Sunday, February 24, 2013

An Open Letter to the Internet and Its Inhabitants

Yesterday, a friend of mine told me he'd posted something of mine on reddit. Since I'm not as experienced with the Internet as I'd like to believe, I didn't immediately scream, "Why would you do this to me!? I thought we were friends!"

Can you feel it staring into your soul yet?

(For those of you who don't know, reddit is a website that caters to communities with specialized interests. Not a particular specialized interest—all of them. There are pages on reddit for things I didn't know existed. One of them is for writing, and he decided to share this post with them.)

Fool that I am, I decided to investigate their thoughts on it. In hindsight, this was the worst thing I could do.

I suspect reddit is a place for smart, creative people to go when they're listless. I know a lot of smart, creative people, and I can tell you for certain that listlessness happens regularly. Two or three times an hour for some of them. Before the dawn of the Internet, this wasn't crippling; when listlessness set in, a creative type would pace for a few hours before finding his way, inevitably, back to his work. That's harder to do now. The Internet provides cheap, instant, painless outlets for creativity. When the burden of dreaming things up and making them real becomes too heavy or frightening, or the dreams you're making feel forced and stupid and repetitive, the Internet's there, full of things to consume without needing to worry about life. Reddit's a prime example of this (so are Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Imgur, tvtropes, and dozens of other things—reddit's just a bit more extreme).

So when reddit saw my stuff, they sort of ripped it to shreds. Redditors are dangerous people to irritate; they have a lot of brainpower and a lot of time in which to use it. Their insults get excitingly inventive. Among other things, I'm pompous, arrogant, irritating, pretentious, stuffy, and masturbatory.

Fun stuff.

In response to these redditors, some of whom have been kind enough to go through 70% of my blog to confirm just how much of a pompous windbag I was, I have only this reply:

I'm sorry. Sincerely.

To all my friends and family and coworkers and colleagues and classmates and teachers and pastors and anyone else who interacts with me, I have the same to say:

I'm sorry. Sincerely.

I'll confess that being roasted by reddit is not the greatest fun I've ever had (although my goodness they get imaginative in communicating their hatred. Reading them is half torturous, half awe-inspiring).

But I can't deny they've got a point.

When I wrote "How to Suffocate Your Creativity," I was being pretentious, arrogant, and unkind. I acted as though I was above other aspiring writers when, frankly, I've got nothing on 'em. There are no books out there with my name on the outside. There are no articles with my name on that have been circulated anywhere I haven't personally set foot. Nothing I've written so far has had the slightest effect on the spinning of the planet.

I'm quick to forget all that, because, well, I'm a pompous windbag. That's not something I can will myself out of; it's hardcoded into me by virtue of my humanness.

The things I said in the post still stand true: it's critical to get over ourselves if we're ever going to produce noteworthy art. But I shouldn't have said it in such an incredibly egotistical manner. I've since gone through and edited it some, hoping to sand the edge off my arrogance, but it's still there. It'll take a while for me to fix the entire thing. And it's not the only post with that problem.

So I beg your forgiveness, your patience, and, last of all, a favor. If, in the course of human events, you spot me being an arrogant jerk, tell me.

And if I argue, punch me in the face. Better to enter heaven with a bruised jaw than hell with an unmarred face, eh?

I want to be better about this. There will, I think, always be some element of self-aggrandizement in what I write; any kind of artistic pursuit demands a level of narcissism that borders on daring. But that's no excuse to be a distant, unassailable prig with a high-held nose. I don't want to be that. I don't see any good coming from it, but I can see how easily I would fall into it. Arrogance is a weird thing; it's a bit like armor, until you realize it's a coffin.

So thank you, reddit, for pointing out to me what I'd wondered about for a long time, and for forcing me to confront that.

And for the rest of you, you all stay awesome.


  1. Dude, noooooooo. Don't listen to reddit! It's one of the Internet cesspools of ever-critical malcontent, like barely a step and a half up from 4Chan. (Which would have been infinitely more ironic from a linguistic perspective.) You could have written about how the Holocaust was wrong, and you'd still get torn apart by them.

    I like the pseudo-arrogance because it's entirely an act. Bring it back. BRING IT BACK!

  2. You are Chandler. When I read your blog, I hear your voice. And you don't come across as arrogant -- you come across as hilarious. People who are out to criticize will criticize regardless of what you write, so you can't take those people seriously. Take yourself seriously, take God seriously, and take people who you know and who know you seriously. Everyone else, take with a hunk of salt (as opposed to a grain).