Last night while sorta-watching the Grammy awards (they were on; I was doing last-minute weekend chores), I paused when I heard Taylor Swift singing "Mean."
If you're not familiar with the song, the video is here on YouTube:
Part of the lyrics read:
You, with your words like knives and swords and weapons that you use against me
You have knocked me off my feet again got me feeling like I'm nothing
You, with your voice like nails on a chalkboard, calling me out when I'm wounded
You, pickin' on the weaker man
Her ballad made me think about how mean we seem to have become as a society. You can blame it on the anonymity the Internet provides, but I'm astounded at the meanness that prevails today. It's gotten so bad that you see people disabling comments on blogs or articles, blocking people on Facebook, doing whatever possible to heed off negativity. I could give you a list of examples I've seen, but I have no doubt you've seen them too. In fact, I remarked to my boy the other day that I could post an article about how I'm donating most of my paired organs and someone would question why I wasn't giving more. Or my motives. Or slam my haircut if a photo of me accompanied the story.
Why you gotta be so mean?
It's enough to make you want to crawl in a hole and keep anything and everything about your life private. But writers depend on publicity to help sell books. In fact, most authors I know work tirelessly to self-promote by whatever means possible: Facebook, guest blogging, Twitter as well as hoping people post positive reviews on Amazon, Good Reads, B&N, etc.
I'm not naive enough to think that anyone is immune to negative reviews. Even best-sellers don't resonate with everyone. I do think it's not too much to expect people to play nice. Posting ugly comments about a book--even to go as far as to say that the author has no business being published--is really just mean. If you think your comments might be helpful to other readers, then I think that's fine. Just remember that authors are human beings with feelings and do read their own books' reviews. Even though you're commenting about a BOOK, you're really commenting about the person who wrote it.
If anything, you can try living by the mantra my mother used to repeat to me: If you can't say something nice about someone, don't say anything at all.
As I step off my soapbox, let me leave you with one last suggestion: If you've recently read a book you enjoyed--or even absolutely loved--make that author's day and leave a positive review on a book site such as the ones mentioned above.
I think Taylor would approve.