Are we horrible?

This week I read a blog post which asked, among other things, whether social media encourages us to be ruder or more aggressive towards one another. Does it? Flicking through the comments section, it seems quite a lot of people believe the potential anonymity of the web allows free expression of rudeness without accountability.

Of course, sometimes people are rude, occasionally shockingly so. On 15 March, I saw the words slung at Allison Pearson  by a handful of Twitter followers who disagreed (strongly, it seems) with her Telegraph article on euthanasia. Clearly, it’s not all right to scream obscenities and wish ill health on a writer and their children, no matter how much you disagree with their views.

Even so, I am not yet convinced that the internet — or any part of it — is any worse than real life. Yes, there’s bullying and rudeness, just as there is in the playground and at the school gate (and sometimes little difference between the two), but there are also mountains of kindness and support.

I don’t need to point you to the charity websites, or discussion forums, to show you how online communities can help people; the sites are there in abundance, but for new (or old) writers who may find online publication a bit daunting, there are plenty of good places to try.

On Twitter there are millions of writers; here’s one of many lists of friendly, supportive folk to follow.

There are also loads of welcoming writers’ groups online, where generosity and kindness  can be found by the bucketful. I’ve listed a few groups below, where everyone’s welcome to join in, none of it costs a penny (unless you fancy buying some of the goodies), and there’s no pressure to perform or compete — it’s all for fun.

My Top Four Five huggable writing spots:

  1. Fiona Robyn’s incredibly welcoming and relaxing nanofiction community, Writing Our Way Home,
  2. Calum Kerr’s brand new National Flash Fiction Day (UK and there’s an international page now) which has a set of regional online offshoots (does that make sense?!),
  3. Johanna Harness’s Twitter #amwriting website,
  4. JM Strother’s #fridayflash community,
  5. and (eek!) nearly forgot NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, a.k.a. November).

All you have to do to join in the fun is write, and be nice.

So, are we horrible?

Certainly not.

What are your favourite writing communities?

10 comments

  1. I am fortunate to have only had good experiences with the Twitter and Blogging world. They/you are so supportive that I don’t think I could now manage with them/you all. And as for Fiona, if all the world were as lovely as her we would have no need for police, law courts, prisons. What an amazing world that would be!

    • tu says:

      Hi Rosalind, yes, I am lucky too, to have found some very supportive and kind people out there. It does help, and makes it a lot more fun.

  2. Christopher says:

    I think horrible people will be horrible off- or online. I was once a member of a very large online writers’ workshop. The anonymity of it encouraged brutally honest feedback. In situations like this, one has to learn to separate cruelty from genuine helpfulness.

    The best kind of feedback comes from readers you trust to give it to you straight because they respect you and your work. I can take “God, you can throw that last sentence in the trash, dude. Were you drunk?” from a person who wants me to write something great.

    On the other hand, there are sites where everyone is afraid to offer criticism; and maybe these sites serve their purpose–to bolster writers’ confidence–as well. I think it’s very important to understand the community and not try to make it something it’s not.

    Off to see why you were laughing your arse off. Will let you know if you are horrible. 🙂

    • tu says:

      Critical feedback feels like a compliment, to me, if someone is prepared to both take the time and stick their neck out to try and help me write well — even if it involves criticism of a particular piece. Online, a good critical review is hard to find. I’ve been a member of a few groups and often they’re follower-based, so you get a lot of compliments from people anticipating reciprocation, or who just want to look approachable and have their name on a lot of sites.

      There are also communities designed mainly as a showcase, whose culture means that the comments tend to be all positive (and negativity is expressed only by omission of feedback). These places can be more enjoyable than helpful.

      I once saw a new writer provide slightly mixed feedback on a story, in a community that, by and large, didn’t use open criticism — it was a dark story and the comment may have reflected that to some extent, or maybe it was just an abrupt comment, the reading of it was open to interpretation — but not as far as the author was concerned. No, the author left the planet, such was their anger. Oh, did we hear about it. As a slightly evil bystander, it was FABULOUS. It was like watching mud wrestlers, while being spoon-fed vodka jelly, the biting retorts were delicious and their apostrophes all fell down in their haste to sling names and snide remarks. Of course, just as we readers were writhing with vicarious horror, the thread was frozen and we all dipped our heads in wicked sadness because while we hated it, while it disappointed us and frightened us, and sent us scurrying to check our own comments… it was also a brilliant show. Punch and Judy, eat your hearts out.
      Subsequently, the ‘evil commenter’ left the community, branded and burned, and the story and comment were deleted. The author went on to enjoy a measure of success, safe in the knowledge that no-one would dare post another critical comment on their work ever again, and newcomers would therefore think their work popular. Their writing became no better than it had been, of course, and as far as I could tell, they never did accept that the comment, The Comment, had been a fair attempt at honest feedback.

      Needless to say, their perception of attack, and their overreaction to it, arsed up any chance of ever getting a proper critical review on the site; no-one dared after that. ‘I love your story’ became ‘I love love love your story’ became ‘you are a writing goddess of unparalleled genius’ became ‘You Are The Word’, and no-one dared point out that the last line wasn’t even a sentence.

      The community was the poorer for it.

      So yeah, there’s honesty and cruelty out there, but I’m also wary of the passive aggressive who uses other people’s attempts at fairness as an excuse to self-pimp themselves as The Righteous Wronged. It’s no less aggressive than a troll; it’s just a little more manipulative and the consequences can be far reaching.

      I’ll, um, get off my soap box now. Gosh. I did a rant! :))

  3. Christopher says:

    Yeah, the “student dining society”. Hmmm. You’re not horrible. I think I’d have to rename this society “the student posers society.” Goodness, Boris Johnson’s hair is really really white in this pic.

    • tu says:

      Ha, thanks… I’m thinking, it’s more of a post of its own than a comment, I might air it as a sep post… *puts editing hat on, grabs ice-cream*. x

Fling your veg: