The last couple of weeks, I've been in dialogues with various people about the frustrations they face dealing with what I call "message board superstars" -- people who relentlessly pick, extend, and must end with the last laugh drawn-out negative threads on forums and the comments section on blogs. I always advise, "don't let it bother you," but then I have to deal with the same bullshit.
If I had to describe the negative energy you feel when dealing with this sort of shit -- it's not healthy.
Can you actually have a rational conversation with these people? No.
Will obscure continuity issues be brought up? Possibly. Probably.
Can you win if you answer them? No.
Can you win if you shut the comments down? No.
Can you win if you just walk away from the thread/comments in question? Probably your best bet.
And then the person you had the tangle with will, somewhere, get in their last word, and wait with baited breath for you to do something -- anything! If you can do anything to recognize their existence. An angry response? Great! More fuel! A link to their blog? Great way to get the Technorati authority up! Just...please respond. Respond with negative energy. Keep fueling it. Keep fueling it.
The thread pages keep adding up. The number of comments go through the roof, though most is just a non-dialogue between two people.
Somewhere, the actual topic in question gets buried in a pile of LOLs, and fan neurosis.
Keep fueling it! More response! More attention!
I saw this with the "Dan DiDio must die" thing, and, while I appreciated those who defended me, the whole thing scared the hell out of me. Then I saw it again with the "One More Day" thing and the personal attacks on Quesada.
Keep fueling it! More attention! The loudest one wins! (and when all else fails, make fun of grammatical errors).
And then I get disgusted by all of it and I say, "I'm going to be really positive for now on, and I'm not going to perpetuate negative energy on my site."
But that's when you have the Zen test of having a somebody go completely batshit on you on another board or blog. And here is the test: what do you do?
You get caught up in the negativity. And you spin more negativity onto your site, because it's infectious.
And then you reach the Oprah point. (Not that I'm comparing myself with Oprah, I just have a little blog that gushes about World War Hulk and Fred Hembeck)
Years ago, when the sensationalistic talk-show scene was in full bloom, she said -- I'm not doing this crap anymore. I'm just going to work on positive issues on my show.
Would the ratings still hold up?
If the type of mentality that drives people to say epithets against Joe Quesada on a public message board keeps up, or drives a forum user to get personally involved with a freelancer's life, will the easy sociability between the professionals and the fans keep up?
Or will the comment sections on these blogs, one-by-one, get shut off? Will freelancers stop interfacing with fans online? Will there be bodyguards/bouncers for DiDio & Quesada and whatever writer is getting hated-on at the moment at the cons?
This used to only happen with "letters to the editor." You could file those away.
We used to get angry letters where they'd write all in caps and tell us we were full of shit. They were so cute. They would tell us we should die because Hal Jordan was not Green Lantern. We'd tape them on our doors. The scarier ones we'd file away. Some we would forward to upper management because they had better resources to deal with it than we did.
Then, there were the conversations and debates you got into at your local comic store. They ended when you got home. Now, via all your lovely devices, you have at least two or three ways to extend that debate out into your home. And you can slowly roast on the coals all day, if you'd like.
I'm not a saint, and I've made my share of incendiary posts. But I'm just observing that the whole dark side of Internet discourse seems to be one that builds and builds, building gigantic feuds that spill into personal lives, building enmity, creating ever more obsessive fans, then these clusters of obsessive fans who all hate or love the same things. The Internet is largely not like that, but I wonder if it has to change eventually to deal with this obsessive element.
The Internet fosters an openness, but I wonder if, by virtue of this very openness completely taken advantage of, it will eventually react by becoming more and more private.
And I wonder if, when the openness of professional artists and writers and editors are taken advantage of, will they and this industry become more and more private as a result.