Many writers consider it a bit of a milestone to be published in The Huffington Post, and last week I was able to join the ranks of those who can say that they’ve achieved this goal. In fact, Arianna Huffington herself was the one to tell me that I would be published! Woohoo! Yea! My elation, however, was short lived.
Here’s a smattering of adjectives that comment writers used to refer to me: moron, stupid, hypocrite, thick head, thick skull (to be more specific?), weak, ignorant, Muslim, gay, bleeding heart, and idiot.
My writing was called crap, garbage, fluff, ridiculous, atrocious, misleading, flawed, meaningless, junk, sloppy, and, among other things, I was told I should put a sock in it.
I’m sure I missed other colorful descriptors because after a while, it all started to blur together.
I’ve written before on how I believe that one of the worst things about our internet culture is the license too many people feel they have to make scathing comments—even on things as innocent as sweet baby videos! Yet in the nearly three years of writing the Juggle Struggle, I must admit that I have never received a single negative comment in the hundreds that have been posted. My readers tend to “get” me, so I’ve been spoiled with kind words of connection and understanding.
Until I made it to “the big leagues.”
The piece that was published was last week’s blog post. I thought that since it was a timely topic it might get picked up, so I submitted it. I know that immigration is a touchy subject, but I felt that my piece was aiming only to encourage us to have compassion as we examine the issue…since we are a nation of immigrants. Pretty harmless, right?
Well…the editors decided that my original title, “Us vs Them—A Compassionate Look at Immigration,” was not as alluring as they wanted, so they replaced it. Unfortunately, what they wrote changed my entire article’s angle. The title that it ran with was “If You’re Against Illegal Immigrants, Remember America’s History.”
As the hundreds of comments illustrate, that title helped it sound as though I was a proponent of open borders and breaking laws whenever needed.
The editors also chose a photo of Donald Trump as the headline image, even though I only briefly reference him and then quickly move on. But this attracted many Trump-eteers across the country who then railed at my stupidity not only on HuffPo, but Twitter, too.
I knew that being published on a much larger scale opened my writing up to significant criticism, but the hardest part about this particular experience was that so much of the heat I received was not completely over my own words. Of course, I’ll never know how much denigration my post would have gotten with my own title—who knows, maybe it would all be just the same? But not having complete control over what was attached to my name was tough.
It is a huge desire of mine to be understood. I think that’s one of the main reasons I write—I want to communicate in a way that people truly get what is on my heart. For me, being misunderstood absolutely sucks.
Therefore…this absolutely sucked.
My sensitive soul really felt battered by the end of the day. So much anger and hate—and not just directed at me. Comments were xenophobic, racist, and discriminatory (as the use of “Muslim” and “gay” in a derogatory manner illustrate). While I understand that some people have very strong feelings against illegal immigrants, to see the hate that goes along with it is incredibly depressing.
It was all very hard not to take personally. I replied to several comments in an attempt to defend myself, but after a while, I just turned off the computer and took some Ibuprofen.
The next day there was more name calling and denunciation, but there were also two or three people I had responded to who were surprised that I had taken the time to do so and appreciated my civil discourse. A glimmer of light!
And though that was a positive break from the general mood of attack, what I really needed was to step away and get some perspective, which is exactly what I did. My son had the day off of school, so he and I went out and made some memories. It was a lovely day—just what the doctor ordered.
With renewed spirit, I was better able to put all of the negativity in proper perspective. My skin grew a little thicker, and my heart grew a little wiser.
Shortly after my article was published, I took a longshot and wrote the editors, requesting that they change my title to the original. Around 48 hours after it was initially posted, they thankfully did make the change. Granted, it’s a bit too late, but at least my name is no longer attached to words (and opinions) that are not my own.
It made for quite an interesting week of highs and lows. It’s definitely been a “live and learn” experience and one that—if I’m smart (which, according to numerous comments, is doubtful)—I won’t forget.
They say that you haven’t really made it as a blogger until you’ve gotten your fair share of negative comments. Well…I guess I can now say I am…officially…a blogger.