My Blog Went Viral and I Wasn’t Ready For It
Maybe the most beautiful song ever written has been heard only by the musician playing it to an audience of no one but herself.
We’ll never know.
And maybe the musician wanted it that way. But I imagine her dreaming of playing in front of a packed audience and finishing to thunderous applause.
I think people who “make” or “create” things enjoy how it feels when people see, taste, hear, read, touch or use their creations and say they liked them.
We all want to be unique snowflakes that matter instead of people who are going to die with no one who loves, misses, or remembers us 30 years later.
That’s why I thought it was kind of awesome when one of my blog posts went viral this past week. They really like me!
And to be sure, most readers did.
I wrote a post titled “She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes by the Sink” which was read more than 3 million times on my blog where I’m accustomed to fewer than 1,000 visits per day. It was shared an incalculable amount of times on Facebook where thousands of “friends” internet-screamed at one another about it. It was republished on several sites. More shares. More internet-screaming.
I didn’t make a spreadsheet or anything, but about 85 percent of the comments seemed positive. About 10 percent had no idea what they read. And the final 5 percent think I’m a stupid asshole.
A nice one. “Quite possibly the single best article I’ve read on relationship dynamics.”
A frustrating one. “Maybe you sucked all around as a husband and this is the theory you have come up with. Just because you leave a cup out doesn’t mean you’re discounting your spouse’s feelings and you don’t respect her. It means you didn’t put the cup in the dishwasher. No more, no less. I’m tired of this new aged B/S about everything and it’s implied meaning and this horrible PC culture that shit people have cultivated to justify their cottled [sic] upbringing. If my wife wants to leave me over leaving a cup out or leaving a cabinet open, I say good riddance.”
A not-nice one. “This guy has clearly demonstrated; a) Why he is divorced, and b) that he is a total twat.”
I Wasn’t Ready
Maybe it’s because I write first-person stories and invest a lot of myself in the words. Maybe it’s because I’m used to a 99-percent satisfaction rate from commenters. Maybe it’s because I’m just not stoic or tough enough.
But it started to get to me. All of it.
I write about divorce because I think it’s really important and have some experience with it.
I was a child of divorce. And then a few years ago, I got divorced. Both experiences were very bad.
We have a lot of problems in the world, and here in the United States where we’re preparing to elect a new President in November, these problems are top of mind and get a lot of discussion.
Even outside of the political arena, countless people are involved in social movements spanning from childhood obesity and Manatee preservation, to eliminating trans-fats in food and the bad habit of calling things “gay” when you really mean “stupid.”
All of those things have merit. I don’t think they should be discussed less.
I’m just confused why divorce isn’t discussed more, since it affects 95 percent of us. (Can you think of a social issue affecting more people?)
I mean, sure there are vast numbers of therapists out there. And support groups, and books, and magazines and internet articles.
But as a whole — as people — doesn’t it seem like no one includes divorce on their Bad Things We Should Do Something About lists?
I think divorce is a very shitty thing. I’m not necessarily Pro-Marriage, though considering most of us pair up anyway, and many people have children, I believe the conventional wisdom to be that marriage (a good one, of course) is the optimum environment to make and raise the future generations.
But if staying single is something a person really believes in, you won’t hear me criticize that choice. I’m single, and there are many good things about it.
I’m Pro-Staying Married. Or, flipped — Anti-Divorce.
And here’s why: Because more than 9 out of 10 people are inclined to get married; and it REALLY sucks when things fall apart for all involved; and a person inclined to marry is obviously a person prone to seek companionship; and with few exceptions, the same types of relationship problems crop up over time no matter who we’re with — I figure, why not help everyone improve their relationship skills and avoid all the broken messiness instead of sending them off to repeat past mistakes?
I’m just one little nobody. One little nobody trying to help other guys come to the same conclusions I have before it’s too late for them. There are a lot of great guys out there who are accidentally bad husbands.
Sometimes being a bad husband is as simple as not understanding why our wives are upset about things which seem to us like ridiculous things to be upset about.
My wife didn’t really divorce me because I left a dish by the sink. (That would be insane.) She left because, for years, every time she was upset with me about something I didn’t think she had a right to be upset about, I dismissed her as irrational and incorrect.
I wasn’t bad at taking care of the dishes, literally.
I was just bad at taking care of the “dishes,” figuratively.
No matter how many people understood or saw value in the message, I still felt the frustration growing with each new comment saying how much better off I am now that I don’t have to be married to a tyrant wife who freaks out over a glass set near the sink; or how stupid I am for not seeing she left the marriage for much bigger reasons than dishes; or how much of a man-hating sexist I am for trashing men without acknowledging wives’ contribution to marital failure; or just how much of a whiny little pussy bitch I am, and that I totally got what I deserved, but NOT for the reasons I suggested.
Some of the insults were funny. I laughed. Some horribly misrepresented my work and beliefs. Efforts to point that out were in vain.
But the worst part was how so few “got it.”
Here’s this thing I care a lot about — a thing I’ve dedicated countless hours to, never asking for anything in return — and other than my selfish interest in having a place for my writing to live, I am genuinely committed to the cause of helping couples and families stay together.
I don’t have a PhD. I’m not a life coach. I don’t have any special accreditations.
The only bullet point on my Marriage Resume reads: Divorced. I have a 100-percent marriage failure rate.
But I think I know why my marriage ended, and I like to tell people about it, because sometimes it helps. I don’t think the average guy wearing his college football sweatshirt and drinking canned Bud Light on a Saturday afternoon in his living room while his kids play in the backyard and his wife does all the work required to keep a household afloat is going to spend much time reading things like The Five Love Languages, or Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus, or Nonviolent Communication, or How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It.
But I think there’s an outside chance he’ll give a few minutes to me, since I’m just another guy like him. A guy who drinks beer and watches football and says bad words and whose wife grew increasingly frustrated with.
At least that’s what I always told myself.
And then this thing went out of control. Millions are reading! Whoa! It’s working!
But then the comments: “You suck, loser!” “You’re a whiny sniveling snot.” “Be a man, pussy!”
I was cool the first day and the second. I held my head up on the third and fourth days. But at some point yesterday, it finally felt like too much.
I was approving more comments that thousands of people will read where another stranger is telling everyone what a fucking loser I am.
The entire time, I’m thinking: Damn. I was seriously just trying to help this guy have a good relationship.
They almost broke me.
I reached out to people with large audiences. Writers accustomed to putting their work in front of many.
“Oh, I feel for you. I felt like shit after popular pieces for the first year or so. Then I finally realized that these people are projecting. They don’t know me. Their comments are 99% about them,” one writer said.
“Oh, I never read the comments!” said another.
Wisdom. From battle-tested veterans.
My chest gradually untightened throughout the evening.
Then I sat down to write this and began rifling through blog comments in order to find an example of a really negative or mean-spirited comment to share. I had to sift through 70 pages of comments to find one.
Wow. A lot of people really liked this. This mattered, and most think so.
I finally got what I wanted as a writer, and it wasn’t very fun. I wasn’t ready to have the very guys I’m trying to reach miss the entire point, continue on their collision course with divorce, insult people I care about, and toss in what a stupid dickhead they think me to be.
Some really thoughtful reader took time to send me a quote attributed to former Marilyn Manson spouse and burlesque artist Dita Von Teese. It resonated, because it’s true: “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.”
I’ve long dreamed of writing for many people.
I’ve long dreamed of making a positive contribution.
I’ve long dreamed of having something I wrote earn validation or affirmation through popularity.
I wasn’t ready for what that really looks and feels like when it’s happening.
But maybe next time, I will be.