My "can't even" about the comments on my Facebook page went from figurative to literal.
At just shy of a quarter of a million people (ETA: half a million now), gentle reminders have stopped working, admin-ing comments has become virtually impossible, and my patience for unacceptable behavior is exhausted. Too many people ordering a double helping of savage without even a side order of chill.
Thus, the time has come for an official commenting policy so that folks won't be making their best I-just-ripped-this-guy's-helmet-off-and-it-turned-out-to-be-Robert-The-Bruce-Mel-Gibson-as-William-Wallace-during-the-battle-of-Falkirk betrayed faces when I ban their asses.
Here's the TL;DR part for those of you who don't want to have to read very much:
If you are abusive or contemptuous, use bigoted slurs, are dismissive or derisive about posts that would be commonly labeled as "social justice,", promise to (or threaten to) flounce, or post spam links to either your own writing or a commercial site you may be banned without warning*.
Now here's the nuance if you want to understand it a little better:
Itty bitty point 1- If risqué language will make you blush, buckle up or do a tuck and roll dive out the passenger side. This shit's not going to fucking stop and I'll fucking ignore the fucking comments and PM's demanding it fucking does. Golly.
Itty bitty point 2- Apparently people can block pages. Just so you know if you pull that, I'll be erasing whatever comment you dropped that made me aware of the fact that I can't reply. No one gets to ring and run on my page.
Itty bitty point 3- I care about you and I care about you achieving your goals. What am I if not a supportive, but occasionally firm cheerleader? If you flounce, I'll help you stick to it because I know that's what you would want. If you tell me you're going to flounce, but don't seem to be able to find the door, I'll make sure you know right where it is. If you threaten to flounce in a spectacle, I'll make the decision much, much easier for you. I'm here for you, pal.
Tiny point- No, I'm not going to stop posting links to my blog. Ever. At least twice a day (sometimes three). That's the reason this page is here–to try to drum up a few hits and build an audience. And given my traffic analytics, it's not really worth the effort, but it's better than nothing. You don't ever have to visit the blog if you want to just enjoy the puns and the inspiration memes and whatever I find about writing that tickles my brain, but the snotty e-mails and whiny tears telling me that my page would be "so great if you just stopped all that self promotion" will be used to fuel my Genesis device.
Small point- I'm up to thirty or forty PM's a day. (Deplorably, none are solicitations for groupie threesomes! I mean why did I even want to be a writer again?) Most are spam or asking me for some kind of free editing or beta reading or to share their own page something. So I don't even reply to the majority of them. My freelance/tutoring rate is $50USD/hr and TRUST ME that you don't want me doing copy editing (though I'm pretty good at content/developmental end). If your solicitation for help does not include some indication that you plan to pay me or do me a comparable service, I will simply ignore it. (I get way way way too many of those every day.)
Check out my Facebook FAQ, and you'll probably find the answer to your question. At least you'll find the answer to 95% of the PM's I get.
Also if you PM me, please keep in mind that I'm just a person. I listen to Hamilton, watch Jessica Jones, play Fallout 4, love Robert Asprin books despite myself, can't tell when someone's flirting with me, and try to write every day. I wear big shirts because I'm self conscious about the tight ones, worry about getting enough exercise with a sedentary passion, and have a bad next-day if I eat too much pizza. Messages demanding I do X immediately or take down Y post because you didn't like it or "HOW COULD YOU..." will be cheerfully ignored. Add in some schoolyard shit talk to this kind of bullshit, and I will do my best Strong Bad "DELETED!" as I ban you.
Medium point- As of this writing, I cannot read the comments on this page.
There are almost half million of you and one of me. I often max out the 99 notifications for this page in less than two or three minutes. I cannot POSSIBLY keep up with all the comments even if maintaining FB were my only job (it's not). Furthermore, what was once a playful community with the occasional legit jerkwad has become more and more like the bottom half of the internet and all that that implies. I actually avoid the comments unless I suspect it's a post which will attract bigots and I need to do my banning thing. I know it's a statistically tiny amount, but the number of people confusing shitposting with clever makes me weep. I know you just came here to attack and now you're feeling such a good time, but I like parading through people's rain. Seriously though, enough people are really really mean that it hurts my soul.
