The Journal of Aaron Blair

It's not the anonymity. It's the negativity.
02/22/2010 07:39 p.m.
I started to comment on the thread about low ratings in the general forum. Twice. Both times, I got several paragraphs in, realized that what I was saying would probably be construed as argumentative and, therefore, invite people to argue with me about something I didn't feel like arguing about, and clicked off the page without submitting the post.

I can't say that I've never been irritated by a low-rating. I can't say that I've never assumed that a low rating was personal instead of intellectual. I can say that I haven't done either of those things in a very long time, though. I like to think of myself as a person who gets over themselves, eventually. This may or may not be true.

I don't rate poetry, usually. I don't remember the last time I did rate poetry. I also don't comment very often. I know what I like and what I don't like, but I rarely ever have anything constructive to say about what provokes either of these reactions, so I don't say anything. So I'm not coming at this from a defensive place, in which I am upset that people get upset about low ratings because I'm one of the people handing them out.

There are a few basic premises involved with getting upset about low ratings that make that upset hard for me to swallow. The first is that this reaction usually has its basis in the fact that the low rating is contrary to all of the other ratings that the poem has. Almost always, instead of just taking it as a statistical representation of the reality that not everyone likes the same things and that there will always be things that, while lots of people love them, some people don't, they go in the dissent=trolling direction of thought. Because someone couldn't have a reasonable dislike of anything if everyone else loves it. So they must just be one of those people who likes to pick on anything that's popular. Without saying that there aren't any people who hate things based on how much other people like them, because there certainly are plenty of those people, it's still ridiculous to assume that this is the case with anyone who doesn't like something.

Another thing that bothers me is that the general line of thought about anonymous rating is that the anonymity is due to cowardice, that, universally, anyone who won't sign their name to a rating is just afraid to have to explain their opinion, because they don't actually have an opinion, they just randomly hate everything. Maybe they just didn't have anything to say. Maybe they thought the rating spoke for itself. Pathetic.org has an incredibly specific rating system. It's not good vs. bad. It's four separate descriptions for four different elements of a poem. The lowest you can get is one dimensional, lifeless, awkward, and needs work. Um, if you can't extrapolate from that exactly what someone would have said to you had they said something to you, then, well...

Which leads me to the thing that bothers me the most. Why do people act like, had someone left a comment with their name attached to it, even if the comment was incredibly negative and scathing, that wouldn't be just as bad if not worse? On the one hand, you have a rating that averages in with the other ratings on your poem so no one actually knows what any one rate was, specifically. On the other hand, you have someone ripping your poem to shreds in a comment that is forever attached to the bottom of your poem for everyone to see. This is better? This is what people want instead of an anonymous rate?

No, I don't think so. It's not the anonymity that makes people angry. It's the negativity. Obviously, if you think your poem is good and everyone else has been telling you that your poem is good, and someone else comes along and says, "wow, this sucks" you aren't going to be happy. And you probably want to be able to rebut. And you probably want to be able to read what that person writes and see why they think they're so much better than you. And you probably want to think to yourself, whatever, you're a terrible writer, so your opinion is totally invalid, anyway. But no one's ever going to get any brownie points for admitting to buying into his or her own hype or for admitting to wanting to argue with anyone who doesn't like his or her work, so, instead, people say, "I am upset about my negative rating because it didn't come with a comment and therefore the person who gave it to me is a cowardly troll."

Let's be honest. We come to the internet, as writers, with assurances from most people who've ever read our writing that we're all kinds of awesome. And we go to places where we know people aren't going to tell us that we're terrible writers. We have artistic temperaments and fragile artist egos. We're not here to be eviscerated. We're here to share with people who won't be mean to us. And that's fine. But it's not an agreement that everyone on the internet signed. So, occasionally, people aren't going to like us and they're going to let us know. Probably more people aren't going to like us than that but these other people won't tell us, because they're here for the same reason and they don't want anyone to return the favor.

A few months ago, someone left a comment on my blog calling me a cunt, a pseudo-intellectual, and even taking time to point out to me that I'm ugly. Compared to that, I think I'd rather be called one dimensional, lifeless, awkward and in need of work. It could always be worse. Imagine how insulted I would have been if I hadn't already figured for myself that I'm not the smartest person ever or the prettiest.

Member Comments on this Entry
Posted by V. Blake on 02/22/10 at 08:27 PM

I agree with a lot of what you've said, but in case I've presented myself as some kind of whiny, egotistical kid here, I wanted to explain that, in my case, I received three ratings in two days; none of which had any comments to match, and all of which seemed to reflect the lowest possible score I could have been given. Now, I can appreciate criticism and hearing that my poems were not very good, but someone seemed to be going out of their way to rate me down. It's one thing to express distaste for the poetry, it's quite another to make it a point of trying to annoy the writer, which SEEMED to be the case with me, regardless of whether or not it actually was. Sorry for the long comment, but I didn't want to leave anyone with the impression that I can't handle criticism.

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Posted by Clara Mae Gregory on 02/22/10 at 08:30 PM

Hi Aaron.You would be a good psychiatrist! lol You made very good points pertaining to our human natures.Oh, and I do agree. It really has more to do with the negativity than anything else. AND who needs it? I am sorry a jerk of a person had to go out of their way to falsely belittle you like they did. Pure meaness. You are more than just your looks. Beauty glows outward from the inside of a good warm heart. Anyway, I want to share with you what another anonymous person posted about me in a poetry comment. They said I looked like Michael Jackson's monkey. Well, it is obvious I don't look like a monkey, much less Michael Jackson's (and that is tame compared to being called a $#%@, but still, it wasn't kind,and it was uncalled for and unprovoked).It hurt knowing someone wanted to be mean spirited towards me(a coward I don't even know)but not for long. I laughed at the absurdity of the comment but not their intent. I contacted the admin immediately and that person was gone, no questions asked, since the evidence was left in plain sight. Mean, hateful, spiteful people should not be allowed or given opportunity to share and spread their misery--one way or another. Well, just my 2 cents.

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