It’s beautiful and eloquent and a downright masterpiece, you think to yourself. You hit post. You smile happily and treat yourself to a pint of ice cream in celebration. What glory you’ll attain through fanfiction.net. Suck it, Franzen.
Two days later, you begin pondering what the spectacular world of the splendid Internet thinks of your work. After all, if you love something this much, it must love you back, right. Right? And honestly, “Clearer Than My Tears” is objectively an exquisite work of art.
So you leap over your initial hesitance and bound towards the candy shop of joy that the comments must be. “Beautiful language and excellent plot,” you expect to find. “A real pleasure to read. Can’t wait 4 more!!!!!” Extravagant praise in limitless quantities—praise you deserve. Your fingers flutter nervously above the keyboard, heart pounding.
But alas. No such luck. Far from 700 five star reviews, you catch a glimpse of two stars, one star, sad broken halves of stars, black holes. “Bizarre, poorly written, and boring,” are the words you so didn’t see coming. Your self-esteem comes crashing down, your heart palpitates in shame, and your hands, fumbling for those specialty Chocolate Frogs you bought last week, close in instead on your still-hot hair straightener. Even Frodo, forced to rescue Flo from merpeople in the Triwizard Tournament, never endured such anguish.
Twenty seven minutes and one red velvet, cream cheese frosted Entenmann’s cake later, you emerge from your cesspool of angst and self-loathing, a burgeoning butterfly from the cocoon of your past self. You’re distraught, yes, but dedicated to a future of improvement. You’ve reread your work, and discovered at least three typos (not the least of which was “potatos”). One disappointment, you know, does not equate to a lifetime of failure—and what even is disappointment but a learning opportunity?
Yes, it’s a bit naïve, perhaps, to think that all comments serve as a jumping-off point for improvement but there’s something to be said for seeking genuine opinions and feedback of other people. Not all commenters are trolls and the strength of the Internet stems from its interactivity. At the end of the day, maybe you should try to start using more commas in your work. Or any punctuation besides exclamation marks. Maybe you really didn’t actually know the meaning of some of the words you used, like “masticate,” or “penumbra,” (as in “he masticated Flo’s penumbra!”).
Plus, Frodo’s a hobbit, damnit, his dick doesn’t have to be a foot long, “dumbfuck” is one word not two, Rhûn is a coastal region and thus standard homeowners insurance is unlikely to cover floods, nuclear accidents, or magical warfare——nor would it contain a cash value component that builds with time—and HarryxDraco4eva69 has a point when he thoughtfully recommends that you quit your job, burn the house down, give him the money and the orbs, and retreat with him to the forests of Northern Saskatchewan to rear a race of dwarves in preparation for the return of the Dark Lord.
You can be free of the trolls without ignoring the genuine feedback. Just don’t let them get you down!
Negative by Mabel Taylor
Should you read the comments?
You have never known such joy.
You feel tingles of ecstasy cascade up and down your body. You are alive. You can forget about the drudgery of everyday life, the neverending paperwork, the goddamn turmoil in the Middle East. Leave it all behind. It doesn’t matter anymore.
You just poured your heart out. Your literal heart. That pulsating orb of blood and muscle that keeps your brain ticking and your dick tocking? You took it and you put it on the doggone page. And then what? You posted that shit. You gave it a quick proofread and bought it a one-way ticket to Internetville. Congrats, amigo. Well-done.
So now, after all that we’ve been through, you’re going to even consider reading the comments? I don’t believe it. I don’t get it. I am a ship adrift on the sea. I am a forgotten puppy left to sweat and die on the car dashboard. Think with me for a minute. Think about every draft, every in-depth character analysis, every painstaking trip to theonering.net for information on Tolkein’s bathing habits. Think about the children. All the children you could have had, that is, if you weren’t so busy squeezing your masterpiece out of the hot, distended cervix of your imagination. This is your baby. Your slimy, veiny crotchfruit. Wipe away the uterine goo and look at it. It’s beautiful. It’s a motherfucking miracle.
You are an artist. A rare creative soul making this world a better place with your enchanting wordsmithery and your dope use of symbolism to convey the challenges of being an insurance salesman in Rhûn, east of Rhovanion and just south of the best regions of Middle-earth. The good ones, without cheapskates and muggles. What are comments? Comments are the infectious spores of a deadly bacteria. The tip of the iceberg that’s going to leave your boat mercilessly wrecked on the ocean floor of the icy Arctic. The bitter hot breath of the bear that wants to rip out your jugular and urinate on you as you bleed out. They’re the assholes who put the placenta in the fridge and fry it into their morning after omelet. It’s not a mushroom. It’s a fucking placenta. Fuck the comments.
Forget about the trolls and think about all the dwarves you need to write about! Don’t abandon the dwarves, man. Please. They need you. I need you. What you don’t need is some dumb fuck with couch sores telling you how to improve your writing. Because here’s the truth that everyone in their rightful jealousy is denying: you are perfect. Natalie Portman at the end of Black Swan perfect. You don’t need other people or their shit advice. All you need is a motherfucking keyboard. And a brain. That’s it. I swear. You’re at work on something bigger here. Bigger than all the “this sucks” and “what a nerd” and “burn your computer” comments. Bigger than all the one-star reviews and the heckles and the nominations for the FanFic Hall of Shame. As Our Lady Queen of Pop Taylor Swift tells us, haters gonna hate, hate, hate.
You gotta shake it off. Shake it off, my wayward son.