Which means three things pragmatically:
ONE: if someone is being a complete ass in the comments, send me a link through PM, and I'll decide what to do. (Ban them. Warn them. Rickroll them. Whatever.) But I miss 90+% of what's going on in the comments, so don't count on me to step in if you haven't notified me–I probably don't even know it's happening.
TWO: if you want me to see (and especially if you want me to respond) to a comment, you should make it on a recent post and read the article before replying. I've ignored a lot of comments lately that either missed the point or clearly hadn't read the entire piece they were responding to. (I'm an English major and an English teacher, so knowing when someone hasn't done the reading is one of the skills in my set.) It's not personal; it's just a time thing. If you really want me to reply, send a PM. Just remember that whole "human" thing if you tread that path or I will make 27 year old pop culture references at you by saying, "You chose.......poorly."
THREE: I don't have time to gently warn everyone. ("Now now. Let's not be epic shitheels. There's a human being with feelings on the other end of your apoplectic abuse.") I'm assuming you already know how to be a decent person and that the internet sometimes helps you to forget. If I see bad faith behavior, I'll just start swinging the ol' Ban Hammer™Mjölnir [I call it M.J. cause we're THAT close.] You should know better than to behave that way (and you WOULD know better in any space that wasn't online). My warnings are reserved for folks who maybe didn't know they were on thin ice.
And I'm going to post my blog even though it occasionally dips into the socio-political.
I welcome suggestions. I welcome dialogue. I welcome discourse. I welcome concerns. I welcome criticism. (You might have to PM me to get my attention since there are so many of you, but I still welcome this stuff.) I will be especially receptive to the concerns that something I've posted has inadvertently engaged in some sort of institutional harm. However, if you comment (or PM for that matter) like you're entitled to have MY page be whatever you want in the same way you might scream at the Spokane McDonalds night shift manager because there isn't lobster thermidor on the menu, I can promise you that the conversation will go one of two ways: If you're just being boorish and demanding without regard for the fact that I'm not a robot in a skin suit sent from Khyron Beta Prime to please your every whim, I'll ignore while singing old Starship songs. ("And we can BUILD this dream together...") If you're being abusive, I'll ban you. There are HALF OF A MILLION of you. Even if I had an interest in keeping everyone happy, I couldn't. So I'll be true to myself, and if that bothers you SO. FUCKING. MUCH. that you can't give the ol' scroll wheel finger a quick workout, then you get to talk to me like I'm a sensitive artist and shit. Because I am a delicate fucking creative flower. Goddamnit.
Add to an above demand a threat to flounce if I keep doing what you don't like, and I will just assume that I should show you the door.
If, on the other hand, you're just going to feel jilted if this page isn't exactly what you want to see all the time, you should feel absolutely free to spend the next four years posting 10-15 pieces of content every day about once an hour to build up your own audience, and then you can make that page whatever you want. No promises that I won't stop by and complain though. Just for funsies.
This goes just as well if I post a joke you don't "like." I care (deeply) if I've inadvertently dehumanized a group of people. I don't care that some didn't get the joke or didn't find it funny. And trying to guilt me by telling me there are children or second language learners who might take it seriously won't really get much traction either since children shouldn't be here and I'm not billing myself as an educational site. Learning to navigate a world in which some written rhetoric involves satire, irony, or sarcasm is part of the cost of business in English, and my job on this site isn't to act as those filters for others.
Again, if something bothers you that much, drop me a PM and let's chat. But there's a "catch." If you want to get a message back: you have to treat me like a human with feelings. Last I checked, the cybernetic brain overlay had yet to take.
Beyond Hella Huge Point (about social justice)-
Every goddamned time I post an article or meme or anything that deigns to intersect with how writing and writers affect social issues, how language reflects societal prejudice, or the narratives through which we define our world that could use scrutiny, and (very) occasionally even the harm which specific politicians could create a new gaggle of jerkwads end up being shown the door.
