So, Tablet published a piece of mine this week. It’s been a crazy experience.
In the first place, writing the piece was a bit out of my comfort zone. While I usually write fiction, this is a personal essay. In brief, the story is about confronting my inner teenager as I’m approaching 40 and relates an episode where I thought a younger man was checking me out in a cafe.
The subject matter was outside the editorial policies of the chareidi magazines that comprise my usual stomping grounds, so I had to find an alternative publisher. Afraid I might embarrass my husband, I almost decided not to publish it at all, but he assured me that he didn’t mind. And when I shared an early draft with writing friends, the strongly positive reaction encouraged me further.
Tablet accepted my query, then the completed essay. They had it up in a matter of days. Whoa. It didn’t leave me much time to prepare myself. And, boy, did I have to prepare myself.
You see, there’s a lot of differences between a Jewish, but broad-spectrum, online magazine like Tablet and print magazines in the chareidi world. The biggest difference is the comments section.
In a print magazine, there is no comments section. If you want to write a letter to the editor, you have to look up the address, take time to write the editors, maybe invest a stamp, and after all that, your message will likely not be published. I’ve gotten fan mail a couple times, but no complaints. Even frum websites closely moderate comments, and offensive or hurtful comments are either not approved or quickly removed.
On Tablet, there’s a comments section. It’s largely unmoderated and pretty much anything is tolerated. A couple of seconds, and readers can post their thoughts for everyone to see.
The majority of readers were lovely. I even appreciated the people who read my article and didn’t agree with me, but had obviously thought long and hard about what I’d written. That’s pretty flattering. It was like debating friends in college–you might never see eye-to-eye, but you’d hash it out nonetheless.
But then there were the trolls. You know them: they post personal attacks and non-sequiturs. They just want to provoke a response.
I thought I’d prepared myself for the trolls, but can you really? How much chareidi-bashing and sexism can one stomach in a day? I’ve conscientiously responded to the comments that are legit, but have studiously ignored the trolls. I don’t think they’re getting my message.
I suppose I walked into this of my own volition. I have only myself to blame, and I’m not sure yet if I should chalk this up to experience and keep going, or if this serves as a cautionary tale: nice frum girl walks into a secular magazine and gets eaten alive.
Have any other writers/bloggers/whatever out there experienced trolls? How did you react?