Good Writers Are In Danger of Becoming Extinct

by marinashifrin

Sylvia Plath would’ve killed herself sooner if the internet were around when she was writing her poetry. Can you imagine if her editor said she needed to have a larger online presence? So, being the passionate, aspiring writer that she was, she posted “Daddy” on her Tumblr only to receive a message which read: “u r a fat bitch, entitled cunt who should kill URSELF.” It’s enough to make anyone recoil from the internet, let alone an emotionally unstable writer months away from suicide.

When I got that exact message last September, I was sitting in my parents’ kitchen drinking tea. They told me to ignore it. But how could I?

Everyone tells me to ignore the internet. “You’ll go crazy if you read that crap,” they say, “You’ll never make it if you care about what other people think.” I really care about what other people think and I don’t want to change that about myself. I wouldn’t be a comedian if I didn’t care about the well-being of others. I want to be everyone’s friend. I want to press them to my chest and kiss the tops of their heads while quietly cooing, It’ll be okay, little bird. It’ll be okay. Call me soft, but at least I’m sweet.

Last year I discovered an old diary and was amazed by what I read. There were pages upon pages filled with 13-year-old scribble saying, “I want to be a comedian…I want to write people’s stories…I want to make people happy with my writing.” I’ve spent the past 13 years pursuing that goal, but never in that time did I expect what was going to be waiting for me on the other side of the publish button.

When I was outlining those dreams in my diary, the writing industry was completely different. Aspiring writers sent their writing to an editor. The editor said “yes” or “no” and all the “yes” stories were published. The writers who made it were ones who got a lot of yeses, the ones who didn’t, well, you know.

I was taught that I’d spend years of growing, getting constructive criticism, and failing. I learned that resilience, talent, and ambition were the tools which would ensure future success. I thought if my writing was truly shitty I would just quietly disappear into office shredders and that’d be the end of it. I never imagined that the biggest thing to stand between achieving my dreams, or turning my back on them, would be the fear of being called “a fuck shit liberal woman cunt” — another message I received from an anonymous commenter. Man, the internet really likes the c-word.

Last year I was faced with a choice: stop doing anything that would subject me to anonymous commenters or continue with all of it, and risk becoming one of those bitter people whose creativity is fueled by anger and pessimism. I am currently somewhere in between. I am never going to stop writing and I am never going to stop caring about what other people think — even strangers with poor grammar. I’d rather go down trying to make everyone happy, than not trying at all. That’s my promise.

Now you promise me this: if you read something you love, then write something nice in the comments section. Fight the internet trolls who use hatred as their form of entertainment. If you don’t feel comfortable writing a public note, then send the writer a private message, most writers are pretty accessible if you do a little digging. Many nice, smart readers are being muted by sexually frustrated teenage (let’s face it, they’re most likely teenagers) assholes. Even good writers still get the occasional tweet, message, or email containing language that shatters their confidence to the core. Why are there more angry comments than encouraging ones?

Internet bullies are eating away at brilliant minds, sensitive writers and emotional creators. We need to shield young people from the angry internet. If we’re not careful, the gentle ones will become extinct and we’ll be subject to a louder more caustic breed of cynical creators who never show their fragile underbellies. Our apathy is unintentionally shrinking what’s left of the vulnerable side of humanity.

Thanks as always for reading or whatever.


P.S. A quick story: There is a female scientist who has this small site where she writes about her experiments. A lovely producer — a man I know and respect — reached out to encourage her to start a YouTube channel. He thought she’d be a wonderful role model for young children (especially girls) who are interested in science. She, however, was not so keen on the idea because she was too scared of the comments her videos would get. So this great, educational channel may never see the light of day for a sad but completely valid reason. Young, creative people who need to be nurtured are being turned away due to the vitriol on the internet. Stop it, Internet.