Or hell, even just post a little Content Notice on something they think isn't a problem–so much so that it must be mocked.
It's not that they disagree. Disagreement I can handle. The comments all over this page are filled with disagreement–we're definitely no echo chamber. The problem is they either decide to react in the most dismissive and derisive way possible ("This is SJW crap!" "Ableism? That's insanely [r-word] you [c-word].") in which case this page is not for them, and I don't particularly want to have to deal with that shit post after post...OR they outright lose their composure and abusively attack other members or me for taking the time and energy to attempt to explain the frame of an issue or share a personal perspective on a topic.
If what essentially amounts to free tutoring about how language affects people who aren't exactly like you is going to be shat on because you wanted to "win" an argument, have the last word, condescend to the suggestion that the world is unequal and our print media might play a part in that, or treat people like crap for sharing an opinion that challenges the status quo, Writing About Writing is not for you.
There is a one-to-one echo that exists within this reaction that I am pretty sensitive to: abusers gas lighting their victims. Instead of taking a moment to consider why someone is upset, that they are accurately able to assess their own mental state, that they can be trusted to relay when they are feeling hurt, or that their life experience of marginalization may be something worth listening to, often they are told they are being dramatic or ridiculous and dismissed outright. Their feelings and even their actual experiences are invalidated. We see this in a personal relationship and it raises our hackles (hopefully), but when a group in social power (like men) do it to a group they have social power over (like women or gender variant folks) on a massive scale, it is considered perfectly normal behavior. And it can even cause the people who are constantly being dismissed and derided to question their own perceptions of reality.
(I think abuse and oppression have a number of shocking parallels, but maybe a post for another time.)
Let me be blunt about this. Y'all are writers, and this is a page about writing. You ought to know better than anyone that words carry tremendous power...possibly even to invoke harm. Nobody ever silently went to war or committed genocide without words first fueling them. No one ever articulated a justification for racism or sexism that caused people actual PHYSICAL HARM without using words to do so.
And nobody ever said "let's commit human atrocities" either. They always rationalized it away as necessary for their own protection....and they did so using words.
So if you sit on your couch every November 5th watching a dude in a Guy Fawkes mask bloviate between the fight scenes that, "Words offer the means to meaning," and then starts a revolution because the "truth and perspectives" of his words are bulletproof, and then you imagine yourself leading said glorious revolution with your own martial arts skill and throwing stilettos, yet you then turn right around and roll your eyes at those Social Justice Warriors being all "oversensitive" to some slur you didn't mean "that way," you are DROWNING in the irony of social power dynamics and your own double standards.
I'm not going to have a conversation every single time I bring up an issue of social equality with folks who's main conceit seems to be: "writers should be able to write whatever they want." You already CAN write whatever you want. You can write your sausage fest story with no people of color and one woman who constantly needs rescuing, and ignore every bit of advice out there about how to make deep and interesting characters Literally no one will stop you. And if you're in a situation where you can't write whatever you want (politically or socially), it's certainly not upholding the status quo that is what you're not "allowed" to write. Further writers often do write whatever they want no matter how harmful or objectionable. Rarely are their careers even impacted and occasionally that's what launches them. If these writers stay off the pages that criticize them, they don't even have to have their feelings hurt. So if you're going to react with hyperbole and loss of composure to anyone asking you to consider how and what you write....on a blog about writing, Writing About Writing is not for you.
But CENSORSHIP, Chris! But FREEZE PEACH!
Do you know what I hear Danny? Nothing. No footsteps up the stairs, no hovercraft outside the window, no clickeyty-click of the little spiders. Do you know why I can't hear those things Danny? Because right now, no one is stopping you from saying whatever you want. I'm not a government agent. This page isn't a public park. You have conflated freedom of speech with entitlement of medium. You've mistaken a governmentally protected freedom with the absence of consequence. (But for ten bonus points, see if you can identify the irony in trying to silence criticism by invoking your "free speech" ad nauseum.) And your little guilt trip, complete with a high school comprehension of the word "Orwellian," is not going to prevent me from moderating comments in my own space. This isn't even a social justice activism page. I'm going pretty easy on you comparatively. I don't expect you to be fully intersectional (or even to know what "fully intersectional" means). But the cliche that “You are awful and hate free speech if you block or ban people” is regurgitated mostly by the same entitled dillholes who don't like it when people have boundaries....at all....ever. I have like eighteen jobs and NONE of them are listening to you patiently explain why people shouldn't be allowed to define their own realities and tell their own narratives.
