I come from the Anthony Bourdain school of “if you don’t have anything nice to say, make it witty.” I can be deliberately contrary, especially when I’m bored. Is it possible to be charmingly obstinate? In retrospect, probably not.
These are character flaws (or not, if you’re laughing), but they are traits that do not have malice behind them. I’m sarcastic, but I’m not mean. I think I’m funny, but I genuinely feel bad if I’ve hurt your feelings. I try never to do that. There’s a line between wit (even scathing wit) and outright assholery, and if I occasionally cross it I will be awkwardly apologetic and uncomfortable in my skin until you say it’s all okay.
But that line is blurry on the Internet, and strangers can be awful to each other. Anonymity makes beasts of people who might otherwise be nice humans, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the comment sections of blogs and news sites, anywhere where an opinion is offered up for debate. I have been fairly lucky – this place seems to mostly attract good people. But there are a lot of meanies out there who seem bent on just pooping all over everything.
So today, given that it’s Say Something Nice on the Internet Day, I’m taking a break from our regularly scheduled programming to tell you that your stories are interesting, and your perspective is important, and that no amount of online snark should keep you from telling the world what you have to say, whether that’s “OMG SAMMICHES!” or “These pretzels are making me thirsty!” or “I fed my baby gravy and he liked it!”
Rather than argue with each other (“You fed your baby GRAVY? The only right answer is exclusive breastfeeding for the first 12 years or you hate your child. He is always going to know instinctively how you’ve failed him.”) or criticize each other (“Nobody cares what you had for lunch! And there is no M in SANDWICHES.”), let’s just support each other. There will always be someone out there to whom our stories are interesting. That anyone talks to me ever is testament to that.
I was lucky to spend most Fridays during my grandmother’s last years sitting at her kitchen table. She had a colourful personality and a salty tongue, and when we spent time together she would talk and tell me how things used to be and how I ought to do them going forward. She had read everything and she is still one of the smartest people I’ve known. She would tell and retell the bits and pieces that made up her more than 70 years. To her they were just snippets, ephemera that applied here and there to whatever the subject was at the time. But to me, they formed a narrative that spans a lifetime, and she lives on in every funny story I tell about her. Someday I will write them all down, and then she will live forever.
So forget those jerks who don’t have anything nice to say. Leave comments when you’ve enjoyed reading something somewhere. And tell your stories. I promise you that someone out there will really enjoy them.