How NOT to Deal with Online Critics

I’ve been bloggin, tweeting, writing, and keeping a general internet presence for more than ten years. If you put yourself “out there,” at some point someone will hate you. Some people will really hate you and write nasty things on the internet that demean your intelligence and question your value as a human being. Occasionally, there will be people who threaten you. There may be even people who locate your address. How does one deal with that?

Putting opinions and thoughts and words on the Internet is not for the faint of heart. The first year that I began blogging, some blogger with lots of traffic wrote stupid things about my research, and I freaked out a bit. A wiser friend told me not to deal with bad criticism and to give others credit for recognizing stupidity when they see it. When I started writing pieces for the popular press, the criticism rolled in on the comment sections. I learned how to lightly skim comments without actually reading them. An anonymous grad school website made rude comments about my scholarly merits. I had already built up a pretty tough skin, so none of it bothered me.

I have never been threatened, so I’m pretty lucky in that regard. I’m not sure how I would handle all that.

A recent article in the Guardian by a young author is a case study in how NOT to handle online criticism. She tracked down the address of a woman who wrote a bad review on Goodreads and went to her house. The author understands that she had stepped over the line into Crazy Town, but she still did it. She made herself more pathetic than the rude reviewer. She’s a recent graduate from Harvard. Youth and lack of experience with criticism explains a lot.

Taking criticism is part of modern lilfe. If you’re a professor or a teacher, student can leave reviews online. If you own a business or a restaurant, there’s Angie’s List and Yelp. These websites have empowered a whole class of people to tell off others who seem to have more power, money, or success. In some ways, these new avenues for criticism is very democratic. It’s useful for me as a consumer. Well, useful-ish. I’ve learned to how to read all the comments and find an average opinion.

Dealing with negative comments can be annoying for producers of words and ideas, but critical comments aren’t always terrible. Some criticism is valid. I’ve had to rethink and rework blog post and articles at times. I’m not perfect. And since I really do enjoy debates, I actually love smart criticism. Dumb comments from anonymous sources should simply be ignored. I can’t imagine caring enough to track down the address of a critic.


Do you think people are freaked out about ebola? Let’s check out the most read stories in various newspapers.

First, the New York Times…



Of the ten most viewed articles at the New York Times this morning, five are about ebola. From the Washington Post, …


Of the five most read articles at the Washington Post this morning, three are about ebola.

Vox has 25 stories about ebola.

Sexting and Feminism

So, I just read Hanna Rosin’s long article in the Atlantic about sexting. The title of the article is “Why Kids Sext.” She doesn’t really tell me why they do it. She sorta says that kids don’t have time to interact in person, because they are so over scheduled. That explains late night texting and Instagramming, not so much the sexting.

And sexting doesn’t seem to be the correct word for the phenomenon that she’s describing. Sexting is mutual dirty talk using a cell phone. What she describes is girls flashing naked pictures to their boyfriends, some of whom are dirtbags who pass the photos around to friends. I don’t think that teenage boys are sending pictures of their parts to girls. That imbalance bothers me.

Also, she talks about girls sending these pictures to guys that they like and hope to date. Ugh. So much insecurity. What do these guys do? Just flip through the naked pictures of girls and pick out the best one? Ugh.

Egg Freezing as a Dubious Benefit

Last night, the evening news announced that Facebook and Apple were subsidizing the cost of egg freezing for their female employees, and I rolled my eyes. It’s a good thing for many reasons, don’t get me wrong. Younger eggs means less risk for all sorts of disabilities. But really my first thought was that the women in those companies need to have their eggs frozen, because they don’t have a chance to start a family until late in their 40s. The work-life balance must suck at those places.

And sure enough, lots of other women had the same reaction to that story.

Old Chemical Weapons in Iraq, Government Secrets, and Errors

The New York Times has a great long article with lots of cool maps and videos about Iraq’s old chemical weapons. After 9/11, Americans soldiers did find chemical weapons, just not new chemical weapons. This annoying fact wasn’t really convenient, so it was covered up by the government. And a whole lot of American soldiers were exposed to chemical nastiness.

Worth the read.


Over the weekend, I told Steve that I was very worried about Amanda Bynes. And Steve was all like, ‘who’s Amanda Bynes?” Because he reads books and shit and doesn’t watch Access Hollywood after dinner. Silly boy. I had to explain that Amanda Bynes was one of those Disney stars who is now insane. Here, you can catch up at TMZ.

She has been publically unravelling for a week or so. The gossip websites have been documenting the mess. Her parents basically had to trick her to get her to California where they get her involuntarily locked up for a few days until the anti-psychotic meds could take effect.

It’s really hard to lock up a person in a mental health facility without their consent. Do we need to rethink this policy?

SL 628

It’s a day off around here. The kids are home from school. Steve’s home. We’re using this bonus day to catch up with life. I’m chugging through my chore list by the side of the computer. Hell, I might even make it to the bottom of the list and actually schedule a doctor’s check-up for myself. It’s only been about six or seven years. No biggie, right?

So, what am I reading this morning?

I have to admit that I’m fascinated with Ebola.

I had a crappy landlord in Manhattan, but this is disgusting. I think that there should be more public humiliation of these assholes.

The demographics of cable news shows explains all those Cealis ads.

House and Home


This is the year that we spent a ton of money doing really boring things to the house. Last week, we put a new roof on the house. This was one of the before shots. I haven’t taken an after shot yet, but imagine a darker roof without a leaky spot over Ian’s bedroom. While you’re at it, imagine that someone took the garbage cans in the garage and trimmed the plant over the garage, aka, The Eyebrow. Okay, then imagine that the diseased crab apple tree with five remaining leaves has been replaced with a smaller, healthier shrub.