If you want to drop some hateful commentary, share my article in your own space with commentary.
Frankly, I'd rather have a smaller following where those who normally run screaming from the comments sections on most of the internet feel comfortable participating in the conversation, than a large following where the Status Quo Warriors speak over and run roughshod over anyone who has the temerity to suggest that maybe arts and humanities do something wacky like affect social perceptions, that representation matters, and that once in a while we might ought to think about such things. The whole damned world will let the people in power decide what is ridiculous to care about (spoiler: it's always going to be anything that challenges their power in any way). Here I want an actually diverse conversation, not just more and louder hostile dismissiveness reinforcing the status quo that actively silences such voices.
I care about how to question whether narratives are reinforcing institutional harm. I care about how much of the writing that exists (even wildly popular writing) often reinforces harmful status quos like racism, sexism, heteronormativity, transphobia, and more–things are ingrained in many of our narrative tropes or through our lack of or type of representation. If you want me to be vapid about the impact of writing and stick to linguistic prescriptivism that makes fun of legitimate English dialects (often in a vaguely racist and definitely classist way) or those who struggle to get the right homonym, drops the same dozen articles (and their knock offs) over and over on how to publish your novel/find an agent/write a query letter, and never really asks you to think hard thoughts about how powerful writing is in creating the stories shape our culture, Writing About Writing is not for you.
"Because maybe....JUST MAYBE, arts and humanities affect social perceptions and that's worth examining once in a while..."
If we can't at least consider and think about these things, we're just telling the same stories over and over again, not really exploring new ones.
In case that was too gentle, let me be absolutely clear about this: If your reply is nothing more than "This is PC bullshit!" or "This is crap. You're the real sexist!" or "Shut the fuck up with this pandering crap!" (or any of the thousands of variations on the theme that is intended to silence through dismissal that I've heard over the years) and certainly if you use bigoted slurs or double down on your "right" to be sexist, misogynistic, racist, transphobic, homophobic, ableist, or fatphobic after you've been asked to stop, I will use my admin tools to show you the door*.
Don't worry. The other half million of us will carry on without you.
You don't have to agree with me. You DO have to play nice in my playground.
|Me and M.J. hitting the town.|
"HITTING" the town...never mind.
*Once upon a time when I was getting such comments once a month, and before loved ones had cancer and before there was a three year old in the picture and before I needed to write a novel in a year lest I be flayed alive by my Kickstarter backers, I had the time to warn and explain the problem gently with each person in an exhausting choreographed dance (that lead to a banning or a flounce 99% of the time anyway); however, I do not have the time or energy to continue to do this. I will simply protect this community from that status quo defender bullshit.
The Just Not Worth It Clause You are in my space. (You are not entitled to be here.) You are generally welcome as long as you refrain from a few choice behaviors (see above). However, I am under no obligation to extend infinitely my hospitality to those who are constant sources of negative energy and make my work unpleasant. It might take a while for me to recognize your name, but if you are constantly argumentative, unpleasant, bellicose, condescending, and generally negative, I will eventually show you the door even if you haven't fallen into one of the behaviors above. Because it's just not worth it to me to have to put up with that on post after post.
Guest posts: I'll leave up anything (even if I don't fully understand it) unless it is to a commercial site or it is self-promotion. The former will be removed and the poster banned. The latter will be removed (and if it keeps happening the poster will be banned). If you want to promote something on my page, message me. Whether or not I say yes will depend on how much it has to do with writing. Basically I'm not going to let people spam my readers.
