A Thick Skin

A Thick Skin

It takes courage to have internet presence.

It takes courage to keep a blog, and to pour your thoughts and your feelings into a post and then click ‘publish’ without knowing exactly who will read it. It takes courage to make a video when you’re feeling insecure about yourself and to upload it to YouTube without knowing whether you’ll become the victim of harsh criticism about your ideas, your appearance, or your editing skills. It takes courage to go onto Twitter and to post updates as though anybody actually cares without knowing whether someone will turn around and tell you to shut up.

The internet can be a cruel place. Oh, there are so many benefits – if people love you on YouTube, you’ll be stopped in the street by strangers wanting to know if you’re “that guy off the internet” and girls wanting to marry you (hopefully not in my case, because I have no inclination to marry anyone, least of all a girl I’ve never met. Just so you know).

But it is hard to write something and to let it go enough to share it.

I’ve had times when I’ve come online only to see a rude comment about a piece of my writing, with no explanation, often anonymous or by what seems to be a spam user. I’ve had times when I’ve logged on to YouTube and found that a video had more ‘dislikes’ than ‘likes’ without a single comment to let me know what it was I did wrong in their eyes. I’ve had times when just the thought of Facebook made me want to cry because of what people said on there.

Writing is like that.

You never know what a review is going to say. Hearing people critique your work (“I hate your characters and want them to die” is at the more extreme end of the spectrum, but it happened to me recently) is hard. It’s difficult to separate yourself from your work and realise that just because they don’t like the story, it doesn’t mean they don’t like you.

I’m really bad at accepting constructive criticism, and even worse when people go out of their way to make me miserable without any explanation, which has happened in the past. Ratings of 1 out of 5 without any comment are the worst because you don’t know if it’s genuine and if you really need to improve that much.

I think the main reason is that I hate to be wrong.

If I correct someone and then they tell me that I’m wrong in my correction, I try and accept it. I say, “Oh, good point. Sorry.” But inside, I’m almost dying of embarrassment, because I hate not being the one in the right. I’m awful at apologising. Recently, I had a situation in which I was sure I wasn’t the one who needed to say sorry, but in the end it seemed that I would have to. And I think I probably did overreact in the first place and hurt people, so that’s what I should have done. I’m glad I did it.

Recently I’ve become aware that my sister is reading my blog, and yesterday (after an argument regarding my use of her camera tripod to make videos), she yelled at my parents, “Well, maybe you should read her blog and see what she’s really up to!”

I don’t think I’m “up to” anything. I don’t think my blog says anything that I wouldn’t say to my parents. Does it? The idea that people I know are looking at this and seeing the story with all the details I miss out when explaining it at school is very strange. It never bothered me that strangers knew all about my hopes and dreams, yet the thought that my friends and family might is worrying.

Why is that? Why am I more secretive from them than the rest of the world?

I suppose it’s because I have to see them all the time. If they criticise me or put down something that I want to do, I can’t just run away from it. I can’t close down the computer and walk away, because they’re real people. And the opinions of our family and close friends matter more, in general, than the opinion of strangers.

I try to be perfectly honest when I’m blogging or making videos. I also try to draw the line as to what people don’t need to know. The main thing that stops my finger from clicking ‘publish’ on a post, however, is the thought that whatever I write could be seen by anyone. My sister. A friend from school. A teacher. The head.

Once this is out there, it’s out there forever. I don’t know who will send a link to another person, someone maybe I didn’t want to see it.

You have to be careful with the internet. Unless you’ve got a very thick skin, it’s all too easy to find yourself at the receiving end of everything bad about anonymity in commenting.

14 thoughts on “A Thick Skin

  1. Great post. It is so true, the internet can be cruel. However, try to consider the anonymous poster as a person who is too cowardly to state who they are! I don’t take those comments very seriously at all because I tend to believe the comment has more to do with some issue in their life than it does with anything I have said. Otherwise, why wear the mask? I’m not hiding. They are. The criticism you SHOULD consider will not be posted anonymously, and it will give examples of the problems, but even then, art is subjective. Some will like it and some won’t. Just be true to yourself in your work. Give it your best.

