If You Don't Have Anything Nice To Say…

This is an Internet rant about Internet rants. This is a rant about anonymous, unconstructive, Internet meanness. It’s not because I think everyone should be happy and cheerful all the time. It’s just that I think people should be decent and respectful to each other.

Everyone has a right to individual opinions, but just because you don’t like something does not mean that no one else does. So, unless you have some really thoughtful and constructive criticism, why say anything at all? Or rather, why say it publicly? With the advent of the world wide web was born this conundrum; while the Internet has the fantastic ability to bring people of common interests together, it simultaneously gives people the ability to say all the nasty things they want, completely anonymously.

I have the utmost respect for true critics and writers who devote themselves to analyzing and appreciating art; this is NOT who I am talking about. Often the content of comments sections goes something like this (in Mad Libs form):

SouPerP1mp69: I hate (name of an artist/celebrity not in room)! He/she is (unflattering adjective) and (unflattering adjective) and someone should tell her/him that he/she should stop (verb/name of profession)-ing.

Well SouPerP1mp69, you lost me there! If I didn’t like sushi, would I say, “All sushi restaurants should stop making it for other people because I don’t like it”? No, I would not because that makes NO SENSE. If you don’t like a writer, don’t read their books; if you don’t like an actor, don’t watch their movies and so on and so forth. The people who are making art, successfully or unsuccessfully, have a right to do so and I can guarantee you that none of them are spending time making the things that they make for people who hate them.

So, why would someone go on a message board like a weird little sneak and write a bunch of mean stuff about someone? There are certainly artists that I don’t particularly care for, but do I publicly go and say mean things about them? No, I do not, because they shouldn’t care what I think, because they’re not doing it for me and if I don’t like it, then I am simply not their crowd. If people are supporting their efforts then I deduce that they have an audience of people who enjoy what they do.

It’s wonderful that people have different tastes. The word “opinion”, intrinsically, has no “right or wrong”, only “yours and mine”. People can buy into, surround themselves with and immerse themselves in whatever suits their fancy! So why rain on other peoples’ parades?

This leads me to my real point: what I want for our 1-month-old baby website HelloGiggles.com. I think negativity is the enemy of creativity because it stops people and shames people and that is not what I want for our community. I want this site to be a place where people feel comfortable and safe. I want this to be a place where people encourage each other instead of bringing each other down. And mostly, I want this to be a place where people identify themselves and stand up for the things they say and inspire each other to do better; write more, draw more, make more music, create more and share more. I will be darned if we don’t.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1080830127 Beth Curry

    I’m a-okay with people having an opinion and expressing it, but when done anonymously it annoys me so bad. (anonymous tumblr ask box people :()
    I don’t like it when people are constantly negative though. “Uh, I hate ______!” “______ is awful.” If I read something like that, I feel negative-y too, and I like feeling positive!

    ~keeping the love alive~

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=19602260 Sybil Kollappallil

    Yesterday I was on a website in which the writers had posted some very negative and condescending comments regarding quite a few well-loved (and some not-so-well-loved) books. It was pretty disheartening to see them trash these books with dismissive one-liners that were probably supposed to be witty, but ended up offending quite a few readers (including me) who are in total agreement with you. Zooey, this entire site is incredibly refreshing and empowering, and this post specifically makes me really happy. Thank you for encouraging positive, mindful conversations! :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/cobaltss Houston Cleaver

    I love you Zooey. Just sayin. I named my last car after you. It kind of made sense because my friend named his car Chloe and we both had the same car, Zooey rhymed and fit perfectly.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001896938558 Anna Schatte

    It’s important to remember that most of those interweb trolls are just hiding behind computers all day and judging people who are actually doing things with their life!! I would rather try something important to me a million times in front of the world and fail than to never try at all. This is a great post. Especially for young women to hear. It’s so easy to be nasty and critical these days. The interweb provides a forum for that with almost no consequence. But let me tell ya, Karma is real and it’s now. And those people will learn one day and hopefully make better choices!

    I’ve also heard Dr. Phil say something very powerful about people who speak like that. Most all of the time, those hateful words are really how they feel about themselves. Gotta love Dr. Phil and all of Oprah’s step children! : )

    So I’m in love with HelloGiggles. Keep inspiring me, ya’ll!