Pedantry: Knock yourself out, (lord knows I could use the help) but keep in mind the other rules before you decide that what your grammar fix needs is to be slathered in the gravy of bumptious superiority. I'll fix it if I can. The more obnoxious and condescending you get about it, though, the more I'm going to look at that ban button like Sylvester looks at Tweety. And if you are being classist and racist by mocking a legitimate dialect of English, it's going to be Tweety's last stand.
Links in comments: If they're not relevant, I'll erase the comment. If it keeps happening I'll swing The Ban Hammer™
Bot Commenting: The engagement is appreciated, but the generic reply-to-anything comment will eventually get you banned.
Post Attribution: I get macros from all over the intersphereweboverse. Pinterest. Other pages. Friends share things they find with me. Old posts. Even Tumblr. The internet is like that with people posting and reposting. Original attribution can be incredibly hard to find after things have been through multiple layers of reposting (even with things like reverse search images, which even if they always worked [they don't] add enough annoyance and time sink to an already thankless labor of love to make it not worth it). Plus many artists are happy to see their work proliferated just so long as it has their watermark on it.
As a content creator myself though, I know how much it sucks to watch something you made go viral for someone else without so much as a link or even attribution. If I've posted something that belongs to you or someone you know or have posted a webcomic with a watermark that you can't bear to see not linked with a URL, let me know and I'll edit the post.
Or if it's yours and you want me to just take it down, repost with attribution, or whatever to handle the situation. Unfortunately, there are some people will try to claim credit for something they didn't make, even editing out an existing watermark, so I'll be looking for some small indication of actual sourceage. (Usually that's a trivial matter for a content creator of linking the original post.)
I am happy to do this. But please remember a couple of things: First, you need to message me (rather than just comment) if you definitely want me to see it because I don't reliably engage with comments (see above). Second, be kind. There are a half a million of you and one of me and I am putting up 15 posts a day, so what seems like a trivial effort to you on a single post may not be to me, especially over time. If you want to be the attribution police rather than just a friendly "Hey I found a source on that post for you!" feel free to go run your own page and find out what a headache it can be.
Answering Mailbox Questions Without Reading the Article One of my human failings is that it really annoys me when I post one of my mailbox posts with the question as the preview text, spend an hour (or two or three or five or MORE) writing the answer, and people jump into the comments to answer CLEARLY without having read the article. It's like reading your own shit at another author's Q&A. It's like using your question to talk for five minutes and then say "Do you agree?" to a panelist. I spent hours on that post and seeing FB comments that obviously didn't bother to even check if they were being absolutely 100% redundant has a tendency to make my finger slip and hit "Hide Comment" a lot more than normal for some reason. (Interesting data point on such comments: it's about 95% white men.)
Arguing with macros in the comments (especially the "You should be writing" ones): Uh...whatever cooks your churro, boss. You do you.
I posted a thing you disagree with: I post things I don't even agree with myself. (Not harmful things, but stuff about craft or process.) Not every writer is going to agree on every way to be a writer--beyond reading and writing a lot.
Poll Nominations: If you don't go to the blog webpage and make your nomination a comment, it won't end up on the poll. If you just want the people of FB to know your opinion of a certain book though, that's a pretty good way.
You're so Clever: One of the double edged swords of a community this large is that there is often a "race" to be the first to make a clever quip with almost every post. No problem when they're funny, but sometimes people mistake clever and mean. If the timber of these quips seems always to be discouraging or elitist (or some other variant of shitty), you may eventually find MJ thirsts to revoke your commenting privileges.
Shitty comments: One of my admin powers as a page runner is to hide a comment so that only the person who made it and their friends can see it. I use this liberally when people are just being general jerkwads.
I only ban people if they're being bigots or extremely harmful. (It's always particularly funny to watch people who say "Watch, now we'll get banned because we disagreed," go right on commenting.)
Please also see my Facebook FAQ if you have more questions.
If you're enjoying this blog, and would like to see more articles like this one, the writer is a guy with a rent and insurance to pay who would love to spend more time writing. Please consider contributing to My Patreon. As little as $12 a year (only one single less-than-a-cup-of-coffee dollar a month) will get you in on backchannel conversations, patron-only polls, and my special ear when I ask for advice about future projects or blog changes.