I’ve been a full-time blogger for a year and a half now. I love what I do, and it has opened some pretty amazing doors. I now have a podcast about writing and publishing, I’ve published another book and have more on the way, my writing has been featured on some large websites, I purchased my dream car in cash, and I am getting ready to move into a fantastic house. Best of all, I get to work from home and spend a lot of time with my children.
My days are planned by and for me. If the kids and I want to stay up late and watch movies, we sleep the next day. I don’t even have to worry about a boss nagging me about my hours. I don’t take on projects that I’m not excited about, and I don’t ever have to make compromises in my business because I am the only employee.
For a year and a half, my job has been nothing short of a dream.
I never thought there would be a downside to my job. No one tells me what to write about. I pick all my topics and explore and try new things to see what I enjoy writing about more.
A few months back, I was invited to start writing on a new platform. It sounded like a sweet deal because they didn’t want new, original content but was fine with me reposting blog posts I had already written for other places. They appeared to like my content and were happy to have me post about parenting, relationships, mental health, and even writing.
I signed up, feeling optimistic that adding a cool extra thousand dollars to my income was going to be great.
It took less than an hour for someone to leave me a negative comment.
Whatever, it’s cool. I’m used to it. My momma raised me to have thick thighs and thick skin. I’m overwhelmingly used to people tearing me down over my writing, my weight, my attitude, my appearance, and a plethora of other things that others around me have decided to pick apart even though it has nothing to do with them.
Mean, harmful, and even vile comments are a part of the game. If you’ve been hanging around any social media platform from Tik Tok to Instagram, you have probably encountered an internet troll. I’ve always thought that the negative comments that people left on my selfies or said things about me behind my back said more about who that person was than it said about me.
So I thought that my thick skin and ego were well prepared for the standard comments. People often disagree with me, and I welcome them to share their points of view. Most people know how to do so in a respectful manner.
However, some people aren’t trying to share their perspectives. They are making mean comments just to hurt you.
After a few days on this new platform, I decided that I wouldn’t read the comments. It wasn’t even because of the comments I was getting, but because of the comments, other writers were receiving on their pieces. It seemed like the best way to protect myself from the extremely harsh and overly critical comments made on my blog posts.
That same day I decided that my comment section was off-limits, a friend of mine pointed out that someone had commented on calling my son a ‘retard’. The comment was left on a post about how it wasn’t my job to foster a relationship between my son and his father.
I immediately went to the comment section and scrolled through all of the comments until I found the one my friend warned me about.
The comment read, “Maybe he didn’t want to be saddled with a retarded son.”
Seeing the words written out about my son on the internet for everyone to see broke my heart.
Tears welled up in my eyes, and my entire body began to shake with anger. It took everything in me not to throw my phone across the room and scream.
My son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder when he was two years old. He is now six years old, and while he can’t read yet, it angers me more than anything to think that someone could write something like that about a child. Any child. It doesn’t have to be mine.
How could someone be so mean, so reprehensible that they could make a comment that basically equates my child with trash. As if he was someone who didn’t deserve a relationship with his father because he has special needs?
The more blog posts I published, the worse the comments became.
Since the comment about my son was written, I have received more negative comments than I can count. Random strangers on the internet have threatened to call child protective services because I co-sleep with my children. I was told that I should be sterilized for being uncertain about wanting to have more children. I was even told that I should kill myself because I wrote a story about a breakup that was devastating and hard to recover from.
Reading the comments to go through and delete them is something I feel I have to do to keep my blog posts a safe place, but each time I have to do it, it tears me down. It’s devastating to see how cruel people can be for no reason at all.
In a lot of ways, it causes me to lose my faith in humanity. I ultimately believe that people are good as a whole, but that belief is tested more now as a blogger than it ever has been before for me personally.
There are times when it feels like negative comments are made to make the commenter feel something instead of making me feel something.
But honestly, no matter what the reason, leaving mean comments to someone online doesn’t need to happen. There isn’t ever going to be a time when your opinion absolutely has to be said to another human being about their work, art, parenting, realtionships, or life.
So the next time you decide you’re going to leave a comment on someone’s social media profile, Tik Tok video, or blog post, take a second and think about what you are about to write. Is it negative? Will it hurt someone? Is it judging someone else?
If the answer is yes to any of those questions, do yourself and the poster a favor and keep scrolling.
Ashley Shannon is a queer single mom of two kids, one with autism. She writes about relationships, mental health issues, being a single parent, and sexuality. She is currently looking for the perfect school bus to turn into a traveling tiny home and can be found on twitter @as_publishing.