  2. If people are making comments like that to you they are very wrong. There is never a good reason to be hurtful to another, criticism can be given without having to draw blood. Sorry you’ve had people talk to you that way. I would “unfriend” them!

    1. Indeed, sometimes you just have to know when to cut your losses and … what’s the phrase? … sever ties with people. Generally, the people who are ‘cruel’ are people who I don’t actually know, and often they are spammers. But when it is close friends – and often they are only trying to be helpful, but as I said I often take it the wrong way – it’s harder to ignore.

  3. Going to the comment your sister made. I don’t think it’s a matter of what you are up to, as if you are doing soemthing wrong, but a matter of your parents being ignorant of what you are going through. Or maybe they are not interperting your actions correctly because, well it’s been a while since they were your age, and the world has changed a whole heck of a lot.

    Anyway, as always, when faces with a difficult subject I’m not sure what to say on, I offer *Huggles* cause I know they he;p me when I’m having trouble expressing myself.

    :} Cayla

  4. Miriam,
    I just want to let you know that as an author you WILL get bad reviews. You WILL. I, too, hate taking criticism and it upsets me, but you have to remind yourself that not everyone’s going to like your piece. And guess who else gets bad, awful reviews? Stephen King, Christopher Paolini, James Patterson, etc. No matter what you do or what you tweet, not everyone’s going to like it. Not everyone’s going to like your blog. Not everyone’s going to like you. It’s upsetting, I know, but who cares? It takes thick skin, it takes gracefulness, but by putting yourself out there, you have to keep in mind that it’s what you care about yourself that matters. When I’m upset, I make a simple tweet and the support of my twitter fans always lifts my spirits. Why? Because they have good things to say, they think I’m funny, they like me. Who cares what some people think? Go to your fans, to your place of happiness and let them remind you just how great you are.

  5. I was thinking of the post where you admit to knowing you take on too much, work too hard, sleep too little and don’t do anything to change it (and then missed your english lit exam). After all, the school can’t rearrange the real GCSE…

    And also the fact that in five years time you’ll apply for a job and your employer will google you. This blog will appear and all your thoughts from when you were 14 will be there on the internet. Facebook might want you to put your whole life in their public eye, but I have a feeling that most of us won’t, in the long run, really want that.

  6. I love this post. Probably because I feel the exact same way. I’ve never, thankfully (*knocks on wooden table*), been on the really harsh side of the spectrum, but I’ve got a ways to go in terms of writing experience, and it certainly won’t be all strawberries and cream for me in life as a writer. I always want constructive criticism, but I suck at taking it. I’m also really terrible with reacting to a lot of flattery. I love getting it, but it takes me a while to think of the right way to respond.

    Let your problems go–you’ll never remember them fifteen years from now. And where will those haters be when you’ve published ten best-sellers for the world to see? Sitting at their computer screens, wondering why they never thought twice. Plus, I can just tell from this post that you’re writing is brilliant anyway.

    One last note–with the sister thing. I hate my family and friends reading my blog or writing, probably because I know them too well to think that their reaction will be positive. Plus, we need a little privacy as aspiring creators of the world. Doesn’t everyone? Sometimes even friends seeing what you do is a little worrying, no matter how well you know them.

  7. As a stupidly sensitive person, I understand completely – though half the time I have trouble enough telling anyone anything about my writing. But, as has been said above, we just have to suck it up, be men and rub dirt on it (awful movie quoteage xP)

    1. Yeah, you at least had the sense not to tell your parents you were a writer… I was stupid enough to come right out with it when I first started writing on the internet three years ago. Before then, they didn’t care. When they saw that people were reading my work, they began to care ;)

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