  • http://www.facebook.com/kcosby24 Kelly Cosby

    Very well said – and an important thing for people to think about in today’s world. Two places where people feel like they have free range to be mean: the internet and in their vehicles. Would you freak out and flip someone off or start insulting the very foundations of their character if they did something small and meaningless anywhere else, like profess their admiration of a person you think is really terrible or accidentally step on your toe? Why no, that would be silly.
    Thanks for posting this Zooey! This is why I LOVE Hello Giggles.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=709491134 Kathy Krejci

    There is so much anger and pain in the world that it’s easy to be consumed by it. Thank you for this life raft. I hope lots of people climb aboard.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=614657251 Ryeker Herndon

    SO true. Thank you for posting this, and I hope that users and creators alike listen.

  • http://www.facebook.com/amystclair Amy St.Clair

    I totally respect you for this post. I love when people of influence stand up for the integrity of respecting and showing love to others. I dig it!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=737676131 Ian Amorim

    That’s right. We should build up, not tear down. Nice post. =)

  • http://www.facebook.com/chivalryisnotdead Erynne Miller

    Thanks so much for this post and this website! I really need more positiveness in my life right now.

  • http://www.facebook.com/JennElston Jennifer Elston

    There is nothing worse than people who sit behind computer screens and say things they would never dare say to someone’s face. Thumbs up on the positivity! We all, especially women!, need to be more supportive and respectful of people who live their lives differently than we do or have an opinion we don’t agree with.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=528004179 Jane Murphy

    Thank you! When will people realise that it is so much easier to be nice to one another (even if it is anonymous)? This has made my Friday night.

  • http://www.facebook.com/charlotte.dekoning Charlotte DeKoning

    I love this! The whole concept of “trolling” has always given me the icks.
    Reminds me of this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0la5DBtOVNI “It’s okay to not like things, but don’t be a dick about it” is my mantra.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000305819239 Ruci Kafka

    I’m glad that my mum taught me the whole ‘If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything’ lesson. It’s pretty useful.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001805873802 Jennifer Peacock

    Didn’t all our moms and dads tell us, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all?” That, of course, was before the Internet age. The attitude seems to be, “If you can spew it anonymously, say anything!” Civility and respect are victims of the digital age, I guess.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jamie.greer2 Greer Jamie

    This is important. We live in a society of narcissism and critique, and it can be so disheartening. My heart will forever go out to Rebecca Black. She’s young. She’s really, really young. Her song might not have the most earth shattering lyrics, but you can’t deny that it was catchy. I would be surprised if you said you didn’t hear at least ONE person sing it whenever Friday comes around. But people were so offended by her song that they would go as far as to tell her she should kill herself. Why?! Or even, the woman who wrote an upset email to her future daughter-in-law (about the DIL’s alleged rudeness). The best way to go about it? Probably not. But that whole dispute is NONE OF OUR BUSINESS. Yet, netizens can’t help but spread it around and, most likely, ruin her life. I hope to see change in the way that we all treat each other in anonymity. I hope that we can take what you said, Zooey, and treat each other as we would like to be treated…even on the internet. Thank you for keeping us accountable.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alyssa.gran Alyssa Gran

    Thank you! I am often shocked at what people post on the internet under a mask of anonymity–and you’re absolutely right, in respect of art and artists, we should be nice. It is absolutely easier at times, but always better for everyone when we remember that just because we can’t see the face of the recipients of comments, at the heart of all of this are real people and we have a responsibility to our fellow man! :)

    Have a good day, all.

  • http://www.facebook.com/loloashley Lauren Gelatt

    I totally agree with this. I was actually just talking to one of my friends about this exact thing. She lives in philadelphia and does some pretty awesome street art. She just did this amazing piece and it was posted on her friends blog http://www.streetsdept.com (It’s an awesome blog if you love street art and fashion!!) and some really mean people wrote some really mean things about her art. And like you said, I understand if you have an opinion, you are entitled to that opinion, but there is no reason to lash out and bring someone down with your negative words. I just don’t understand why people are so mean to other people, there is so much negativity out there. Lets all pray for more positivity and kindness in this world!

  • http://www.facebook.com/sabrina.almasan Sabrina Almasan

    Honestly, just the other day I was ranting about this same thing to a friend. People can be so cruel and it is just makes me really sad. Great post, Zooey <3

  • http://www.facebook.com/trupoet Jerica Truax

    Opinions are like a$$holes. Everyone has one. =P And the internet is definitely the easiest and fastest way to communicate those opinions to multiple people at once.

    That being said, why can’t we all just think and express positivity instead of delving down negative thought threads? I think the world would be a better place =)

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