Your Mean Comments Are Hurting People
The internet is forever. What will you leave behind?
The meanest comment I ever got was a response to an essay I published in the Washington Post on the first anniversary of my daughter’s death. The commenter had written, “what was the point of this article?” and went on to berate me for my decision to have children.
I don’t remember exactly what they wrote, but the gist was that it was my fault Ana suffered and died because I chose to give birth to her. The anonymous stranger who had presumably read all about my deep pain, told me I deserved to lose her.
They’d called me a “breeder,” condemning me for subjecting my kids to the misery that comes with living. It was a disturbing worldview. After my initial horror at the comment, I ended up laughing about how unhinged it was. I also promptly emailed my editor and asked her to take it down.
The article was getting lots of comments from bereaved parents and I was worried one of them would read it and get really hurt by it. Thankfully, WaPo’s comments editor deleted it. This antagonized the commenter who left multiple posts about how the paper was censoring comments.
That was one of the first major media pieces I’d ever placed. It was an essay about profound grief and child loss and how I was taking baby steps toward wanting to live again. And yet, someone took time out of their day to tell me I deserved my pain. It’s astonishing, really, how mean people can be when you pull the curtain back from your life and express vulnerability on the internet.
“Everyone knows you’re not supposed to read the comments,” my husband tells me whenever I perseverate about something mean or judgemental someone posts in response to one of my essays or articles.
Luckily, the awful cruelty of that WaPo comment was never repeated. No one has ever said anything as bad as my number one worst fan — which is that I deserved to lose my child because I selfishly brought her into this world to begin with.
But I still think about it sometimes. It floats to the top of my brain whenever I see a truly terrible comment or mean sentiment expressed online.