Last week, a personal essay of mine appeared on Tablet Magazine online. As it hit the front page, I braced myself. A couple of my previous contributions to Tablet received a lot of comments…including a bunch of nasty ones. I figured this latest essay–about being Jewish during the holiday season–might ruffle the feathers of readers.
A couple days after the story was published, much to my surprise, there were just a few comments on my article (four, to be exact, and my responses to each). On Tuesday, I mentioned my concern to my sister…because while I hardly missed the harsh comments and trolls, I thought a shortage of comments in general might be cause to worry. Was nobody reading my article?
Well, my sister said, have you checked out the Tablet Facebook page?
You see, I had only opened a Facebook account the week before my article appeared. For years, I scorned Facebook. But when Tablet went to a FB-based comments system, I had to take the plunge. How else would I respond to my readers’ comments?
When I checked out the Facebook page for Tablet, I discovered that the marketing department at the magazine had tempted their FB followers to read my article with a teaser question about how they felt about Xmas cheer.
And boy, that post had gotten a lot of comments. Lots of annoyed, disgusted, angry comments by people who had mostly not read my article.
Some of these comments were the kind that I can respect: they disagreed with my opinions, but weren’t personal attacks. Their take on the issue, while different than mine, was at least thought-out. But in the midst of those comments, I found where the trolls had been lurking. Several comments were just nasty, pointed jabs with no basis in anything I’d written (in a couple cases, without regard to the question posed by the Tablet editors).
The funny thing was that the most annoying comments fell into the same categories as the most annoying comments on my other Tablet pieces. And so, I will share with you now…
My 3 Least Favorite Comments to Find on My Articles:
- You should make aliyah. Like that’s going to fix every problem in the world? The people who make aliyah because they think it’s a panacea for all the disasters in their personal lives are the people who bounce back to the U.S. in a year or two. Also, this comment stumbles onto a sore spot for me. My husband and I have wanted to make aliyah for years…but G-d seems to have other plans.
- Because it’s all about you. If you don’t want to hear a writer tell about their personal journey through life, if you don’t like to read the first-person POV–why the heck are you reading a personal essay at all? The whole point of reading personal essays is for readers to broaden their horizons by reading about people whose life experiences differ from their own. And someone has to write them. Sometimes that someone is me. And I’m nice–really.
- Any comment that makes assumptions about my article’s contents based on limited information (just the headline, knowledge that I’m an Orthodox Jew, whatever), with complete disregard of the actual statements made in the article. Commenter type #3 just spews whatever is on their own mind, rather than actually ingesting and contemplating anyone else’s opinion. I kind think that the teaser question on the Tablet page set me up for this kind of comment…because people could just vent in response to the question without any effort to get full knowledge of the situation.
(Maybe I should make a shidduch between the #2 kind of commenter and the #3 kind. What do you think?)